One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is a good mystery. When I have the chance to just read what I want to read, it’s almost always a mystery novel. I read Agatha Christie all the time growing up, and I’ll often go back to some of her stuff even now. My love for mysteries probably explains why I like to watch “Law & Order” and “CSI.”
If you enjoy mysteries too, you know that the mark of a good mystery is when it doesn’t get solved in the first six pages. It’s good to have to think and rethink your theory, right up until the last page.
Today’s Solemnity of the Holy Trinity is just such a mystery, I think. This is an opportunity for us to once again ask the question, “Who is God?” We could say “God is love” or “God is good.” But that’s all in the first six pages. And those answers bring up more questions than they solve. We know that the Trinity means that we believe in one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But then we would have to explain how one plus one plus one still equals one, and our human minds are at a loss.
If we’re honest, we have to begin our discussion of the Trinity by acknowledging that there’s a lot we don’t know about God. God is incomprehensible, too big for our limited wisdom to encompass, above us and beyond us and invisible to us; too wonderful for us in a very real way. We have yet to see God face-to-face, and until that happens, I don’t think we’ll never know God completely.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know God at all. Because we’ve been given clues to who God is here and there, and each time we are open and ready to receive those clues, we come to know God in new ways. We’ve seen God active in the Old Testament. Moses points out today the magnificent holiness of God who created us, appeared to Moses himself in the burning bush, and led them victorious out of Egypt into the promised land. The God of the Old Testament is a God who passionately loves his chosen people and intervenes time and time again to bring them back to Himself, when they had wandered away.
In the New Testament, the most obvious clue is in the person of Jesus. Jesus, the Son of the Father, who was present with him in the beginning when the heavens and earth were created, came from heaven to walk the earth, to experience our human condition, to die our death, and in so doing, to help us to know God. In Jesus, God again is a God of love, who seeks out the lost and heals the sick and raises the dead, and who forgives the sinner. In Jesus, we see the ultimate intervention of God in human history to bring his wandering people back to him, by sacrificing his own life on the cross, and rising triumphant over the grave.
In both the Old and the New Testaments, we have countless clues to who God is. But Scripture isn’t the only way we come to know God. We can see clues in the other people God puts in our lives, when the love which God has for his people is lived out in action. There is a clue each time we reach out to the poor, lonely, or oppressed. Another clue is revealed each time we forget our anger and forgive a hurt or wrong. We find still another clue each time we give of our time or our talent to build another person up. Once again, in all of these ways, it is God’s love that helps us to know God in a new way.
Another thing we know about God is that popular notions of who God is are often not helpful clues. God is not One who blesses the rich and the powerful at the expense of the poor and oppressed. Instead, God raises up the lowly and feeds the hungry. God is not the stern dictator who looks for the slightest infraction of the law to condemn the sinner. Instead, God reaches out to the sinner with readiness to forgive that goes beyond our wildest imaginings. God is not the God of easy religion who gives facile and impractical advice to complex problems. Instead, God is with his people in good times and in bad and gives us wisdom to tackle every situation.
More than anything, God is the One who is with us always, as the Gospel says today, until the end of the age. This God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, this God who is infinitely beyond us, this God who created us and who sustains us, this God who laid down his life for us and sent his Spirit to enliven us, this God is God who is with us always, never leaving us, bringing us back to himself, and raising us up time and time again. What more could we hope for?
And that, brothers and sisters in Christ, may be the closest we can come to solving the mystery of who God is for now. Maybe we won’t be able to explain all of the mysteries of God and the Trinity, but if we know that our infinitely loving God is always with us, perhaps we know enough. Because ultimately God is not a philosophy or an idea or a word we can define. Ultimately, God is a relationship: the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. I think it was St. Augustine who said that the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son. God is love itself; a love that goes beyond the imperfect love we can offer; a love that is with us always.
And if the Scriptures make anything clear about God today, it’s this: that this love cannot be hoarded within ourselves. God’s love cannot be contained in us any more than God can be contained in one time or place or people. God’s love must be shared by the believer with people of every time and place, teaching them to observe all that he commanded us, and baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We Christians must continue to provide clues of who God is for others, until that great day when we will see God face-to-face and all the mysteries will be solved once and for all. On that great day, we can sing with the psalmist, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.”