Mystery and Math

May 22, 2016 | HNMWebmaster | Deacon Eddie, Faith, Holy Spirit, Homilies, St. John, Trinity

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
May 22, 2016 – Year C
Readings:  Prv 8:22-31 / Psalm 8 / Rom 5:1-5 / Jn 16:12-15
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

The Holy Trinity. We say it all the time. It’s the foundation of Christianity. It’s what makes us unique. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons. NOT three Gods. We are not polytheistic, as some people accuse us. But no other religion on earth has this understanding of the Divine Nature.

We begin each and every Mass, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and we end it the same way. We begin each prayer, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and we end it the same way. The Trinity is the foundation of each one of the seven Sacraments. You’ll hear it multiple times through any of those liturgies. In fact, I counted it and I did the math. About 90% of the Apostles’ Creed is devoted to this one concept, and over 80% of the Nicene Creed. I’m sure some of you are thinking about grabbing that blue book and counting the words and verifying. Go ahead! I’m pretty confident in my calculations.

So if this is so fundamental to our faith, then why is it so hard to understand? Do you understand it? I know I don’t. People have been trying to explain this principle of our faith for 2000 years, even though this doctrine was defined in the very earliest stages of the Church.

St. Patrick, famously, used a shamrock to try to help people understand. He held up a shamrock and said, “See? Three lobes, but it’s only one leaf.” OK.

St. Cyril tried a different approach. He used the sun. He said God the Father is the blazing sun, God the Son is its light, and God the Holy Spirit is its heat. But there’s only one sun.

As an engineer, I kind of like C. S. Lewis’ account. He started with a single dimensional line; when you take four of them and put them together, you get a two-dimensional square. There are four lines, but there’s only one square. And likewise, if you take six squares and put them together, you get a three-dimensional cube. There are six squares, but there’s only one cube. I like that explanation, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t know that I’m any closer to understanding it.

But if you’re confused, don’t feel badly because you’re in good company. There’s a famous legend about St. Augustine. The legend goes that St. Augustine was walking along the beach trying hard to come up with an intelligible explanation that would explain the Mystery of the Trinity. As he walked along, he came upon a small boy, and this boy had a seashell. The boy would go over to the sea, and he would scoop out water, and then he’d go over and dump the water into a hole. Of course, St. Augustine was curious, so he said, “Son, what are you trying to do?”

The boy said, “I’m trying to empty the sea using the shell.”

And St. Augustine said, “Well, son, that’s impossible!”

And the boy looked at him and said, “What you are trying to do – comprehend the immensity of God with your small head – is even more impossible.” And then the boy vanished.

If St. Augustine, one of the greatest minds in history, could not comprehend the Mystery of the Trinity, then what chance do we have? Actually, that kind of explains it, because it is a mystery, and we’re not supposed to understand. Let’s face it, if we could completely understand God, would God be worthy of our adoration?

So why do we bother to even try to understand? Why does the Church set aside one Sunday every year for us to stumble through this mysterious concept? I think one reason it does is to help us grow in our relationship with God. You see, like any relationship, if our relationship with God is not growing, it’s dying. And any relationship that is worthwhile requires some effort on our part.

Yesterday, my nephew graduated from high school, and he had to give a speech to his classmates. My nephew in school is known as The Math Guy. So he proposed some equations to help his fellow students go through life, and one of those equations caught my attention. It said:

H + D = S

H stands for Hard Work; D stands for Dedication; and S stands for Success.

Over the years I’ve noticed that different people seem to focus in on one Person of the Trinity. I myself have always found it easy to picture God as a father: God the Father, the Provider. I had a very good relationship with my father, and I still do, so that Person is easy for me to understand. But I’ve known some people who haven’t had the same relationship with their father that I had, so God the Father is more mysterious to them, and a little harder to get into.

And I’ve noticed that often times these people find it easier to connect with God the Son, the Savior.

And still other people I’ve noticed seem to effortlessly connect with God the Spirit, the Sanctifier. But if we’re all going to work on our relationship with God, we need to work on building our connection with each Person.

So, today when we recognize our graduates, I have a little homework for everybody. It’s two parts: For the first part, I want you all to spend some time reflecting on your own personal experience of God. What Person of the Trinity do you most easily connect with? And after you’ve done that, Part Two is that I want you to spend some time and some energy trying to get to know the other two Persons. If we put in the hard work of prayer, and we dedicate ourselves to understanding each Person of the Trinity, we will succeed in reaching our goal. And what is that goal? To spend Eternity with God.