THE DEEPEST MYSTERY OF ALL — Fatherhood, filiation and love

Fausto Gomez OP

After Pentecost Sunday that closes the Easter Season, we Christians celebrate Trinity Sunday. May I invite you fraternally to meditate with me on the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, which is the central mystery of our Christian faith!

From the beginning of Christianity, the Trinity is constantly invoked in prayer. In the Old Testament God is not yet revealed explicitly as Trinity but as the one – as “I am”- who is merciful and gracious! “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” (Ex 34:6-7; Ps 86:15). Paul tells us that we are children of God One and Triune. In Baptism, we become adopted children of God the Father thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit sent to us by Jesus, the Son of God, our brother and savior (cf. Rom 8:14-17).

After his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven, St Matthew narrates to us that Jesus gave to his disciples a mission, a universal mission to which all the disciples are called to do: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commended you” (Mt 28:16-20). Then Jesus added something most consoling for us all: “I am with you always until the end of time.” And with Jesus are the Father and the Holy Spirit: “If you love me, you will keep my word, and my Father and I will come to you and make our home in you.”

In the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is clearly revealed: the Son of God is baptized; the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove, and the Father speaks, “You are my Beloved Son” (cf Mk 1:9-11).

Our God is One and Triune. He is One God and Three different Persons (we say “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…,”and not in the names of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit). One God: absolute unity and absolute equality among the Three different Persons. And Three Persons: real distinct relations among the Three: of the Father to the Son (paternity), and of the Son to the Father (filiation), and of the Father and the Son to the Holy Spirit (love) (St Thomas Aquinas). Our God is not a solitary or lonely God: our dear God – One and Triune – is communion. Saints and mystics explain: One God and Three Persons, that is, three different faces of the same God, or three caresses of love, or one love and three lovers, or one fountain without beginning and end with three rivers in the same water.

Who is God? St. Columbanus asked himself, to answer: “He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” And the holy monk added: Seek no further concerning God.”

God the Father is the first Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is our Creator and our Father: the Father of the prodigal son and of the lost sheep who loves us, who forgives us. We are God’s children. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus says: “I am going to my Father and your Father.”

God the Son is the second divine Person of the Blessed Trinity who reveals to us God as merciful Father and sends to his disciples – to us – the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son. He is Jesus Christ, God and Man, our Savior and Redeemer. He is our brother, and in him we are each other’s brother and sister.

God the Holy Spirit is the third divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Love of the Father and the Son, our advocate and consoler. He is the grace that helps us to pray, to be in solidarity with one another, and to work for truth, freedom, justice and peace.

We are Christians. What does it really mean to be a Christian? A Christian is a person who is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and is faithful to his or her baptism, that is, one who knows God as Father, confesses Jesus as the Son of God and the Man-for-Others, and experiences in life the Holy Spirit, who tells him or her that Jesus is alive, that we are called to live in him, and that outside him there is only darkness (O. González de Cardedal).

We check our life, our daily life. What do we see right away? We see that the Holy Trinity is a constant presence in our life. We were baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We often make the Sign of the Cross, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We end the recitation of the Psalms, of the mysteries of the Rosary, and of our prayers with the “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” The priest addresses all the prayers, on behalf of the people of God, to the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit. And we often make acts of faith, hope and love to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

An old priest who was a bit hard of hearing asks his high school class of religion: “Who is the Trinity?” A boy at the back of the class, on the last row, who had a soft voice answered: “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The good old priest did not hear the boy well so he tells the boy: “I cannot understand.” The smart boy answered him: “Father, you are not supposed to understand; it is a mystery.” Yes, it is the unfathomable and awesome mystery of the Blessed Trinity! And we believe! With God’s gift of faith, we believe and see through a glass darkly. And the more we live our faith in love, the more we may understand – always very imperfectly – the Most Holy Trinity. The saints tell us so! St Teresa of Avila, for instance, could see clearly with the faithful and loving eyes of the soul that God is One and Triune at the same time. St. Columbanus says something very beautiful: The invisible God “is partly seen by a heart that is pure.” He adds: “Therefore, seek the supreme wisdom, not by verbal debate but by the perfection of a good life; not with the tongue, but with the faith which issues from singleness of heart” (Instruction I, On Faith, 3-5).

As we meditate on the Blessed Trinity, we are moved to examine the fundamental Trinitarian attitude that ought to permeate our life. The filial attitude – we are children of God the Father: Do we behave as children of our merciful Father? The fraternal attitude – we are brothers and sisters of Christ and in Christ of one another: How is our relationship with our brothers and sisters, with those around us and with the needy? The charismatic attitude – by divine grace, we are temples of the Holy Spirit: Do we try hard to be joyful and courageous witnesses of the death and resurrection of Christ – dead to sin and alive in love?

I heard a lovely anecdote from Cardinal Bo, of Myanmar, when he pronounced the keynote lecture of the Theology Week of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, last March 2018. There was a bishop who had to cross the seashore to go to his ministry. One day he saw three fishermen who rushed to him, and told him proudly and joyfully: “Bishop, we are Catholics.” The Bishop asked them: “Do you pray?  “Oh, yes, every day.” “How do you pray?” With raised hands up to heaven, we say: “You Three are there; we three are here, have mercy on us.” The good Bishop loved them. He told them that they should learn the Our Father, and taught them the Lord’s Prayer. Two weeks later, the bishop walked by the seashore again. He asked the three fishermen: “Do you pray the Our Father?” “No, Bishop; sorry, we forgot it.” The Bishop told them: “Your prayer is fine; it is also my prayer.” The four raised up their hands to heaven and prayed: “You Three are there; we four are here, have mercy on us.”

Father, Son and Holy Spirit: You Three are there, we all are here, have mercy on us! Amen!