Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40; Romans 8:14–17;
A practical prayer exercise can help the doctrine of the Trinity come alive in our daily lives.
a missionary who worked in rural Africa returned home to England for a short vacation.
While he was home, he happened to run across a beautiful sundial. Immediately he got an idea. He thought to himself,
“That sundial would be ideal for my villagers in Africa.
I could use it to teach them to tell the time of day.”
The missionary bought the sundial, crated it up,
and took it back to Africa.
When the village chief saw it, he insisted that it be set up in the center of the village.
The villagers were also thrilled with the sundial. They had never seen anything so beautiful in their lives. They were even more thrilled when they learned how it worked.
The missionary was delighted by everyone’s response to his sundial. He was therefore totally unprepared for what happened a few days later.
The people of the village got together and built a roof over the sundial to protect it from the rain and the sun.
You’re probably wondering how that story relates to today’s feast—the Feast of the Holy Trinity.
Well, I think the sundial is a lot like the Holy Trinity. And we Christians are a lot like the African villagers. The most beautiful revelation of our faith is the teaching about the Holy Trinity,
namely, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We have correctly placed this teaching at the center of our faith. We stand in awe of it.
But instead of putting the teaching to work in our daily lives,
we have built a roof over it, just as the African villagers built a roof over their sundial.
For many of us, the teaching of the Trinity seems of little practical value when it comes to our daily lives. We treat it more like an ornament of our faith.
On this Feast of the Holy Trinity, therefore, it would be good to take a closer look a this teaching.
First, let’s review what Scripture says about the Trinity.
Second, let’s see how we can
make the Trinity have greater practical value in our daily lives.
First, what does Scripture say about the Trinity?
We find the most frequent reference to the Trinity in John’s Gospel. There Jesus talks a lot about his Father. He also makes a number of references to the Holy Spirit who will come after him.
The best-known reference to the Trinity, however, is found in Matthew’s Gospel. It is the passage we read in today’s gospel. Jesus says to his disciples:
“Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.”
The most graphic reference to the Trinity, however, occurs in Mark’s Gospel. Immediately after the baptism of Jesus,
the Holy Spirit descends upon him
in a dovelike form, and a voice from heaven says,
“You are my own dear Son.” Mark 1:11
The voice, the dove, and Jesus—these three images create a vivid portrait of the Trinity.
Luke has the most fascinating theology of the Trinity.
He sees the history of our salvation in a kind of Trinitarian perspective.
For Luke, the Old Testament period is the era of the Father.
The gospel period is the era of the Son. And the post-gospel period, which began on Pentecost, is the era of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, Paul refers to the Trinity in his letters. His best-known reference is his famous blessing at the close of his Second Letter to the Corinthians:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:13
Down through the ages, theologians have used various images to try to give us a better insight into the Trinity.
Saint Patrick used the three leaves of a clover to convey the idea of the Trinity.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola used the example of three notes forming one musical sound.
Others have used the example of water, which can exist in three different forms: steam, ice, and liquid. There is only one water, but it can take three different forms. In some similar way, we might think of God.
Let’s now take a look at the second point: how we can make the Trinity a more practical part of our daily lives.
One way that some people find helpful is a prayer exercise that they follow each night before falling asleep. They take three minutes to replay the day that has just ended for them.
During the first minute, they pick out the high point of the day, something good that happened—like having a great talk with a good friend. They speak to the Father about it and thank him for it.
During the second minute, they pick out the low point of the day, something bad that happened—like having a shouting match with a loved one. They speak to Jesus about it and ask him to forgive them.
During the third minute, they look ahead to the next day,
to some critical point—like having to do something they would rather not do. They speak to the Holy Spirit about it and ask for help in dealing with it.
As you can see, this exercise combines prayer with an examination of conscience. But more importantly, it brings the Holy Trinity into the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives.
If you’re looking for a way to give the Trinity a more prominent place in your daily life, you might consider this exercise. During the week ahead, it would make an ideal follow-up to the great feast we celebrate today.
