22 May 2016: Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Prv 8:22-31 Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 Rom 5:1-5 Jn 16:12-15

Trinity: Mystery, metaphor, meaning

On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Lectionary readings reveal the living God as the mystery of salvation: God is love (1 Jn 4:16). Trinitarian language expresses the early believing community’s personal experience of God’s three-fold revelation: utterly transcendent (as creator, king, shepherd, and caretaker of the chosen people), present historically in the person of Jesus, and present in the spirit of their community.

In the first reading, God reveals through the Proverbs writer God’s creative action. Wisdom, personified as God’s craftsman, is present with God before anything exists, and delights as God makes the cosmos, including humans. New Testament writers recognized this personified Wisdom as both the Logos (Jesus, God’s Word) and the Spirit; this Old Testament passage begins to reveal the Trinity.

In the second reading, God reveals through Paul’s letter to the Romans the Trinitarian functions of God: God (the Father) is the source of redemption; Jesus performs the redemptive act; and the Spirit enables us to experience the redemptive act.

In the gospel, God reveals through John’s writings the Trinitarian actions of God: Jesus reveals the Father; and the Spirit makes meaningful Jesus’ revelation to the present and future disciples.

Why do we care about the Trinity? What difference does it make to us in our daily lives? The Trinity is important because this is how God reveals the God-self to us–God’s very nature is three-fold. This is how we experience God. God’s revelation tells us not only about God, but also about us. Trinity leads us into:

  • Mystery: God is not unknowable; God wants us to know who God is. God self-reveals to us moment-by-moment: in creation and salvation, in scripture and liturgy, in the believing community’s faith and works. The Trinity’s mystery means that no matter how many times we experience the saving God in creation, scripture, and community, there is always more to know and to experience. In growing into God’s mystery, we also unravel the mystery of who we are.
  • Metaphor: All talk about God uses limited human words, images, analogies, and metaphors to try to capture and to hold on to an utterly transcendent God. We think that theological terms like hypostasis, person, and procession actually tell us about God’s inner life. At some point all human words and ideas about God fail. Only our experience of God–loving, saving, present–remains. We know God through relationship.
  • Meaning: God-in-relationship gives meaning to human life. In God’s trinity we experience love-that-overflows; we encounter love-that-saves; we see how the believing community should live. The Trinity–transcendent (beyond us), present (with us), and enlivening (in us)–calls us to become fully human.

The Trinity Sunday readings reveal the ever-deepening mystery of God-in-relationship. Do we search for meaning, or have we stopped at metaphor? Whom do we seek?

—Terence Sherlock

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