Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth. (John 16: 12-13)
It is perhaps the central mystery of our faith. One God, three persons. The Trinity. It is a significant differentiator when we compare ourselves to those of the Jewish or Islamic faiths as they consider the One True God. We of course declare that there is One True God… but we speak of a Father. A Son. And a Holy Spirit. It is a mystery and it is this very mystery that we consider and celebrate today.
On the one hand, this is a treasure trove of material for the preacher, the homilist. You can take this mysterious fact of three being the same as one, of one being the same as three, and take it in a million different directions. On the other hand, it can be a nightmare. How to relate this complex Gospel message to our world today? To make it somehow real? Tangible? Instructive?
I would suggest that the difference between a treasure trove and a nightmare on this point is one of approach. It comes down to which angle you consider.
On the one hand, we could place the concept down on an operating table and like a group of surgeons, dissect, study, component-ize it until we master it. The faithful, guided by our Church and theologians, have attempted to do just this for centuries. Sometimes we end up with explanations of the Trinity that are more confusing than helpful, more mysterious than the very mystery they attempt to de-mystify. A homilist could do this…
We could consider what Jesus did as he was explaining this to his disciples. He said: ‘I have more to say about this. But you can’t hear it now. You’re not ready for it…. rather, wait for the Spirit to come and then you will be guided to the truth.‘
Doesn’t this make you wonder: what could they not hear? What were they not ready for? After all, you can’t get a greater source of truth than Jesus who was God himself, incarnate.
I think this points out the fact that there are some things that have to come to us. When we are ready. That we can’t simply be told something and than voila, we have it down pat. Maybe it’s our circumstances, our experiences, our challenges, our gifts and grace that together need to prepare us, to ready us for the fullness of revelation.
God loves us unconditionally. Jesus teaches us and sacrifices for us. The Spirit, the wellspring of truth, brings us forward. Helps us to get ready.
I think the question we can ponder today on Trinity Sunday is not what does the Trinity itself mean, but what is our state of readiness to understand this truth? The full truth.
Do you consider your faith as something to be placed upon a surgeon’s table, as something to understand with your intellect? Do you read the Gospel looking for meaning and insight the way scholars dissect great literature looking for understanding? Or do you consider your faith to be a relationship, as a necessary foundation to build up off of, to seek and to ultimately gain the truth?
On Trinity Sunday, we should take a moment to step back and to look inward. To inspect. To see if we have properly built a life of inquiry, of listening, of seeking, of humility to recognize that with all the study and logic and intellectual surgery in the world, this is not a mystery for us to uncover ourselves… but rather it is a truth that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit will reveal to us. When we are ready.
So, together, as pilgrims in this quest, let us get ready…