In the 5th century, St. Augustine struggled to understand the Blessed Trinity: How one God can be revealed to us as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While this reality is a mystery, it is the way God has revealed Himself to us. There is only one God who created the heavens, the earth and all that is in them. God created humanity in God’s own image and likeness, as man and woman capable of uniting in love to bring new life into the world and an image of the creative love of the Holy Trinity.
In the Old Testament, God revealed himself in a special way to Abraham and entered into a covenant with him and his descendants: they would be his people and He would be their God. Like a father God protected them and guided them to land promised them. God protected them and provided all they needed for life. It was a 4000 year journey to becoming an Israelite nation and extended through many generations, but their understanding of God grew all along the way. On one occasion Moses instructed the Israelites:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Dut 6:4-5)
Then God chose to reveal Himself as the second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ. In John’s gospel he writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…..And the Word became ﬂesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:1-2, 14)
Throughout the gospels Jesus proclaims that He and the Father are one and also foretells the coming of the Holy Spirit after He ascends into heaven: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Jn 14:26
On the feast of Pentecost, after Christ ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, empowering them with gifts to continue Christ mission in the world: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it ﬁlled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of ﬁre distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all ﬁlled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4
St. Augustine’s model of the Blessed Trinity identiﬁes love as being the uniting force in God. Augustine wrote: “And the Holy Spirit, according to the Holy Scriptures, is neither of the Father alone, nor of the Son alone, but of both; and so intimates to us a mutual love, wherewith the Father and the Son reciprocally love one another”. The love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, from all eternity, is so intense that it is manifest in the personiﬁcation of the Holy Spirit. All three persons are united as in mutual love.
In this model, God is complete in Himself and lacking in nothing and in need of nothing. While theologians agree on this truth about God, many believe that Augustine’s model is so centered in God that it fails to express God’s creative activity outside of self. But I believe the very creative, outward directed nature of love – agape love – that deﬁnes God in Augustine’s model, implies the necessary extension of God’s love beyond self. It is God’s creative love that brings into existence the earth, the heavens and all that is in them.
It is this creative love of God that makes mankind in God’s image and likeness, as man and woman capable of loving one another and in union with one another able to bring new human life into the world. It is this creative love of God that continues to reach out to draw humanity back to God from sin that separates us from God. It is this creative love of God that revealed himself as a Father to Abraham’s sincere search for the one true God 6000 years ago and entered into a binding covenant with Him and his descendants, accepting them as his special people. It is this creative love of God that took on our humanity as Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago, that we might know him and love him more intimately. It is this creative love of God that descended as the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost, 2000 years ago that the very life of God might dwell within us and the Church and unite us to God in a spiritual way.
God is love and when we truly come to know God and experience his love, the only appropriate response is to love God in return. We no longer need commandments or rules to do God’s will because we desire to do God’s will simply because it is God’s will. Just as love unites the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as one in the Blessed Trinity, our acceptance of God’s love and our response to God’s love with our love unites us with God. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifts of God’s most intimate love for us. The Church is God’s gift of love for us and it is imbued with the protection, guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit. As we unite ourselves to God as one Church through the spiritual gifts of the sacraments, God abides in us and we abide in God. Jesus taught the apostles, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” Jn 15:9-ll
The banners displayed at my church, St Joseph in Keams Canyon, during ordinary time read: Lord, help me to love You in the presence of others and help me to love others in the presence of you. Our love for God must be un-ashamed wherever we are and whatever we may be involved in. Our love for others must spring from our ever present experience of God’s love for us.
“God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (Jn 1:4-16)
Let us love God with our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole soul. With the grace of God’s love for us, let us love our neighbor as ourselves. United to God in love, may we become holy as God is holy.