by f. Luis CASASUS, General Superior of the men’s branch of the Idente Missionaries.
Madrid, May 30, 2021. | The Most Holy Trinity. Solemnity.
Book of Deuteronomy 4: 32-34.39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Saint Matthew 28: 16-20.
Religions as important as Judaism and Islam are, of course, monotheistic, as is Christianity. But in different ways, they have perceived that God speaks with several voices. In the Old Testament we already see the divine voice reflected in very different tones:
This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer (Deut 5: 25).
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem (Is 66: 13).
Likewise, Islam indivisibly unites two voices, the voice of the Prophet and the voice of Allah. We can even read in the Koran the 99 names of Allah.
God has many voices: the voice of the mother rocking her child to sleep; the voice of discipline as a father corrects his child; the voice of forgiveness as we confess our sins; the voice of love as we greet our loved ones; the voice of a tender father as he calls us his child; the voice of peace and blessing as we seek him.
However, the revelation that, in the one God, there is a paternity, fraternity and the gift of love is specific to Christianity. This we call the mystery of the Trinity.
When I was doing research at university, I remember that one of the most interesting projects concerned the atmosphere-ocean interaction in the climate change problem. We had the most powerful computer in Europe and a good team of researchers. However, none of us thought that we were going to “solve the problem”, given the enormous complexity of the problem, the still imprecise or unknown data and our always insufficient experience. What was relevant was to really enter into the mystery of climate change, plagued by unknowns, full of open questions and intricately related variables.
Entering into the mystery. That is something especially relevant and attractive in the sciences. And it is also something to which Pope Francis invites us when he speaks to us about entering into the identity of God, as he did on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity in 2017.
Indeed, knowing a person rationally is not the same as understanding him, embracing him, welcoming him as he/she is. And this is what is relevant for us regarding the Holy Trinity; even if we make at the same time an intellectual effort to contemplate it and explain it better.. In the First Reading, Moses demanded obedience of the people to God only because this God was encountered by them intensely. The Lord worked in their lives and history, delivering them from their enemies, especially from slavery.
We cannot truly love God or human beings if we do not enter in this way into the mystery of their identity. And we can only achieve this if we look at their way of loving, however imperfect it may be. It is the same with God. If we do not know his identity, his way of loving us, the different ways in which he speaks to us, his tone of voice at every moment of the day, we will not know who he is and, even worse, we will not know how to participate in his life and his kingdom.
In our case, as limited and pilgrim human beings, we never quite see clearly either our identity as children of God or that of our neighbor. That is why our way of loving is incomplete, sometimes conditional and at other times divided. I believe this is reflected in Hans Christian Andersen’s masterful fairy tale (1837), The Little Mermaid.
Falling in love with a prince, Ariel, the Little Mermaid, visits the Sea Witch who lives in a dangerous part of the ocean. The witch willingly helps her by selling her a potion that gives her legs in exchange for her tongue and beautiful voice, as the Little Mermaid has the most enchanting voice in the world.
As a story about love and relationship, the lesson of Ariel is crucial. On the surface, her desire for legs seems touching and sweetly motivated by love and the want to belong. Of course, the prince instantly falls in love with her when he sees her dance, even though she was mute. But the prince’s family pushes him into a marriage of convenience with a princess, who the prince believes had saved him from a shipwreck, when in fact it was the Little Mermaid who was his savior. The end of the story is… bittersweet, as Ariel commits a kind of suicide and is turned into an ethereal being, dedicated to doing good to humans.
Our poor way of loving leads us in a great extent to renounce our true nature, just as it happened to the Little Mermaid. Our love is full of fear, of anxiety to be corresponded, and of lack of confidence in the gifts we have already received.
