In this beautiful homily for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year A, Father Hanly looks more closely at the great mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Readings for Mass
First Reading: Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9
Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Second Reading: Second Corinthians 13:11-13
Gospel: John 3:16-18
Recording of Homily
Transcript of Homily
We have the feast of the Holy Trinity once a year, and I would imagine that nearly all the priests would like to go on vacation. Because it is true, the great mystery of God Himself, God dwells in inaccessible light and nobody can penetrate that light and nobody can, for themselves, reason out or understand or come to know God in His very essence, for that is what we are told: three persons, one Godhead.
There’s a story that you probably already know about a young boy who goes and climbs up a mountain in India and he meets a guru. And he wakes the guru up because the guru is half asleep. And the guru says, “What can I do for you, young man?” And he says, “I want you to explain God for me.” And the guru smiles and he says, “A god that can be explained is not a god that you should worship.” And he smiled and went back to sleep.
A god that can be explained is not a god that you should worship, because if you can explain Him it means that you’ve reduced God, the Creator of the world, reduced Him to being another one of us.
And so you can always tell, somebody who speaks as if they know everything that’s in God’s mind, you realise that they’re just making it up to make themselves feel a little bit better.
So the truth is God dwells in inaccessible light. There is nothing we can do that can penetrate that except for one thing and that would be that He reveals Himself to us. And He does it by sending His Son.
We always go around and say, “Where is God? Where is God? God is here. God is there. Where is God?” But nobody knows exactly where God is.
Except there’s a story about a gypsy. The gypsy goes into the square in the Middle East and he’s looking down the well. And there’s a little boy down there and he knows that the gypsy is looking for water, so he watches the gypsy take a cup of water and he puts the cup down, and he hangs around and he keeps looking down and looking down.
Finally, the little boy goes up to him and he starts looking down the well. And he’s looking down there and he looks at the gypsy. This gypsy’s a huge, big fellow, but it doesn’t frighten him because he’s got kind eyes.
So the little boy says, “Who’s down there? Why are you looking? Who’s down there?” And the gypsy says, “Young man, God is down there.” “Oh, can I look?” he says. “Yes.” And so the gypsy lifts him up and puts him over the well and he looks down and the boy’s very eager.
And, all of a sudden, he’s very disappointed and he says, “Put me down.” So the gypsy puts him down and he says, “There’s nothing down there. All I could see was my face in the water.”
“Ah,” the gypsy says, “Now you know where God is. God is within you.”
And that is where you look for him. And if you’re not looking for Him in there, then just give it up, because you’re not going to find Him any place else.
And why would that be? Because the key that unlocks God is not an explanation. Explanations are really, really not worth very much. Everybody knows when you try to explain theology, you get lost in all kinds of intellectual this and that and the other thing.
Father Malone you probably all know from being at St Joseph’s for so many years, and when I was in the seminary he taught us theology. And what he taught us was (Latin). It means the one God and the three persons, the great mystery of the Trinity.
And he would get all caught up in it. And then the first day, we’d all be eager to learn, and the second day, and the third day. And then the week would pass and then the second week began. And he’s still talking about the great mystery of the Trinity and we’re all kind of half asleep. And he gets a little annoyed at us and he looks up and he takes off his glasses and he says, “You know, you guys couldn’t care if there were ten persons in one God.” And we all kind of smiled. Well, nobody said “Yes,” but everybody was smiling.
God dwells in inaccessible light. God is Father… Here’s the clues now: God is Father, God is Son, God is Holy Spirit.
Our Father cares. Our Father cares as God cares for all that He has created.
A brother, a brother is one who is one with us in every way, becomes man, lays down his life for us, that we might understand who God is, what He does. And when we see Jesus walking through Galilee and through the different places and preaching and teaching, we see the icon of God. We see the reality that God is among us in this very special way, for the Son of God has become man.
And, of course, Jesus is always talking about when he returns to the Father, he will be sure to send the Holy Spirit upon us. And the Spirit will make us understand deeply and understand very well who God is and who the Father is and who the Son is and who the Holy Spirit is.
And it will be the Spirit that will send us, little people that we are, into the whole world to preach and to teach about the greatness of God and the caring of God and the love of God. He loved us so much, say the Scriptures, that He sent His only Son into this world that we might understand Him and know Him and love Him. And he will offer himself up to us.
And we will then know the great mystery of God is not a mystery if you understand, not an explanation of it, but if you understand it’s a relationship.
It’s a relationship with a Father who loves us, created us, wants us always to be happy and wants, even more, to be loved in return. And this is the great loveliness of understanding, when you think of God not as something to be explained but as a relationship that you enter into and you say, “Yes, yes. Jesus, teach me about the Father and let me experience His great love.”
And, of course, Jesus will tell you some day, “I am going to send the Spirit and he will be given to you and you will know all things, all things.” About what? About science? No. About geography? No. About yourself, about people, because the message is love.
We cannot talk about knowing without loving. The Bible, all the way back to Adam was written, Adam loved Eve. This was true, but before that it is written, “Adam knew Eve.” And in knowing Eve, a child was born and the child was the beginning of the human race and families and all that we know about human beings.
To know is to love, the Jews said. To pretend that you love, if you don’t know, know not with your head or explanations from a book, but know through relationships, participating with people, being with people, giving yourself to people, receiving their love, receiving their care.
If you’re not on the level of reaching out with your whole heart as well as your mind, you will never understand who God really is. Because God is a lover. And that is why His Son comes down. Because those who love want to share their other loves with us.
So today is really not a mystery. When I was a child we used to listen to this programme, I Love a Mystery. It was a spooky programme with creaking doors. We used to turn the lights out so that we could be frightened even more, as long as our parents were home, of course.
And I always thought of a mystery as an impenetrable understanding, but it’s not, because at the end, the mystery was solved. And I Love a Mystery gave you a mystery every week and you gobbled it up. And, at the end, you felt wonderful because you understood the mystery. They revealed the mystery. And it is the revelation of the mystery that satisfied our appetites for lovely stories and wonderful things coming through a big, old radio.
God reveals Himself. The mystery is something that will be revealed and open and clear and plain for the whole world to see.
And it is. Every time we get up we say, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” When we bring children to the waters of baptism and make them one with the love of God, we say, “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Everything we do is a Trinitarian expression that the Father is with us, the Son is one with us and makes us his own brother, and the Holy Spirit fills our lives with courage and everything we need in order to understand, to know each other, to love each other, to care for each other, to forgive each other.
The Jews used to say, “Be perfect.” Jesus said this, “Be perfect like your heavenly Father is perfect.”
And everybody like us would say, “Oh, that means I mustn’t commit any sins. I must be doing this and I must be doing that and I have to do all these things.”
No. Because when the Jews said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” they’re quoting from another part of Scripture that says, “The perfection of God is in forgiveness.” And they were saying, “Learn to forgive like God and you become like God.” And in order to forgive you must keep knowing deeper and deeper, not about God, but about each other.
For we are the mystery that is given to us so that we ourselves can understand that to know one is to love one, to love one is to know them better, to know them better is to love them better. And it’s an entire loving that begins with the Father, comes through us and reaches up back to Him in the great circle of what is the true meaning of the Trinity.
The Trinity is an action. It is a life. And the life is based on the revelation of Jesus of the Father: “Love one another as I have loved you.” And then you will understand the mystery begins to unfold.
But it is not a matter of the head. The real problem is you must turn your heart and walk deeply into the great mystery of God Himself.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
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This homily was delivered on 19th June 2011.
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