For many people, the word “Trinity” is abstract and has nothing to do with our daily living. Many too seem to think that “Trinity” is a mystery that is full of “mist” and thus very difficult to understand let alone preach a homily on it. There is a story of St Augustine of Hippo, the great philosopher and theologian, one day walking along the beach as he was pondering on the mystery of the Trinity. He passed a child who was running to-and-fro from the sea to the beach trying to scoop buckets after buckets of sea water and pouring it into the hole that he had dug. Being curious St Augustine asked the child, “What are you trying to do?” The child replied, “I am trying to fill this hole with the sea.”
We all know that what the child is trying to do is an impossible task because it is humanly impossible to empty the billions and billions of gallons of sea water into a hole with a small bucket. First, the bucket is too small. Second, it will take all eternity to do so. Likewise, if we were to rely on our own limited human capabilities, like the child relying on his small bucket, it would be impossible for us finite human beings to try to understand fully the infinite mystery of God in the Trinity, with our small minds.
However, we are blessed to have God Himself, through Jesus, the Son of God coming into our world as a human being to reveal to us the truth and the mystery of God. Through Jesus, we learnt how it is His Father’s Will to save all of us from our sinful ways of rejecting His Love. Through Jesus we see how God loves us so much that He did not even spare His Son from suffering and death. Through Jesus we believe that after He rose from His death, He sent the Holy Spirit to live within each of our hearts so that God can continue to guide, inspire and strengthen us in our daily needs as we live in this world.
Even as Jesus has revealed the mystery of the Trinity to us, we have to admit that it is never easy to understand deeply the meaning of the mystery. In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains that He is not able to reveal the fullness of God’s mystery to us because, “it would be too much for us . . . the Holy Spirit that He sent the Church on Pentecost, and to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation, “will lead us to the complete truth” gradually and as much as we can absorb its Truth and mystery in our lives.
Let us go back to our story for a moment. We know that it is impossible for the child to fill the hole in the beach with the sea through the buckets of water that he scoops from the sea. However, if he were to dig a drain to connect the hole to the sea and allow the sea water to flow in and fill up the hole, then in some way he is able to fill his hole to the brim with the sea. Likewise, if we want to be filled with the mystery of God’s Truth, we must also, with God’s grace, try to “dig” into His mystery and be connected to God through the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent us after His Resurrection. The more fully we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our minds and hearts with its Truth, the bigger would be the hole we will be digging to allow the “sea” of God’s infinite mystery to fill us with its Truth so to speak.
The Holy Trinity, is not an abstract concept of theologians. When we are in pain, God feels our pain; when we are happy, God too rejoices with us; when we forgive it is God’s Spirit who gives us the graces to forgive like Christ, when we go beyond our selfish needs and serve the needs of others it is Christ who is our Saviour whom we imitate to live in His Father’s ways.
During the week, I visited a family to bless their home; during my time there I observed how Mary, (not her real name), was very absorbed by her care and love for her first born son. Mary looked somewhat exhausted and when I remarked that she looked tired, she said, “Father, I have hardly slept for the past six weeks since my baby was born.” Mary went on to share how her son has to be fed every two hours during the night and then how he needs constant attention throughout the whole day. I could see that while Mary was so tired, she was at the same time filled with great joy and happiness that she is so blessed to have such a beautiful gift of her baby from God.
Then without any warning, her baby suddenly decided to give his mother a big “poo;” and when that happened Mary and everyone in the family had a good laugh and made a big joke out of it. Mary with great patience cleaned up the mess and with great love took her child away and after a short while brought him back fresh and clean, and begins to speak with even greater love and joy of her child. I could also see that the rest of the family too loves the child so much and has him as the centre of attention; more so when the baby is so adorable and beautiful.
I am sure many of you parents can relate very well to this story because it is a very human experience of what love is about. The whole story shows how much Mary loves her child and because of that she is able to go beyond her personal needs to provide for her child. While her sleepless nights and exhausting days are taking a toll on her, her daily selfless sacrifices remain meaningful and fulfilling because her love for her child is greater than all the pain and sacrifices that she has to go through.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this very human experience gives us a glimpse of our God in the Trinity. If human love of a mother can make us so selfless, God’s Love for us would be infinitely greater. Like Mary in our story who loves her child so much, God our Father, who created each of us out of Love, in an infinite way, loves us totally and unconditionally. The mystery of The Trinity is that God the Father, Son and Spirit together have each of us as the centre of their attention.
We are each God the Father’s most precious son and daughter. Like Mary, God’s Love for us, in an infinite way, is greater than the wrongs that we have done and the sins that we have committed. God is able to tolerate and forgive our sinful ways because regardless of our rejection of Him through our sins, He continues to forgive us unconditionally because ultimately we are each still His precious sons and daughters.
Last night, I went to Tan Tock Seng Hospital to anoint and gave Holy Communion to Helen, (not her real name), a sick parishioner who has cancer and had recently fallen and fractured her hip. While Helen shared that she was in pain and suffering in different ways, like she is quite tired of eating porridge for every meal as she is not able to swallow, she also shared that she felt that she was close to death a few times. And when it happened, she said, she felt deep peace in her heart; she feels ready to meet God.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, it is such a great consolation to meet someone who has a deep faith like Helen. In saying that she finds deep peace at the point of death, Helen has in a few words revealed how her faith must have been so real to her throughout her life, in spite of her many struggles and suffering she had to go through.
As I conclude this homily, on this Feast of the Holy Trinity, I would like us to remember that the Trinity in God the Father, Son and Spirit is the most concrete reality of our lives.
Like the hole in the beach that is connected to the vast ocean, we too are called to remain connected to the infinite mystery of God, in the Creative Love of the Father, the Merciful and Redeeming Love of the Son and the Guiding Wisdom of the Spirit in our lives.
Like Mary who is such a selfless mother in her love for her child, we too know and believe that God’s love for us is infinitely greater as Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier.
Like Helen who lived her faith faithfully throughout her life and is now at peace with God in spite of her illness and suffering, we too are each challenged to live our faith fully and faithfully so that in the mystery of the Trinity, we can all continue to be transformed daily as we journey together to our eternal home in heaven
Fr Philip Heng, S.J.
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