Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31 Romans 5: 105 John 16: 12-15
Thank you, Father Chris, for the privilege of presiding at this Mass and preaching on this Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. I begin by acknowledging my debt to God for the first 90 years of my Baptism into the Christ we celebrate – by using a prayer from ‘New Daylight’ –
“Father, I am sometimes so conscious of my human weakness. Thank you that your surpassing power in the Holy Spirit is at work in me today, Through Christ my Lord”.
After the excitement of Easter, the Ascension of Jesus and the Feast of Pentecost, we come today to the mysterious and mystical Feast of the Holy Trinity – that Three-Personhood of God that has had theologians scratching their heads to explain what seems, to many people, an amazing contradiction. “How can God, The Creator of All that is, be both One – and three very different persons at the same time?”
The fact is, that from the earliest times of the existence of thinking human beings, there has always been a need to name the source of creation. So that, depending on where human beings existed, there have been local names for the gods they presumed were responsible for their known universe. It was not until the beginning of traditional Judaism that the One True God of the Israelites – who was revealed to Abraham as Jehovah or Yahweh – was recognised.
After Jesus’ Baptism in the River Jordan by John, when the Holy Spirit hovered over the scene, the voice of God was heard to say “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased – listen to Him”. This was the very first reference in the Gospels to the relationship between God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the human Jesus, the voice of the Father, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
What was later in the Church understood to be the doctrine of the Holy Trinity – the Three Personhood of the One True God – was not hinted at in the Scriptures until the end of Matthew’s Gospel revealed these words of Jesus to his disciples, on his last appearance to them before his Ascension: “All authority in earth and heaven has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”.
I have said that the idea of a triune God was an unknown factor in the earliest development of what would turn out to be the Judaeo-Christian religion. However, when we look back to the origins of the Creation in Genesis, we read of the time when God spoke the word that brought creation into being. We later read about God breathing the word, so that the word (Jesus) was spoken by the breath of God – which later was referred to as the Holy Spirit. And there we have all three discrete elements or Persons of God present at the dawn of Creation. As John was later to describe in his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus); the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning . Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him”. At the beginning of Creation, then, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
From the very beginning, God was a family – a mystical trio of expressions of the One True God. I find it helpful to remember that there are other instances in the created order that reveal three different properties of the one single entity. E.g. at different temperatures, the single element of water can be rendered into ice or steam – all proceeding from a single source. And if God is the creator of water, which can become ice or steam then why should we question the possibility of God being both three and one at the same time.
However, God has an economy of existence, and there is a reason for this Trinity of Persons – a reason that is only revealed to us a we progress along the way of understanding of who God actually is – for us as individuals, and then as the Body of Christ in the world.We know from the Scriptures that the Father, at a time that He decided, sent his Son into the world to become part of the created order – although his Incarnation was effected – not by the usual means of procreation but directly through the work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As John tells us in the Gospel, it was by this means that ‘The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And here we have the great paradox of Jesus – that he was both the Incarnate Son of God and – because his flesh was derived from that of his Mother Mary – he also became fully human.
The amazing fact of Jesus’ incarnation meant that, as God became a part of our humanity, so our humanity was raised in dignity to become part of God’s divinity.
As we human beings became part of Jesus Christ in our baptism, so we have already died with him and been brought to life again through his resurrection from the dead. When Jesus took our humanity with him at his ascension into heaven so we have been guaranteed a place with him when we leave this world.
Jesus knew that, because of the trials and temptations we are heir to in this world, we would need his help to make our journey from the cradle to the grave. And as we need food and drink to keep our bodies alive, so we would need the spiritual food that only he could give to sustain us on our spiritual pilgrimage. And this is where the Sacraments of the Church are given to us to partake of – as the catechism tells us – so that we may attain to life eternal that can be found in God.
And this is where the work of the Third Person of the Trinity, is brought into practical use. Jesus told his disciples that he had to return to the Father, and that when this took place, they would send the Holy Spirit, God’s Comforter, to strengthen and sustain us on our earthly journey – an event that was described so vividly in the New Testament readings last Sunday on the Feast of Pentecost. All the disciples were gathered together in one place when tongues of fire appeared on their heads, and they were empowered to preach the Good News of God’s deliverance to everyone in the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem – each hearing in their own language the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We, through our Baptism and Holy Communion, have been given the ongoing task of not just preaching about but becoming the good news of God’s great love to all humanity, and one of the signs of that in our own community here in Christchurch is that, in the wake of the hateful actions that took place in the Muslim places of worship, there has grown up a new spirit of Unity in Diversity, that Fr. Bosco spoke about last week. An amazing raising up – out of a catastrophic act of inhumanity towards a minority group – of an outworking of love and compassion that could only have been wrought by the Holy Spirit of the God who created us in the divine Image and Likeness of Jesus who died for us all – Christians Muslims, Jews, and every other human being that God has created and will create into the future.
Now to God The Father who created us; to Jesus Christ who has redeemed us; and to the Holy Spirit who strengthens us; be all glory majesty and dominion given as is most justly due, now and through all eternity. AMEN.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand