A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity by Fr Stephen Haines
God’s Plan Revealed
God exists because He exists. God always was, before all that is and ever will be. There is no before time, after time. There is no time in the Trinity, only timelessness. All creation exists within time. But God is timeless. Of course God exists within our time but He concurrently exists outside of our time because for God there is no time. He always was; no beginning, no end, only God.
God is sufficient unto Himself. God does not need us because He is sufficient without us.
Moses asks God in the Book of Exodus, chapter 3 what is the God of our fathers’ name before he goes back to the people of Israel to tell them God has sent him to them. God said to Moses, say “I am who I am”. The verb of “being” because without God there is nothing that exists. There is only God. God is the causal event of existence, of the people of Israel, of us.
God has a plan. He always had a plan. There was no time when there wasn’t a plan to create the universe, to create every living creature, to create the crowning glory of the universe; mankind. Why? Because God is pure love. Such love demands the plan. There is no hidden agenda. We are created out of this divine love solely to return this love to the Creator and in doing so to love one another. The divine circle of love, which is also the circle of the harmony of life.
Understanding the Trinity is to understand the revelation of God to us; in the form of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Understanding each of the Three Persons of the Godhead, each Person in God’s own time as He gradually reveals Himself to humanity enables us to slowly and systematically begin to understand why we are here and what kind of people we are meant to become; God’s holy people as we are reminded time and again in the Old and New Testaments.
To reveal Himself all at once in the persons of the Trinity would have been too much for humanity to assimilate, therefore God’s plan has been revealed to us over thousands of years drawing us ever closer to Himself in pure love and into His image of moral likeness. We have before us in the understanding of the Trinity all the revelation we need to have in knowing what God is and what God expects of us.
St. Paul clearly describes God’s plan in Ephesians chapter 1 verses 3-10. God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ.” “He has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will.......as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” There we have the blueprint of God’s plan; the final revelation of God to us.
The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and all the early tribes had a pantheon of Gods. God the Father intended to reveal Himself to humanity as One God, One Divine Being for all humanity to worship. He chose the Israelites to be this vehicle of revelation. There had always been a vague understanding of God as somewhat remote, someone to be feared, powerful, a strict God with a masculine image. Stray from Him and worship pagan idols and you may be in mortal danger. God calls and we tremble.
Before the burning bush when God spoke to Moses, Moses was afraid and hid his face from God. “He was afraid to look at God.” In I Samuel chapter 3 the Lord calls the boy Samuel 3 times and 3 times the boy runs in confusion to Eli to ask him if he had called. Clearly Samuel was in awe and a little fearful, I suspect, of what he did not know or understand. Eli explains the Lord is calling and the boy finally responds.
Gradually throughout the Old Testament God continues to reveal Himself through Moses, through the prophets. We begin to see a God of forgiveness as the obdurate people time and again revert to the pagan gods. The Israelites receive the Ten Commandments as a supreme guide of how our lives are to be lived. The prophets continue to show the people what God expects of them even if they time and again drift away or the prophetic voices fall on deaf ears. And yet God continues to call them back and to forgive them and to exhort them to become holy “as I Am holy”. We begin to see the Father as a father.
The plan continues in the person and revelation of Jesus. In Old Testament times humanity was not yet ready to understand and receive the Son, God in human form; the man god, although He was foretold many times in the scriptures to which Jesus often refers as He quotes from them. In Jesus God makes Himself vulnerable as we are vulnerable. God comes among us. God shows more of Himself. Jesus teaches us the Lord’s Prayer, the Great Commandment of love. Mark 12 verse 28; the love of God and the love of neighbour. In Matthew chapter 5 we are given the Beatitudes, directing us to the kind of people God would have us become, a blueprint for holiness, a summary of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus teaches us in much greater depth about forgiveness and mercy. Remember the woman caught in adultery? Jesus does not condemn her but shows mercy and compassion.