Let’s conclude together with the Trinitarian action that has become the trademark of our Catholic faith—the Sign of the Cross:
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40; Romans 8:14–17;
In the oneness of the Godhead there are three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Spirit.
Denis Hayes, the respected environmentalist, has written a book called Ray of Hope: The Transition to a Post-Petroleum World.
The thesis of Hayes’s book is quite simple. It comes down to this:
The supply of petroleum on our planet is limited and slowly being used up. As a result, the human race is approaching a fork in the road.
As it draws closer to the fork in the road, it sees a signpost with two big arrows.
The first arrow points to the left and contains the words “Nuclear Energy.’’
The second arrow points to the right and contains the words “Solar Energy.’’
The big question confronting the human race is which fork in the road it should take: the one pointing in the direction
of “Nuclear Energy,’’ or the one pointing in the direction
of “Solar Energy.’’
Hayes thinks we should follow the arrow pointing in the direction of “Solar Energy.’’ Some of the reasons he gives are the following:
First, solar energy is not an energy source open to a few, wealthy nations. It is a free source of energy open to all.
Second, solar energy is not a dangerous source of energy that can reek havoc on our environment. Nuclear energy is.
Third, solar energy is terrorist-resistant. Nuclear energy is not. Placed in the wrong hands, nuclear energy is a threat to the continued existence of the human race.
Commenting on solar energy, Hayes observes that the sun already lights up the darkness of our planet. It also warms the coldness of our planet. It is now ready and waiting to energize the activities of our planet.
We may think of the sun as being like a great, generous friend in the sky, who possesses three smiling faces.
Each face smiles down on us in a different way. And each smile results in a different blessing for us.
The first face smiles, and that smile sends out rays of light to illumine our planet.
The second face smiles, and that smile sends out rays of heat to warm our planet.
The third face smiles, and that smile sends out rays of power to energize our planet.
There is only one friend in the sky, but that one friend has three different faces. And when each face smiles, it blesses us in a special way.
Hayes’s observations about the sun make a helpful introduction to the feast that we celebrate today: the feast of the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Simply put, the mystery of the Holy Trinity says that in God there are three distinct persons. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet, there are not three Gods, but only one.
And it is right here that Hayes’s views of the sun turn out to be helpful.
We might think of God the way that we may think of the sun: as having three faces.
As a matter of fact, this is the precise imagery that the great spiritual writer Romano Guardini used in his book The Life of Faith.
First, there is the face of God as Father.
When the face of God as Father smiled, it resulted in our origin and the origin of all things: from the stars that fill our nights with beauty to the birds that fill our days with music to the fish that fill our seas with food.
Second, there is the face of God as Son.
When the face of God as Son smiled, it resulted in God coming down from heaven, taking flesh, walking at our side, and showing us how to live and love.
Finally, there is the face of God as Spirit.
When the face of God as Spirit smiled, it resulted in God entering our being, taking up residence there, making us temples of the Most High—to use the imagery of Saint Paul.
Writing to the Christians of Corinth, Saint Paul says:
“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God?”
1 Corinthians 6:19
And so we may think of God much as we may think of the sun: as a great loving friend having three faces.
Each face smiles in a different way and results in a different blessing.
The face of God as Father smiles, and God creates us out of nothing.
The face of God as Son smiles, and God becomes one of us, sharing our humanity.
The face of God as Spirit smiles, and God makes us one with our Creator, sharing with us God’s own divinity.
This is the great message that today’s Scripture readings contain.
This is the great mystery that today’s feast celebrates.
This is the good news that today’s liturgy proclaims to the world.
Let us conclude together with the Trinitarian action that has become the trademark of our faith—the Sign of the Cross:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40; Romans 8:14–17;
Focus of Faith
The Holy Trinity is the central mystery of our faith.
Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
On the evening of Thursday, May 7, 1937, a huge crowd was gathered at the U. S. Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, N.J.
They came to watch the landing of a spectacular dirigible, the Hindenburg. As it arrived from Germany with its passengers, it was an incredible sight. Its length exceeded three football fields placed end to end.
