“It’s pretty much the same as everything else.” That’s what a lot of people out there have to say about Christianity. A lot of people out there will tell us that all religions are pretty much the same. Now I’m a huge fan of the television series Lost, and I was pretty disappointed when that’s how they ended the show – that pretty much all religions just sort of get you to the same point. It’s considered tolerant, or even open-minded to think this way. But as most of us know, there’s something peculiar about Christianity. I mean, how many religions do you know that include aerobics classes in the liturgy (kneel, sit, stand, genuflect, kneel, stand)? Or how many religions out there do you find in which we consciously and intentionally spreads ashes all over our faces once a year? Or how many other religions do you know that make such a huge deal of having huge gatherings where everyone gets together to feast on fried fish? Or how many places do you find that give freebie, like it’s Palm Sunday at church and the first 250 fans 10 and older receive a free palm featuring your favorite passion narrative? You see, there is something different about Christianity. But it isn’t these things I listed here.
The prime example of how Christianity is different from all other religions is that great mystery that we celebrate today – the Most Holy Trinity. Only Christianity grasps that concept of the inner nature of God. It’s true that other religions come close in some areas. The ancient pagans were reaching out for something special, something beyond themselves. Judaism introduced us to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and taught us of the covenant that we have with him. Islam acknowledges the fact that Jesus was a great teacher and prophet. Even an atheist connects to God, whether they realize it or not, in doing good works for others and seeking to be good. But the fact that God is three in one – three distinct divine persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), but one divine nature (God) – that is one of most important things that makes our faith different. This isn’t something that we’ve come up with on our own, and it’s certainly not something that we should lord over others, but its something that our almighty God has revealed about Himself to us out of love, something which the Church has slowly and painstakingly unfolded over about two thousand years!
So how do we describe it? It’s really tough for us to think about the Trinity, isn’t it? We tried for two thousand years to explain the trinity to people, and many times, they just look at us with a confused look, as if to think “What were they serving at that Donut Sunday of yours?” St. Patrick ran into that, when he was trying to explain the Trinity to the people of Ireland, so what did he do? He said that the Trinity is like a shamrock – three distinct leaves, but all one shamrock. Another example that a friend of mine gave me was that the Trinity is like a washing machine – You have the agitator, the…well you get the point. The truth is that we try so hard to picture in our minds how this great mystery is possible, and we constantly come up short. But the best analogy, the best way that we can imagine what the Trinity is like, is the image of the family. In a family, you have multiple, distinct people – a Mother, a Father, and little Susie, let’s say. They are all three distinct people, but they are one family, a single unit. And what is it that binds them together as a family? Well of course, it is the bonds of love. A deep, abiding, life-generating, and self-giving love. It is the love between the members that make them inseparable, that bind them together and make them one. In the same way, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, although they are three distinct persons, are bound together in love. Because that’s what God is – love.
God is love. That’s become such a common phrase these days. In high school, we used to say that if you didn’t know the answer to a question on a theology exam, you could just say “God is love,” and you’d have about a 78% chance of getting the answer correct. But it’s so true. For some other religions in the world, they start with man’s quest for God – they have the idea that religion is man’s attempt to connect somehow with the divine. But the thing that sets us Christians apart, is that our faith isn’t our quest for God, but rather God’s quest for us. Every action of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is motivated by love. God created the world – for us. God rescued us from slavery in Egypt. God sent the Son, the second person of the Trinity, for us, to redeem us and to give us eternal life. And, as we remember last Sunday, God sent the Holy Spirit to us, to guide us and help us bring his love to others. In all three persons of the Trinity, God shows us who he is, and what he’s about, but the most important thing that he reveals to us is love. Not power, not justice, not transcendence, not perfect knowledge, but love. And that is why today is important.
So when we hear today in the Gospel that we are to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” we’re being invited to share in God’s mission – the mission of the Father, the mission of the Son, and the mission of the Holy Spirit. Jesus isn’t just telling us to bring people into this ritual or into some intellectual concept that we made up. He’s not just telling us to put seats in the pews. What he’s asking us is to bring people into a relationship with a God who’s very essence, very being, is a relationship.
And so as we reflect on the great mystery of the Trinity today, mindful of the ways that God has revealed himself to us in our relationship with him, I think the question we need to ask ourselves is “Can people tell that I’m in a relationship with God? What is it that makes me different as a Christian? How am I called to invite others into that relationship with God?” Thankful for that gift of love that God gives us, let us go forth, bringing others to that relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and make the Trinity real for others.