Catholics take for granted the notion of speaking of God as a Trinity. From our earliest days of training in the Faith, we are taught to make the Sign of the Cross — the most basic prayer any Catholic learns at home. The Apostles’ Creed places the concept of the Trinity as the most fundamental mystery of our faith. We are programmed to think of God as three persons in one God, all sharing the same substance and the same nature.
If you were to present this idea to a Jew, it would be roundly rejected. For the Jews, our forefathers in faith, this basic understanding of God as Trinity that we take for granted, was outside their lexicon of thought. Given this context, one can easily comprehend why Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son was considered blasphemy and to address God as “Abba” or “Father” suggested an intimacy with a God that was often understood by the Jews to be quite distant and so foreign to human existence. The revelation of God as Father and Jesus as the Son and the Holy Spirit as the third person in the Trinity was a complete departure from the Jewish understanding of God’s nature.
As foreign as this idea may be to the Jews, it is precisely what draws us into the mystery of the Trinity. The Trinity reveals to us the master plan of how we are to live and love one another: each person pouring themselves out for the other as gift. As we are created in the image and likeness of God, the Trinitarian model invites us to examine how we relate to one another — if we are in fact living in imitation of the Trinity’s inner life — a community of persons.
This is particularly important to recall in an age where society glorifies individualism and a preference for human activity that is insular and avoids person-to-person contact. Imagine that in many parts of the United States, one could accomplish most Saturday-morning errands without ever speaking to another human person. A visit to the bank ATM; the self-checkout line at the grocery store and the pay-at-the-pump gas station alienates us from human contact. The proliferation of iPods and gaming devices allows us to escape from authentic human interaction. We often observe many teens listening to music on earphones while riding in a car with their parents, rather than develop conversational skills and foster family communication. Children watch DVD’s in cars rather than learn to interact with their parents, and teens text each other from across a room rather than speak to each other in normal conversation. In business, we often find ourselves preferring to write e-mails or leave voicemails rather than speak directly with another person. While none of these technological advances are inherently evil, of course, they do tend to dehumanize us by providing us with reasons not to interact with one another. And yet, we are called to reflect how God interacts within Himself. In other words, we were made for one another and we need each other. When modern man becomes alienated from his fellow man, basic forms of etiquette, politeness and manners are devalued. Simple etiquette and manners are a form of charity toward one’s neighbor. Charity is the essence of the Trinity. Thus, the Trinitarian model of existence invites us to consider another way of relating to one another.
As we meditate upon this fundamental mystery of our faith, we do well to ask our gracious God to help us live in a manner that best reflects our vocation to live in communion with one another, never forgetting that in doing so we also strive to live in the image and likeness of our Trinitarian God.
Image credit: shutterstock.com