The National Catholic Review
Two things are immediately brought to mind by the Gospel reading for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, John 3:16-18. One is the ubiquity of John 3:16 amongst evangelical Christians, a key verse in "the Four Spiritual Laws (see Law 1 at http://www.godlovestheworld.com/). I grew up with this verse as perhaps the most significant verse in the Bible. Some of you might remember the rainbow haired man who held up "John 3:16" at sporting events, and who now sadly spends his life in a California prison. The ubiquity of this verse should not allow us to drain it of its power or beauty, or take its message for granted. The second thing that I recall is my childhood wonder that Jesus was God, or was it, is Jesus God? Or was the question, how can Jesus be God? I recall a great deal of confusion as I puzzled over this great mystery: was Jesus a man or God? Was God Jesus as well? Or was Jesus God? (I admit right now that I must have relegated the Holy Spirit to a position off to the side or on the bench, as I do not recall puzzling to the same degree over the person of the Holy Spirit.) As I began to study early Christianity formally I began to note that there was no easy answer or easy explanation to the relation of the three persons of the Trinity. I read the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils at Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon. I found them all compelling, but it seemed that what they were describing was beyond words. It was a mystery and one that had been studied, examined and explained by numerous great minds in the Church, but always with the sense that there was something that could not be explained or grasped this side of heaven. Love seemed to get to the heart of it, but even more to the heart of the matter is Paul’s benediction from 2 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" (13:13). I am not certain how to explain the relationship amongst the Trinity, but what needs to be explained when you experience the grace, love and fellowship? Paul was not operating with any formal definition of the Trinity when he wrote those words, centuries prior to the Ecumenical Councils. He was operating with a lived experience of the Trinity that defied description or confusion, that imposed itself through the very reality of grace, love, and fellowship on his heart and mind. This is how I understand the Trinity. John W. Martens

Comments

Anonymous | 5/19/2008 - 1:13pm
Dear John, The homily after Holy Trinity Sunday Gospel did not clarify for me the following..... if a person knows that the man called JESUS walked this earth but they do not believe Him to be God incarnate, will God not accept them into His kingdom even if their works on earth were filled with love and compassion, etc. What happens to ''non-believers'', to children yet to mature, to people of non-Catholic/Christian faith, to people where missionaries have yet to go??? Are ''believers'' guaranteed a place in heaven just because they believe that ''God sent His only Son.....'' Help me further my understanding. Thank you, Donna Carr
Anonymous | 5/27/2008 - 10:33am
Thank you John for thinking about my question and responding. I too have many friends not Christian and some say they don't believe in God. In my mind I consider some of these friends ''even more Christ like'' than some Catholics I know. My hope is that I will be in heaven for eternity with all my friends and family not just a choosen few. I trust in the forgiveness, goodness and mercy of our God because I believe God is Love. Keep up your good work and Peace be with you, Donna
Anonymous | 5/20/2008 - 11:06pm
Dear Donna, I think the homily must have been based on the last portion of the Gospel reading, John 3:16-18: 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. I am going to try to answer this fully in a blog entry, because I am not certain how to do justice to this question in a short response. On the other hand it needs a full response, since for me it is in many ways the question. It has been a question of mine for so many years, since I was a teenager. It was brought back for me this weekend because I returned to my hometown, Vancouver, B.C., for my 30th High School Reunion. One of my best friends in High School, and still a good friend, was a Sikh. My next door neighbors were Japanese and participated in rituals that were a combination of Shinto and Buddhist. My friend down the street was Hindu. There was every variety of religion and culture on display, including Islam, Judaism and all sorts of Christianities. What I noticed this weekend when informing long lost friends what I did was that not many claimed any sort of formal religious allegiance. The question that started me on my journey to theology was a simple one: all my friends who are Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and anything, or nothing, else you might name are going to Hell? I found this hard to fathom. I still do. So I will take some time and post on this excellent question in the next day or so.