When I began attending my catechism classes some fifty or more years ago, I was taught that as Christians, we believe in one God; not three Gods. And, in this one God, there are Three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Very often we hear Christians commenting that the mystery and the dogma of the Trinity is too deep to understand and that the Church’s teachings on the Trinity is too abstract, especially for the lay people who do not have training in theology. Is this true of our experiences?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin our reflection on the Trinity let us remind ourselves that when we say we do not understand the Trinity because its mystery is too deep, let us first be aware that we are reflecting on God who is an infinite Being who is infinitely powerful. We are trying to reflect on a God who is the Creator of our all of us human beings, and all that exist on entire earth and the universe.
Second, let us also be more fully aware that we are merely human beings; not God. We are mere creatures who are limited in our thinking regardless of how intelligent we may think we are. We are also finite and powerless creatures who in fact can fall sick and die at any time. We are also fallable human beings who constantly make errors of judgment not only because lack knowledge of reality, but also have poor knowledge of ourselves, especially when we are self-centred. The more self-centred and sinful we are the less we know about the reality of ourselves and the reality of life. And this is primarily because we lack the knowledge and personal love of God.
Let us next reflect on our daily human experiences; perhaps, this will help us understand the mystery of the Trinity more clearly. When I was a scholastic, undergoing my Jesuit formation in our Jesuit university in Manila, before my ordination, my regular Sunday apostolate was to go a poor barrio with other university students. We would mingle and get to know the poor; very poor families who were desperate and had no money even for the next meal. There was one particular family whose two year old child, Maribeth was critically ill and dying. To make a long story short, I wrote back to people I knew in Singapore to ask for financial help. I remember being deeply touched by a Singaporean family, living in their HDB flat donating I believe $1,200 from their hard earned savings. This family, let us call them the Wong family, willingly and voluntarily donated because they told me that they felt that Maribeth’s family is more desperate than what they are going through; they are happy to do what they can for Maribeth, and are happy enough to live a simple life. Having donated the money, they continued to be very concerned about Maribeth’s health.
How did the Wong family experience the mystery of the Trinity in the whole event? First, the Wong family’s response was clearly a personal experience of Christ in their hearts and home, when they were filled with deep compassion for Maribeth’s illness. They were clearly living the Christ-like faith of loving God wholeheartedly, through loving one’s neighbour. In their very self-sacrificing response for Maribeth’s needs, they were experiencing the Compassionate Christ who willingly allowed Himself to be Crucified and Die on the Cross, in order that all peoples be saved through His Suffering and Resurrection, as Willed by His Father. How were the Wong family able to be so generous and self-sacrificing toward Maribeth whom they do not even know? Clearly, it was the Holy Spirit who inspired and also empowered them to live God the Father’s Will for Maribeth’s desperate needs.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, it would have been more than acceptable if the Wong family had simply donated $200. I would have been grateful to them if they had done so. The Wong family could have come up with more than ten valid reasons as to why they could only donate $200. But, without my promptings, as a family, they decided to be and become the Compassionate Christ to Maribeth. When there is love, when we dare to love God, there are no limits on how we can love. This is precisely what Jesus is proclaiming when He hangs on His Cross before us in this Church.
I like us to recall the times when we went out of our way to show deep compassion to someone in need and who is desperate. How we were selfless, self-sacrificing and self-effacing all for the sake and salvation of someone in need. How did we feel? Did we not feel the deep peace of being Christ-like? Did we not feel that we have come to know the person of Jesus more deeply? Did we not feel that it was the Holy Spirit that inspired and empowered us to do the Father’s Will?
On the contrary, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us recall the times when we were cold and uncaring, selfish and unforgiving, irresponsible and proud. How did we feel? Did we feel we were distant from the person of Christ? Did our attitude and behaviour prick our conscience to remind us that we are not living the Father’s Will. Did we not feel restless and lousy within us?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, even as the divine mystery of the Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is beyond our human intellectual comprehension, Jesus assures us in today’s Gospel through His disciples, that He will be with us always; till the end of time. He will be present to us in the Holy Spirit as our sanctifier who inspires, illuminates and instils within our hearts, how we are each called to live the fullness of life as He, our Lord and Saviour has proclaimed and lived in the Gospels.
As I conclude, let remind ourselves that the ONE God in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is real and can be experienced in the concrete daily living of our lives. But, we must learn to be in tune and sense the Father’s Will. The Holy Spirit will constantly prompt us through our inner feelings, to become more Christ-like in all that we do and live. Jesus was constantly rejected by the Israelites even though He proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah. So, even if we are to experience rejection and pain, Jesus has not abandoned us. His Spirit will give us strength to continue to experience and deepen our relationship with Him through these trying times of our lives.
And when we were to encounter others who are suffering and going through pain, Jesus' Spirit will also give us the wisdom and generosity of heart to respond with compassionate love, as the Wong family did in the face of Maribeth’s critical illness.
And when we are able to live our faith in Christ-like love and ways, as our Father in heaven wills of us, then we become Jesus’ disciples who obeys and lives His Words, when He tells us today, “Go, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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