26th / 27th May 2018

posted 29 May 2018, 03:00 by Parish Office

Most Holy Trinity, Year B (26 & 27/5/18)


Understanding the Most Holy Trinity is not easy.  No matter how clever you are, how many books you have read, or how good your teachers are, you will never fully understand God in all His depth.  We, as finite human beings, can never expect to fully comprehend God, who is infinite.  But, the fact that we can’t understand everything doesn’t mean that we should just give up, because we can still understand at least something, even if it’s only a smal sliver of the whole.


The Church has been around for two thousand years, and during that time, people have struggled to get their beliefs and their language right when it comes to the Holy Trinity.  In part it’s because God is a mystery – we can’t fully comprehend Him, and as we try to do so, we can get it wrong.  If you think of a sliding scale, with at one end, the idea of one God, one person, and at the other end, three gods and three persons, we need to hit somewhere in the middle with one God and three persons.


Why is it so important that we get it right?  Well, here are a few reasons.  Firstly, if we don’t, and our beliefs aren’t Catholic, then it distorts our whole faith.  I’ll say a bit about this in a few moments.  Secondly, if we get it wrong, then what we believe isn’t true.  The whole point of our faith is that it is true – our faith describes reality, not a make-believe world.  Thirdly, if we claim to be people who love God, then we should want to get to know God as He is.  Imagine if you claimed to be a friend of a family, but you didn’t know their names, didn’t know what they did, what there interests are, got different people mixed up and were not really interested in anything about them – are you really a friend?


Back to the point about wrong beliefs about the Most Holy Trinity distorting our faith:  I mentioned the sliding scale, with the extremes of one God, one person and three gods, three persons for a reason – in the early Church, there were some people who were more towards the one God one person end of the scale.  They tried to oversimplify God and make Him easier to understand by saying that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were really all the same.  It was just one God acting in different ways, a bit like a clockstand with three faces.  For that reason, one of the names they were called was Patripassionists – “Patri” meaning “Father” and “passion” referring to the Cross.  As we all know (I hope) it was God the Son who died for us on the Cross, not the Holy Spirit or the Father.  But if you think that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are really only the same, then you could be accused of thinking that the Father died on the Cross., hence Patripassionists.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal and one, yet also different.  The second reading today showed us the difference between the three persons.  By our baptism, we have received the Spirit who prays in us, “Abba, Father!”, and we have a right of inheritance of eternal life made possible for us by the Son.  If Father, Son and Spirit are all the same, then why be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as we heard in the Gospel?


And there’s more.  Just a simple study of the Most Holy Trinity shows us that God is not a solitary being, but a relational being.  The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, and the fruit of their love is the Holy Spirit.  Humanity has been made in God’s image and likeness, and so marriage, also created by God, reflects the Holy Trinity – the love of husband and wife results in offspring.  Husband and wife are equal, but not the same, just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal, but not the same.  Back when David Cameron was proposing changing the state’s understanding of what marriage is and who qualifies, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth Diocese wrote him a letter, pointing out that he was misunderstanding what equality was all about.  He stated:


“a man cannot be a mother nor a woman a father, and so men and women can never be absolutely equal, only relatively equal, since they are biologically different. So too with marriage. Marriage, ever since the dawn of human history, is a union for life and love between a man and a woman. It is a complementary relationship between two people of the opposite sex, the man and the woman not being the same, but different. They are not, in other words, absolutely equal but relatively equal. This is why ... two men or two women, are not being ‘excluded’ from marriage; they simply cannot enter marriage.”



David Cameron was proposing a simplified understanding of what marriage is, but marriage is more rich and complex.  Men and women are in some ways mysteries to themselves as well as to each other, and the Most Holy Trinity is even more complex still.


So we, with our simple human minds, cannot expect to fully understand God, when we don’t even fully understand each other and ourselves.  But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, whilst at the same time avoiding oversimplifications.