Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Trinity and the Meaning of Infinity

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

This past Sunday was the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity is one of those things that most Christians accept, few think about, and none understand. That's a shame, really, because then we can't work Him into our lives and consequently come to think of Him (God!) as irrelevant to us. That's a real pity, to say the least.

Why does It matter? Well, to understand why It matters, we have to understand a bit about It, first. And the first thing to understand is that we cannot understand It fully. That's because God is infinite and most of our brains are a just a bit bigger and, relatively speaking, more intelligent than softballs. God is infinite and we are not. We can understand sooo many things, and fit them into our mind's rational framework, but we cannot do that with God. If we could, He would less than us and not more.

For the ancient Greeks, a mysterion isn't a problem to solve, but an interaction between the human and the divine. It helps to think of mystery in that sense: not something to figure out, or something that can't be figured out - rather, it is something to interact with, something that we cannot finish figuring out. Like my grandpa. After over 50 years of married life together, I distinctly remember hearing my grandma, who knows him like the back of her hand, "Well John, I didn't know that about you!" Each human person is a mystery - how much more God! How little we know Him even after all He has taught us! Knowing a mystery is not about knowing facts, or knowing about a person, but knowing a person - God. It is also like seeing the sky. Lying on our backs on a clear blue day, we can only see bits of pieces of the sky at a time. We know all the bits of vision fit together somehow, or else the sky would crack up, as it were, in our vision - but we cannot see the thing all at once. It's too big. God is something like that. No wonder we look to the sky when we think of heaven.

So, the Scriptures tell us that Father, Son, and Spirit are all God. They are distinct from each other, and address and refer to each other in their speech, and are not the same. Yet they are all one - perfectly united. Thence the formula that the Church has handed down: the Three Persons of the Trinity are perfectly united in their innermost being, but never confused or conflated in their Persons - never mushed together or mixed up, as it were. On the other hand, they are completely distinct in their Persons, their "who-they-are," but never divided or separated in their innermost reality. They are not three sides or faces of the one God, but three full-fledged persons. Their distinct personalities do not divide Him. Nor does His unity eradicate their distinctiveness. What distinguishes Father from Son is that the Father begets and the Son is begotten, sired, from all eternity. The Father gives all that He has to the Son, Jesus tells us (Jn 17:22; Jn 6:38-40), and the Son surrenders all that He is to the Father (Lk 23:46), each in a co-eternal, co-existing act of love. The love between the Father and the Son is so intense, so immense, so real, that cannot be thought of as a thing, but is Himself a Person - the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit eternally issues forth from the union of the Father and the Son, and eternally returns to them. It is in this way that we can say not, "God loves," but "God is love," because from all eternity God is unchanging, and His nature has ever been to love. Love needs and object, but God needed nothing else, because being Three Persons, He could love Himself without being selfish, but rather, always self-sacrificing.

Heaven, then, consists in this: to enter into the life and love of the Most Holy Trinity, to experience a joy so complete and intense that words fall away and wonder overpowers. The greatest and most intense joys and pleasures of this earth are only foreshadows of the glory and life that God has in store for those who love Him (1 Cor 2:9). After the general resurrection of the dead we will experience it bodily as even now our Lord Jesus Christ experiences it in His Resurrected Body.

Everything that exists is ordered to helping us get "there." Society's purpose is to help the individual get to heaven. The ordained priesthood is to help the priest and his parish to get there, and to bring more people, the outside world, with them. A marriage's purpose is to help the husband and wife each help each other to get there, and to bring more people, their children and neighbors, with them. In fact, the human family is supposed to be a little school in which love is taught, practiced, and shared.

Oh, but how badly we fall short! Is your family a perfect school of love, a perfect image of the Trinity, showing the outside world the beauty and goodness of God wherever it goes? Is your family and community like a blueprint for how to live the Life of the Trinity? It certainly isn't if the Blessed Trinity isn't even your model, your blueprint for life. I know my family isn't perfect, and neither am I. Even trying to be good and holy, it's really, really hard.

We cannot experience heaven while there remains inside us anything that will block out love: fear, selfishness, pride, envy, rage, sluggishness, and the rest. We must be purged.

Good news: God wants to help us. Whenever we act, we act by our nature - I eat in the way humans eat, speak as humans speak, and so on. But it is not my nature that acts - it is me, my who-I-am, my being. Same thing with God. When God acts, He acts by means of His nature - divine and spiritual, and ever since the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, human and material as well. But it is not JUST the Father or JUST the Son who acts - whenever He acts, He acts out of His being, His whole who-He-is. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, never do anything separately, even if it is convenient to speak of things that way. So when we receive Holy Communion by eating the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the God-man Jesus of Nazareth, we receive not only Him, the Son into our stomachs and thence our hearts. We receive with Him also the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Whole Trinity comes into our heart.

The Gospel of John is instructive on this point: "So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me," (Jn 6:53-57). Again, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you," (Jn 15:4-7).

So it is that this unfathomable Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we are called to imitate and conform to, to enter into and to enjoy, that is so far beyond us that we cannot imagine it - this same love will be enter into our hearts and change them, filling them with Faith, Hope, and Charity, cleansing them of fear, despair, and selfishness, providing the motor force to impel us into an eternity of joy and blessing. The Holy Trinity and His Heaven are not some abstract dogmas and distant, philosophical pipe-dreams - they are a new Life that can at least begin right here and now. But they are not unattainable and remote - He wants to be intimate and near us. In us. He wants to be our rocketship to bring us to Him, the nuclear reactor in us generating His life for the world, our blueprint for joy and the builder of the house He wants to give us.

"Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build. Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch. It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, To eat bread earned by hard toil-- all this God gives to his beloved in their sleep," (Ps 127:1-2).

And when we get there, we won't be disappeared like drops in the ocean, our personality lost in a cosmic soul ocean, as the Buddhists say. We will be, like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, more perfectly ourselves than we ever have been before. Our union with Him and each other will no more lose us in the mix than they lose each other. And our distinctive individuality will no longer be a source of selfishness or separation as it is hear on earth, but a magnification of glory without ever dividing us one from the other again.

Is there a better way? I can't think of one.

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