Father Donald Senior, CP

May 26: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

To hear the voice of God and live

Dt 4:32-34, 39-40; Ps 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22; Rom 8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20

Editor’s note: We are reprinting the late Father Donald Senior’s past columns with the permission of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ.

One well-known biblical scholar has described the biblical experience of God as one who is both awesomely powerful and infinitely tender.

Echoes of that paradoxical mix can be heard in Moses’ exclamation to the people in today’s reading from the Book of Deuteronomy: “Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?” It goes on: “Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation … all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?”

So overwhelming is the Bible’s reverence for God that to this day, no observant Jew when praying or reading the Scriptures would dare utter the very name of God revealed in the burning bush, choosing instead alternate names and titles such as Adonai (“my Lord”) or Ha Shem (“the name”).

Recognizing that God bears a beauty beyond human imagination or capacity, no one can even hear God’s voice or see God’s face, and live. Like the moth before the flame, our being would be overwhelmed.

It is that sense of God’s majesty and infinite beauty that this solemnity of the Holy Trinity celebrates. The older I get, the more I feel both baffled at the total mystery of God’s being and yet sense the compelling truth and centrality of the Christian belief in the one God as a trinity.

As in the reading from Deuteronomy, Jewish tradition is the foundation for the Christian glimpse of God as both utterly beyond our grasp and yet completely loving and near to us. The doctrine of the Trinity dares to probe further into the mystery of that divine center. 

God is experienced as the one who creates the world and who out of love brings all creatures — including us — into being. God is experienced in the person of Jesus Christ, the very Word of God, who embodies that same redeeming love of God for the world. And God is experienced as a dynamic Spirit, animating us and prompting us to love each other, to embrace the world God created and sustains.

Christian faith in the Trinity is ultimately not abstract or speculative, but a humble attempt to glimpse the identity of God drawn from the experience of him in our Scriptures and in our collective lives. Christian theologians and mystics have described the inner life of the Trinity as a vortex of love, as a fusion of relationships within and among the mystery of three persons in the one God. These articulations of the mystery of God remain inadequate and feeble yet speak the truth.

Important for Christian life is that worshipping God as a Trinity is not without consequence for us. Because we have been created by this God of love, and even fashioned in God’s own image, we, too, are designed to love, destined to find our completion as human beings in our capacity to reach out beyond ourselves to commune with others.

Like the fusion of love that defines the persons of the Trinity, we, too, will find our ultimate happiness and completion to the extent we recognize our interconnection with others and with the world in which we live.

That is Paul’s message in the passage from his Letter to the Romans we hear today. We did not receive “a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,” but a Spirit that enables us to call God, “Abba,” an affectionate name for God as father. For, Paul insists, “we are children of God … and heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”

In the final scene of Matthew’s Gospel reading today, the risen Christ sends out his apostles to the world, urging them to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the very name of the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are called to do this not as a lifeless ritual but as a vital sign that we are born of a God of infinite love and are to bring that same love to our world.


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