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Monday, June 12, 2017

Living in the Image of God Means Living in Communion

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Sermon by Fr. Joseph Mungai
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 11, 2017 
Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana

The story is told of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo -- a great philosopher and theologian.  He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity -- one God in three Persons and to  explain it logically. 
St Augustine and the little child 
One day he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this matter. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with his little cup, filled his cup with sea water,  and emptied it into the hole he had made in the sand. Back and forth he went to the sea, filled his cup and poured it into the hole. Augustine said to him, “Little child, what are you doing?” He replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.”

“How do you think,” Augustine asked him, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole?” He answered, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.

The human man cannot comprehend fully the inner relationship of the Three Divine Persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each is fully and equally God, yet there is only One God. It is a great mystery.

If we expected today’s readings
 (Ex 34: 4 -6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18) to give us a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, we have found out that they simply do not. The doctrine of three Persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelt out in the Bible. 

The very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Early Christians arrived at the doctrine when they applied their God-given reason to the revelation of Jesus Christ,  which they had received in faith. Jesus spoke about the Father who sent Him and about the Holy Spirit Whom He was going to send. He said that the Father had given Him all that He has and that He in turn gave to the Holy Spirit all that He received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the Three Persons in One God.

In the story of salvation, we usually attribute creation to the Father, redemption to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Though they are distinct as Persons, neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit ever acts in isolation from the other two Persons of the Godhead.

Like Augustine, we may not be able to understand the how of the Trinity but I think it is very important to understand the why. 

Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of the Supreme Being? The importance of this doctrine lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves. Experts in religion tell us that people always try to be like the god they worship. People who worship a warrior god tend to be warmongering. People who worship a god of pleasure tend to be pleasure-seeking. People who worship a god of wrath tend to be vengeful. And people who worship a god of love tend to be loving. Like their god, so the worshippers. 
Therefore, we ask what does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?

God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community of love and sharing. God is not a loner. This means that a Christian in search of godliness (Matthew 5:48) must shun every tendency to isolationism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world. We are unlike Buddhists  who seek holiness by permanent withdrawal to the mountains away from people and society.

True love requires communion. You remember the old saying “Two is company, three is a crowd.” The Trinity shows us that three is community, three is love at its best; three is not a crowd. Take as an example the human condition. When a man loves a

woman, their love is most often fruitful in children. Father, mother and child — love  perfected becomes a community, the family.

We are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only in a communion of persons. Marriage or religious life, both satisfy this requirement to live like God.   

Then we discover that the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism which is acceptable in modern society leaves much to be desired. The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity challenges us to adopt rather an I-and-God-and-neighbor principle. I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people. 
May the grace of the Holy Trinity help us to banish all traces of self-centeredness in our lives and to live in love of God and of neighbor. Amen.

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