Jesus shows that the Christian way of life will not avoid pain and suffering. In a sense Jesus tells us there is a cost of discipleship such as the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer discovered as he courageously spoke out against Hitler and his evil regime. This commitment cost him his life. In the person of Jesus God calls us to change, metanoia, Greek for turn around, to change your ways. Now you must not live for self but for others in service, in humility, in love of the stranger. Make your life a life of prayer and at times pray in silence, the language of God. Jesus tells us to let the Lord speak to us in silence so we may live in His light and have strength and hope and have our very being surrounded by His love.
God is calling us to holiness through the example of Jesus living as pilgrims heading home at the end of our lives.
We also learn that God’s love has no bounds. It is endless. It is eternal. Each one of us is so precious to God that as He holds us in His hand it is as if He sees us as the only person in the world. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection and ascension opens wide the doors to eternity where God would not want to lose even one of us that we might share the eternal joy with Him at the Easter banquet.
In the person of Christ God is not just a merciful and forgiving father but also an intimate father where we can shout, ABBA, daddy, help me, I am drowning in pain. Hold me close in your arms, I am afraid. Only with you am I safe, as the psalmist tells us.
Jesus sums up all His life’s work, the agony of the cross and His glorious resurrection, in John’s gospel chapter 17. “I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do.” “Now at last they know that all you have given me comes indeed from
You: for I have given them the teaching you gave to me, and they have truly accepted this, that I came from you, and believed that it was you who sent me.”
We see you Lord more clearly through Jesus but now He has ascended, where are you Lord guiding us along our pilgrimage to our eternal home? We turn to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit
Scripture documents ten appearances of Jesus to the disciples after the Resurrection. After Jesus’ death on the cross the disciples were utterly dismayed, broken hearted. They still did not understand why Jesus had to die. All their dreams were extinguished. They had hoped that Jesus would establish a kingdom of power and might to overthrow the yoke of the Roman Empire. Behind the locked doors they huddled together for fear of the Romans.
Over 40 days Jesus appeared to His disciples walking with them, breaking bread with them, showing Himself so they would finally recognise Him through all their tears. “Be not afraid.” God the Father knew what the reaction of the disciples would be. Behind the closed doors Jesus appears to the disciples in John’s gospel chapter 20 and says “Peace be with you.” He shows them His hands, His side. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.” The faith of the disciples and their preaching and all the miracles they had performed would not end with the death of Jesus. The gift of the Spirit was the new beginning of their work, our work as we too are disciples of Christ.
The gift of the Holy Spirit was the commissioning of Jesus’ disciples for all time to go out into the world and share the good news of salvation and the promise of eternal life with the Father. As disciples we are not alone. We are empowered. God has marked each one of us, with our understanding of the Trinity, with His seal to share with the world what we know by faith and what we feel and have our very being. We share what is eternal and not the values of the world that are transient.
With the power of the Spirit we can share the foretaste of heaven now on earth. The Spirit has changed us and as disciples of Christ we can help to change hearts and minds and the values of the world. The blind will see, the lame will walk, the sick will receive healing, the poor will be fed and raised up. They will at last have a voice. Inequality can be banished. There is enough for all of only we share. We will learn to love our neighbours and not be afraid of what we do not know or understand. Salvation is at hand.
God has a plan. One God in three persons. God is always God, but He has revealed Himself to us out of unadulterated love through the Father, through the Son and through the Holy Spirit. The Trinity unpacked is not a mystery because it is the key that unlocks the mystery of God. We have before us all we need to know about God. We see the plan. We have the blueprint. We have the key. But unless we decide to use the key through faith, we will run on an empty tank. Holman Hunt paints a picture of Jesus with a lantern knocking at our door. There is no outside handle. We must use the key to unlock the door from within, from our hearts. Let the God of the Trinity enter and you will never be the same.
The Trinity is the plan. The mystery of God’s purpose revealed.