This explains St. Paul’s profound desire, in the Second Reading, to remind Roman Christians of the personality they have received through baptism. He speaks of “adopted sons”. This concept did not exist among the Jews, but it did in Roman and pagan culture. What is relevant is that these children had full rights to the family inheritance, like the children born in marriage. Of course, St. Paul is interested in helping the young Roman church and all of us to understand that God’s love is manifested through the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit, whom he explicitly mentions. We are children, we have a brother to follow and a Spirit who continually inspires us. This inspiration truly gives meaning to all things, including those we do not understand. Therefore, the conclusion of this Reading is: …if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Dying in Christ in baptism, rising to a new life in the Spirit, sharing our communion with the rest of the family of God, together, we help each other and support each other to become more and more like Jesus and living together as God’s family.
Then what is the way to become more aware of what the Holy Trinity represents in our lives? A good starting point is gratitude.
Gratitude is something that grows with practice, as it makes us more sensitive to the importance of gifts or talents received. And that leads us to manifest our gratitude even more and to trust in the necessity of gifts, in the teaching of mistakes and in the role of our neighbor in our lives, including our enemies.
In Greek mythology, there is a story of a man, Theseus, who in order to find his way home, had to find his way through a labyrinth that led him to a dark center, where he had to kill a powerful beast, a Minotaur. The only way he could return to the light of daily life was to trace back the thread he had unraveled on his way in, which was given him by a kind woman, Ariadne.
Each of us has a beast at center, our ego, which we must confront if we are to live in fullness in our days. But like Theseus, making our way back into the light is only possible if we retrace with kindness and love our dark way. The difference in our favor is that God does not give us a thread to find our way, but nothing less than his presence, as Jesus affirms in the conclusion of St. Matthew’s Gospel that we read today: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
The apostles were already sent to proclaim the kingdom of heaven, but with a limitation: Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel (Mt 10:5-6). After Easter, their mission expands; it becomes universal. This already started at Pentecost, when each one heard them speaking in his own language (Acts 2: 6).
We can imagine the intimate gratitude of the Apostles, for whom everything that had happened began to have meaning and unexpected consequences. There is a real positive feedback between gratitude and sensitivity. In particular, by showing our gratitude, especially by making use of the goods received, we understand better what is our bond with the other person, divine or human. This is the way to enter into the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.
The more I grow in gratitude of God’s plentiful love for me and all of creation, the more will I respond fully and generously in service or and with others. Gratitude fuels my striving to love as I have been loved- psychologist and philosopher William James once said, The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated. Gratitude for loved ones, spouses, friends, and other closest relationships is often recognized by how we feel by their words and actions. Recognizing the importance of how we feel in relationships can then be a motivator to make others in relationships feel valued, appreciated, good, encouraged, and believed in.
If we refer to divine persons, our gratitude is also strongly expressive, a sign of acceptance of all that we have received, even if sometimes we do not know how to use it or it leaves us perplexed, like some painful experiences. But for centuries, many prayers of “Thanksgiving” have been elaborated, because at least intuitively we human beings guess that expressing gratitude celebrates the positive in your relationship, bringing both sides closer together.
The Persian13th-century poet Saadi describes the “blessings for our souls”, namely each breath: Whose hand and tongue is capable to fulfil the obligations of thanks to Him?
Yes, gratitude is a lifelong path, with more and more nuances and reasons to show our gratitude, far from the individualistic, independent and supposedly self-sufficient spirit of our contemporary culture.
Faced with the gift of God’s love, it is inconceivable that anyone still fears God. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives away fear, for fear has to do with punishment; those who fear do not know perfect love. So let us love one another, since he loved us first (1 Jn 4:18-19). This is the mystery of the Trinity, an involvement in the life and joy of the Lord. The apirituality of one who prays to a distant God and does not feel him in himself is incompatible with the profession of faith in God who is Father, Son and Spirit.
The power in heaven and on earth given to Jesus has nothing in common with the kingdoms of this world. It consists in the ability to serve man, leading him to salvation and introducing him in the intimacy of love with the Father. We are called to a challenging vocation and certainly superior than human capabilities.
But, let us insist on Christ’s promise: I am with you always, even to the end of this world. The Gospel of Matthew ends as it had begun, with the call to Emmanuel, the “God with us”, the name by which the Messiah was foretold by the prophets (Mt 1:22-23).