As he began his homily on Trinity Sunday, Bishop Edward Malesic recited some familiar words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
The Trinity we profess is one God, yet three divine persons who are Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he told those attending Mass on May 30 at St. James Church in Lakewood. “Each of these persons are of the same substance, yet, somehow, they are distinct, one from the other. The Father is God – whole and entire. The Son is God – whole and entire. The Holy Spirit is God – whole and entire. Yet, there is only one God. This is the mystery of the Trinity.”
He said it’s difficult for us to understand how one can be three and three can be one, so we try to define and explain God. “But God is beyond definition or explanation. Words always fail us when it comes to God,” the bishop said. “Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Trinity, the most important mystery of our faith, is hidden from our reason and can only be revealed to us by God.”
Sometimes images can help explain the Trinity, yet they fall short of defining the true nature of God. St. Patrick used the shamrock, noting that God is like one plant with three leaves. St. Ignatius compared the Trinity to three notes of a single chord, while some use the example of water, which has three forms: ice, liquid and steam.
The bishop said Scripture looks at Trinity from the perspective of the functions of each of the three persons. In the Old Testament, God the Father is the creator of the world, the parent of the Jewish people and the lawgiver of the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament, Jesus is the Son of the Father who came to tell us of the Father’s great love for us. He is obedient to the Father in all things; our redeemer. In the age of the Church, God is the Spirit who remains with us, guides, protects and leads us to faith. The Spirit sanctifies us with various gifts and makes us holy, he said.
“But still, our God remains somewhat elusive for us and his ways are not our ways,” Bishop Malesic said. And we can never imagine what he has in store for us in heaven, so we rely on what we know, what has been revealed to us and what we believe.
“Our response must be faith. We must each make it for ourselves because our faith is personal, but it should never be private,” the bishop said. He noted that those who have faith recite the words of the creed that begin with the very personal “I believe.”
Each time we take bread, bless it, break it and share it, we experience God and enter into his mystery, Bishop Malesic said. We experience God as mystery every time the Spirit leads us to help someone in need. We find the face of Jesus in every person who is in need.
He said theologians and philosophers can grapple with the Trinity until the end of time, yet they never will be able to explain it so we can understand it with our limited minds. But even though we never fully understand it, it must lead us somewhere; it must lead us to love.
“God revealed himself to us as a loving community of persons to show us that we must be like him,” the bishop said, noting we were created in the image of those three persons in one God, each loving the other.
“When we die, God will not ask us, ‘Did you understand me?’ God will ask us, ‘Did you love me?’ And if we did, the proof will be in how we loved our lives in love for one another. Or, as Jesus put it very simply, love one another as I have loved you,” he said.
The bishop used that thought as a segue to what we remember on Memorial Day when we recall the military personnel who gave their lives in service to our nation. He said they didn’t die because they loved their life in this world. “In fact, they didn’t cling to their lives. No, they died because they loved those who were at home. They loved the people who would come after them, too. May God reward their faith in him, and their desire to give themselves for others. And may we always honor their sacrifice for us,” he added.
The day also had another significance for Bishop Malesic: it was the 34th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, which the congregation acknowledged with applause.
He encouraged those at Mass and those watching the livestream to invite others to Mass. “Let them see what we’ve come to know,” he said.
After Mass, Father Joseph Workman, St. James pastor, invited everyone to a social outdoors in the church courtyard where they had a chance to meet the bishop, take photos and enjoy donuts and coffee.