As the Hindenburg hovered over the landing tower, the crew dropped two lines to secure it. Seconds later, there was a loud boom and the airship exploded into a giant fire ball.
Since that tragic event, hardly a year has passed that the newsreel footage of it has not been shown on television.
Just one year earlier, almost to the day, the Hindenburg had made its glorious maiden voyage from Germany. A highpoint of that voyage was a Mass celebrated high in the sky over the Atlantic Ocean by Father Paul Schulte.
The homily he gave at that Mass was unforgettable and captures the spirit of the feast we celebrate today: the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.
Allow me to share a portion of it with you:
Glory to God the Father who created the earth, and to God the Son who redeemed the earth, and to God the Holy Spirit who hallowed the earth.
Let the “Amen” be pronounced
by the skies that soar above us,
by the marvelous clouds that surround us, and by the ocean that sparkles beneath us. . . .
Glory be to thee, Most Holy Trinity, today, tomorrow,
and forever. Glory be to thee.
That passage has an elegance that lifts the mind and heart to prayer and worship. It unites the whole universe into a cosmic chorus of praise to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Some years ago, environmentalist Denis Hayes wrote a book entitled Ray of Hope. The “ray of hope” is the sun. The book inspired some believers to view the sun as an image of the Trinity.
The light of the sun is an image of God the Father,
who created us by the mighty power of his word,
when he said, “ ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light.”
The heat of the sun is an image of God the Son, who redeemed us by the warmth of his loving heart.
And finally, the energy of the sun is an image of the God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the earth by the transforming power of divine grace.
Thus, the one sun blesses us in three ways and, in the process, serves as an image of the Most Holy Trinity.
Its light is an image of God the Father.
Its heat is an image of God the Son. And its energy is an image of God the Holy Spirit.
There’s an ancient story that you may have heard. It has been passed down over the centuries:
It seems that Saint Augustine was walking along a sandy beach meditating on the Holy Trinity. He kept saying over and over to himself,
“How can God be both three and one?
How can God be both three and one?
How can God be both three and one?”
Suddenly, he was distracted from his meditation by the sight of a small child with a toy bucket, carrying water from the sea to a hole in the beach.
Smiling at the child, Augustine asked,
“And what are you doing?”
The innocent child said,
“I’m emptying the ocean into this hole.”
Augustine stopped dead in his tracks and thought,
“I’m trying to do what the child is doing. I’m trying to pour the infinite God into my finite little mind.”
Later, saints engaged in similar meditation on the Trinity, trying to get some partial glimpse into this central mystery of our faith.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola likened the three Persons in one God
to three musical notes, united in the harmony of a single sound.
Saint Luke does not say so explicitly in his Gospel or his Acts of the Apostles, but he clearly views Sacred Scripture as being trinitarian in structure.
The Old Testament focuses on the Father,
who created the world.
The Gospel focuses on the Son, who redeemed the world.
The Acts of the Apostles and the letters of the apostles focus on the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the world.
That brings us to ourselves. What might we do to make the Trinity come alive for us in our daily lives?
One way some people try to do this is a prayer exercise they follow each night before going to bed. They do a three-minute replay of their day.
During the first minute, they pick out a highpoint of the day, for example, going out of their way to help someone.
They speak to the Father about it and give thanks for the grace to do it.
During the second minute, they pick out something bad that happened, like ignoring someone to whom they could have spoken a kind word.
They speak to Jesus about it and ask him to forgive them and to give them the opportunity to make it up to that person.
During the third minute, they look ahead to tomorrow to some critical point, for example, something they ought to do but have been putting off.
They speak to the Holy Spirit about it and ask for the courage to deal with it in the day ahead.
This exercise combines prayer with a simple examination of conscience.
In a very practical way, therefore, it brings the Holy Trinity into the nitty-gritty of our daily lives.
Let us conclude by repeating the passage from the homily delivered high in the sky on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg:
Glory to God the Father
who created the earth, and to God the Son
who redeemed the earth, and to God the Holy Spirit
who hallowed the earth. . . .
Glory be to thee, Most Holy Trinity, today, tomorrow, and forever. Glory be to thee.