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Bible Reflections View Comments

Live the Mystery of the Trinity
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013
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More ink has been spilled on the mystery of the Trinity than any other doctrine in Catholicism. Many people can tell you that St. Patrick used the shamrock to demonstrate the three-in-one reality of the Trinity. But it’s difficult to move from this image to an academic definition of the Trinity.

While all analogies ultimately fail, taken together, they can give us myriad ways to begin to grasp this great truth of our faith. Celebrating this feast reminds us that God will always be beyond our human understanding and beyond human control. There’s something comforting in that. We want God to be all powerful, all encompassing, eternal, and ever present. A god small enough for humans to control is too small to do any good.

The challenges faced by the early Church in understanding the Trinity had much to do with the need to reconcile the strongly monotheistic (one God) tradition of Judaism with the tendency of the pagans to have multiple gods for a variety of tasks and circumstances. When Jesus says he and the Father are one, he’s speaking of a completely new concept.

Through the centuries theologians needed to fit their descriptions and definitions of the Trinity into established ways of thinking and talking about reality. The words academics used to talk about faith changed with different currents in philosophy. What didn’t change was the one God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

One of the deepest truths that the doctrine of the Trinity reveals to us is that God is in relationship. The union of Father, Son and Spirit is a fluid one. The Trinity is always working, always moving, animating the world with divine life. We see this especially in John’s Gospel. Jesus speaks easily of his union with the Father and of the Spirit who moves in their midst.

It can be difficult to pin down John’s words. We understand them in an intuitive, mystical way, but we can’t define and explain them to our own—or anyone else’s—real satisfaction.

The people who selected the sacred texts for our lectionary reached back to the words of Proverbs, describing the Wisdom of God present at creation. Like Patrick’s shamrock, our first reading roots this ethereal mystery in the things of the earth: fountains, springs of water, mountains and hills, clods of earth, the sky, the sea. Wisdom is described as a craftsman, someone working to shape earthly materials into something both useful and beautiful.

As we move into the summer months—a time for gardens, visits to the beach or mountains—we might know in our experience of God’s creation something of that oneness. Our hobbies might give us an understanding of God’s creative spirit. Certainly our relationships with those closest to us and most dearly beloved can suggest to us something of this divine union.

This feast asks us to ponder a concept that can easily become abstract, something we dismiss it as irrelevant to our daily lives. But the truth at the heart of this feast is the love of God—so great and all-encompassing that it is in constant movement within and around all of creation.

Instead of trying to “figure out” the Trinity, celebrate it by doing something special with those whose love shows you every day the face of God.


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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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