Entrance Antiphon: “Blest be God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son of God, and also the Holy Spirit, for He has shown His merciful love.” First Reading: Prv 8:22-31 – “Before the earth was made, Wisdom was conceived.” Responsorial Psalm: Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 – “O Lord, our God, how wonderful Your name in all the earth!” Second Reading: Rom 5:1-5 – “To God, through Christ, in love poured out through the Holy Spirit.” Alleluia Verse: Rev 1:8 – Alleluia, alleluia. “Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; to God who is, who was, and who is to come.” Alleluia, alleluia. Gospel: Jn 16:12-15 – “Everything that the Father has is mine; the Spirit will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” Communion Antiphon: Gal 4:6 – “Since you are children of God, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit who cries out: ‘Abba, Father.’”
Those of us of a certain age may remember Schoolhouse Rock, those educational cartoons from our childhood. The first one of these cartoons to be aired was “Three is a Magic Number.” While its purpose was to teach children their multiplication tables, the cartoon also included reasons why three is a special number. There are three aspects to time: the past, present, and future. The human person is comprised of three parts: the heart, the brain, and the body. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. And the nuclear family is comprised of at least three individuals. As the cartoon’s soundtrack put it, “A man and a woman had a little baby / Yes, they did / They had three in the family, / And that’s a magic number.”
There is something fundamentally solid about the number three. The Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel wrote that Judaism revolves around three sacred entities: God, Torah, and Israel. God is the Creator yet is hidden. God becomes manifest in living out the Torah. This living out of Torah takes place in the community of Israel. These three aspects of their faith are interdependent on each other.
Like our elder siblings in faith, we Christians hold the number three in reverence. Not because it is a magic number, however. Christians shun talk of magic because it implies we have control over the unknown. The number three is held in reverence because God has revealed Himself to be Three-in-One. A mystical Trinity where three distinct persons exist as a single being “consubstantially,” as we say in the new translation of the Nicene Creed.
Also, for Christians, the number three is not about us and our relationship with the divine. Our center of focus is on God. After all, God is fully complete and does not need our approval. We exist simply because God is love. Within the Godhead are a Father and Son intently in love with each other, the lover, and the beloved. From this intense relationship comes forth Love itself, the Holy Spirit. This outflowing of Love cannot help but create.
As we read from the beginning of the book of Genesis, God’s Spirit blew over the formless abyss to begin the process of creation. After the Son’s resurrection the Spirit came again in tongues of fire to perfect creation by burning away what is flawed and leaving what is fit for the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit is still at work wherever the Church is bringing God’s love to renew all things working through us the members of Christ’s mystical body.
The concept of the Trinity is traditionally called a “mystery,” ... a reality beyond our understanding. We Christians stand in awe of what cannot be grasped fully by humans, and we call it mystery. “Beyond our understanding” does not preclude the value of reflecting on it and perhaps it should give us reason to pause.
The Trinity is “Three Persons in One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This idea is unique among the world’s faiths. It is an idea that could never be arrived at simply by analyzing the concept of an Almighty Being. So, “How do we know this is true?” It’s revealed in Scripture, in the many things Jesus said. Jesus of Nazareth was and is God the Son, who took on a human nature (the Incarnation) while remaining divine. He was “true God and true man.” He clearly spoke of Himself as distinct from the Father and the Spirit, yet He was one with them. His baptismal mandate is Trinitarian. He told the Apostles to go out and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We can also add a bit of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy to revelation. He said that the very nature of love is to give of self. We read in the first letter of John that “God IS love” (1 Jn 4:8). The perfect self-giving of Father, Son, and Spirit to one another makes them one. God wanted to share the joy of love by giving creatures an opportunity to love and be loved When sin spoiled this, God’s infinite love prompted the redemption … hence we return to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.
And so, we are brought to the scene in today’s Gospel. We hear a portion of Jesus’ farewell discourse at the Last Supper ... the Gospel of Saint John Chapters 13-17. It contains a treasury of references to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, including what we hear today: “Everything that the Father has is mine. For this reason I told you that He (the Spirit, Paraclete) will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” In this farewell discourse, Jesus urgently wants to prepare His disciples for the future. He knows that they will be tested in ways they cannot now imagine. He also knows that they will need to keep His memory and His teachings alive and vibrant. Hence, Jesus promises to send the Spirit, the Paraclete, who will remind the disciples of the truths Jesus taught and help them interpret and apply these teachings to new situations.
I leave you today with a couple of suggestions on ways to make Trinity prayer personal. First, be conscious of the Trinity references in the liturgy ... especially the Doxology concluding the Eucharistic Prayer “Through Him, with Him and in Him…”. What about every time you bless yourself? The Sign of the Cross is a prayer by itself in its own right. It is appropriate when beginning any duty, project, or the whole day. It can be especially meaningful when said or thought deliberately, reflectively. Praying the familiar “Glory be…” is another Trinity prayer. When you pray it, pray it slowly and reflectively, calling to mind the role each Person has in our creation and redemption.
This central doctrine of our faith ... the idea of the Trinity ... cannot be fully comprehended, but as I have described, we can appreciate it better in both our liturgical and our personal prayer. So, consider the message of today’s readings: we are at peace with God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. And God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This Spirit, who is Wisdom itself, will lead us to all truth. So, as we begin this Eucharist, let us be conscious of and grateful to the Father, Son and Spirit who loved us so much as to accomplish our redemption and allow us the possibility of renewing our relationship with them. How wonderful the name of our triune God in all of the earth.