Every month or two, Father Joe asks me if there are any weekends coming up when I will not be available either one or both of the days. Then he schedules which weekends I will preach. I put the dates on my calendar, and Mary knows not to make plans for Saturday evening or Sunday morning on those weekends.
But a few weeks ago when Fr. Joe gave me my schedule for the next few months it was a little bit different because the schedule that he gave me included this weekend, the weekend of Trinity Sunday. A weekend that, from conversations that I have had with a number of other deacons and a few priests, is a weekend that many would prefer not to preach because Trinity Sunday is the weekend when we try to do the impossible; explain the trinity in 7 – 10 minutes.
But for me, Trinity Sunday is an anniversary of sorts. Because in 2013 Trinity Sunday was the day after my ordination, and with Father Joe’s blessing, here at St. Mary’s I served my first mass as a deacon and preached on the Trinity.
So, what have three years taught me about trying to explain the Trinity? Mostly that the approach that I took three years ago probably did more to confuse most people then it did to explain the trinity.
You see, the Trinity isn’t something that most people, myself included, can easily understand. One God…Three Persons. What does that mean?
There is nothing that we experience in everyday life that we can compare the Trinity to.
It’s not like an egg – shell, white, and yoke…but one egg.
It’s not like an apple – skin, flesh, and seeds…but one apple
No, the three parts of the egg or the apple can be separated – the Trinity can’t.
Then I thought I’d try and explain the Trinity by sharing how our one God has come into my life in three very different ways, yet always as the God of love who was guiding me.
As a child, growing up with my Catholic mother who very much feared God and my Lutheran father who, although he didn’t talk much about religion, always seemed to have a relationship with God introduced me to God the Father.
God the father was very much like my parents.
- There to teach me right from wrong.
- There to make me feel bad when I did the wrong thing.
- There to comfort me when I needed comfort.
- There to turn to when I need someone to talk to.
God the Father, as I came to know Him, gave me the foundation for my faith, and has been with me all my life.
It was much later in my life when I came to know the second person of the Trinity. God the Son.
I was probably in my late 20’s or early 30’s when I started to develop an understanding of Jesus as God the Son. Mary and I had been married for a few years, our family had grown and included children, and although I had known a number of good role models in my life, I started to realize that Jesus was so much more than the historical figure that I had learned about.
Jesus as God the Son was and is, an important part of my life.
- He is a friend who I can talk to about anything (after all, he already knows everything that I’ve ever said or done).
- A mentor who understands all of my human frailty.
- He lived and suffered through life just like we do.
- A role model to look to when I’m not sure what to do.
- He showed us how to live and pray.
What I found when Jesus as God the Son came into my life is that although He came to me in very different ways that God the Father, He came to me with the same message of love and care; that he wanted to be in a relationship with me.
Then more recently I discovered the third person of the Trinity…God the Holy Spirit who came to me in much more subtle ways.
Where my experience of God the Father was very much like a parent, and God the Son was more of a friend, God the Holy Spirit came into my life more like a quiet whisper, or a gentle breeze.
You see, for me, God the Holy Spirit was and is the experience of God when I am not looking for Him, and sometimes when I am trying to avoid Him, or run away from Him but can’t.
I came to know God the Holy Spirit during my formation journey, and what I discovered was that God the Holy Spirit is a very powerful force.
Not to bore you with too many details about my journey, but I entered into diaconate formation in 1999 while we were still living on Long Island. I approached formation very much like any other academic pursuit…Go to the meetings, attend the classes and 5 years later I’d be a deacon.
Much like other academic pursuits I thought if my life were to take me in a different direction, or if I didn’t like what I was learning I’d simply walk away. Which I did more than once.
But it was when I walked away that God the Holy Spirit came into my life in ways that I can’t necessarily describe, but I knew that something was there drawing me back to formation.
It was very much a quiet whisper that I couldn’t find where it was coming from, but it was clearly telling me that I had made a wrong decision.
It was a gentle breeze giving me comfort as I struggled with that constant quiet whisper.
So there I was, 48 years old:
- Having known God the Father all my life as very much a parent figure.
- Having met Jesus – God the Son – and learning that He was and is my friend
- Recognizing for the first time the experience of God the Holy Spirit guiding and comforting me through life’s challenges.
It was then that I came to understand that although:
The Father is not The Son AND The Son is not The Holy Spirit AND The Holy Spirit is not The Father… The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all different ways that we will experience our one God when He comes into our lives.
Be open to God, however, He comes to you.