Love, Worship, Praise
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
We have just finished celebrating two great liturgical seasons: the 40 days of Lent and the 50 days of Easter where we recall the central events of Jesus' saving work. Today, in a certain sense, the focus of the liturgy is not so much on celebrating everything God has done for us; rather, it is on celebrating God Himself. For that reason, I particularly enjoy the solemnity of the Holy Trinity. It is a grace to pause from our common focus in our worship and focus more on simply praising God for who He is.
The Holy Trinity is the central mystery of our Christian faith. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It illumines every other teaching of our faith. It is the basis for every other truth we proclaim.
The Holy Trinity is clearly revealed in the sacred Scriptures. For instance, we have Paul's greeting in Second Corinthians: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." We are also familiar with the great commissioning at the end of Matthew's Gospel where Jesus tells His disciples to teach the nations and baptize them in "the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19)
So, what does it mean to profess a belief in the Holy Trinity? Well, in the words of the great Athanasian Creed: "Now the Catholic Faith is this; that we worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in unity. ... The Father is a distinct Person, the Son is a distinct Person, and the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person; but the Father and the Son - and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory and coeternal majesty."
Thus to believe in the Trinity is to believe that (1) there is one God, and (2) there are three distinct Persons who possess eternally the same divine nature.
As I previously noted, the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of our Christian faith. A mystery is a truth, hidden in God which, unless revealed, could not come to be known by human beings by reason alone. A mystery can only be understaood by the grace of God, by the gift of divine revelation and faith.
Mystery is not an affront to human reason. Sometimes God reveals truths about Himself that are beyond human reason. The human mind cannot fully grasp mysteries like other realitites that are smaller, like a basebasll. However, reason enlightened by faith, can come to some understanding of these mysteries revealed by our loving Father.
One fabulous truth that flows from the mystery of the Trinity is that God is love. If God is not triune, God is not love. There needs to be three persons in God to have love. The Father loves the Son, not Himself. The Son loves the Father, not Himself. The Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son.
We have been given the privilege of sharing in the mystery of God's love. We were, in fact, made in the image and likeness of our triune God. We share in God's own divine life through baptism where God [ours out His Holy Spirit into our souls. God and His love dwell in our very being through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, life's greatest project is to learn how to love truly, radically, generously, sacrificially, in imitation of Jesus. Jesus told us that the greatest of all the commandments is to love God with every ounce of our being and to love our neighbor as He has loved us. If we have lost meaning in our lives, we have stopped loving.
Perhaps our most appropriate response today is to worship God. When Moses encountered the living God made manifest to him in the burning bush, he "at once bowed down to the ground in worship." Whenever we encounter the living God, our first response is always reverence and awe.
Another appropriate response to encountering the triune God is to sing a hymn of praise to Him. In the words of our psalm response today: "Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; and blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages. Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, praiseworthy and glorious above all forever. Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever." (Dn 3:52-54)
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