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Can you explain the Blessed Trinity?

Today we celebrate the central mystery of our Catholic Faith. No one can explain a divine mystery; for, a mystery is something that is so profound and deep that we have no human words to express its divine reality. No one knew this better than St. Augustine. He spent at least thirty years trying to write a book explaining the Holy Trinity. You may know the story of his encounter with a young boy along the seashore. Augustine was walking along the seashore contemplating the mystery of the Trinity when he encountered a young boy with a sea shell. The boy kept running to the sea, scooping some up water with his sea shell, and then running to empty it into a pool of water. Augustine asked, “Son, what are you doing?” The boy replied, “Can’t you see? “I’m emptying the sea into this pool.” Augustine said, “Son, you will never be able to do that!”. “But,” answered the boy, “I will sooner empty the sea into this pool than you will manage to get the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity into your head.”

Pope Benedict XVI (himself a great thinker and admirer of St. Augustine) was so taken with this account that he put the image of the sea shell on his papal coat of arms. The story reminds the pope and each one of us that our knowledge of the mystery of the Holy Trinity comes not from logic or reason or science but from what Jesus has taught and revealed to us. For, it is Jesus who made known that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, because of our faith in Christ, we can know and profess our belief in the Most Holy Trinity.

While we can know and profess our faith in the Trinity, we still cannot explain it; but we can still relate to and enter into the mystery. If we think about it, each human person is a mystery to us.

What husband can explain his wife to someone else?

And, while a wife can state all the actions and words, virtues and vices of her spouse, she cannot fully explain him. Rather they, like all of us, live with the mystery of every other person.

But, Jesus Himself teaches us how we are to relate personally not only to God the Father but also to the Holy Spirit. It is the Father who creates space and time and, as the Book of Genesis says, creates us in His image and likeness. Jesus says that “the Father and I are one” and that He is the Beloved Son whom the Father sent into the world to save us. He does so that we can be adopted back as legitimate sons and daughters of the Father. For, by sinning, we had lost our birthright as God’s true children. Jesus, at the end of His earthly ministry, promised to send us the Holy Spirit, to come not as a dove, but as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the One who would bring from eternity into our time the Easter gifts that would restore us to new life in God.

This new life comes through Baptism when we become immersed in the divine life of the Blessed Trinity in whose name we are baptized. Once again we are fully God’s children. With the help of all the sacraments, we can maintain our identity as God’s children. All we need to do show others, like Jesus, the human face of the God who is Love. We do so by imitating the Father’s creative love, the Son’s self-sacrificing love for others; and the Spirit’s action of promoting life in all others. Looking and acting like the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in our lives will not explain the Blessed Trinity to others but will allow them to experience their presence as the Triune God in their lives. And then, God will be ready to allow us to experience His eternal presence at home in heaven.

Father Kirlin