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Bible Reflections View Comments

Live the Mystery of the Trinity
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013
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More ink has been spilled on the mystery of the Trinity than any other doctrine in Catholicism. Many people can tell you that St. Patrick used the shamrock to demonstrate the three-in-one reality of the Trinity. But it’s difficult to move from this image to an academic definition of the Trinity.

While all analogies ultimately fail, taken together, they can give us myriad ways to begin to grasp this great truth of our faith. Celebrating this feast reminds us that God will always be beyond our human understanding and beyond human control. There’s something comforting in that. We want God to be all powerful, all encompassing, eternal, and ever present. A god small enough for humans to control is too small to do any good.

The challenges faced by the early Church in understanding the Trinity had much to do with the need to reconcile the strongly monotheistic (one God) tradition of Judaism with the tendency of the pagans to have multiple gods for a variety of tasks and circumstances. When Jesus says he and the Father are one, he’s speaking of a completely new concept.

Through the centuries theologians needed to fit their descriptions and definitions of the Trinity into established ways of thinking and talking about reality. The words academics used to talk about faith changed with different currents in philosophy. What didn’t change was the one God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

One of the deepest truths that the doctrine of the Trinity reveals to us is that God is in relationship. The union of Father, Son and Spirit is a fluid one. The Trinity is always working, always moving, animating the world with divine life. We see this especially in John’s Gospel. Jesus speaks easily of his union with the Father and of the Spirit who moves in their midst.

It can be difficult to pin down John’s words. We understand them in an intuitive, mystical way, but we can’t define and explain them to our own—or anyone else’s—real satisfaction.

The people who selected the sacred texts for our lectionary reached back to the words of Proverbs, describing the Wisdom of God present at creation. Like Patrick’s shamrock, our first reading roots this ethereal mystery in the things of the earth: fountains, springs of water, mountains and hills, clods of earth, the sky, the sea. Wisdom is described as a craftsman, someone working to shape earthly materials into something both useful and beautiful.

As we move into the summer months—a time for gardens, visits to the beach or mountains—we might know in our experience of God’s creation something of that oneness. Our hobbies might give us an understanding of God’s creative spirit. Certainly our relationships with those closest to us and most dearly beloved can suggest to us something of this divine union.

This feast asks us to ponder a concept that can easily become abstract, something we dismiss it as irrelevant to our daily lives. But the truth at the heart of this feast is the love of God—so great and all-encompassing that it is in constant movement within and around all of creation.

Instead of trying to “figure out” the Trinity, celebrate it by doing something special with those whose love shows you every day the face of God.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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