One day a priest was sitting at the airport waiting for his flight. A man sitting next to him struck up a conversation with him. He said: “Father, I only believe what I can understand. So I’ll never believe in a God who is a Trinity of Three Persons that I cannot understand.”
The priest reluctantly put down the paper he was reading and said: “Do you see the sun out there?” “Yep!” said the man.
“Okay, it is 80 million miles away from us right now,” said the priest. “The rays coming through the window are coming from the sun. The delightful warmth and heat we are enjoying on our bodies right now come from a combination of the sun and its rays. Is that correct?” The fellow responded, “Sure, Padre.”
The priest continued: “The Trinity is like that. God the Father is the blazing sun. Jesus is the rays that he sends down to us. Then the both of them combine to send us the Holy Spirit who is the warmth and the heat. It you understand the working of the sun, its rays and its warmth, why do you have such a difficulty believing in the Trinity?” The man then said something about catching his flight and took off.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Like the man at the airport, we can ask, “How can God be one in Three Persons?” It’s a mystery! But as the priest tried to do, we can try to put the Trinity into perspective:
St. Ignatius of Loyola described the Trinity as three notes in a single chord. St. Patrick famously used the 3-leaf clover as a teaching aid for the Trinity. St. Augustine thought the Trinity acted together in the same way that our intellect, our memory and our will all act together within us each day.
As you and I grow in life, we come to realize that we exist only in relationships with others. This is what makes us human – our relationships with others. Take a moment to think about the best moments in your life. What were they?
I bet they were moments when you were in a loving relationship: when our mothers hugged us, when someone you truly loved embraced you, or when your teacher or your boss paid you a compliment. They are moments when we are in a relationship with others. This is how we come to better understand the Trinity.
The book of Genesis says that you and I are made in the image and likeness of God – in the image of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No matter what the mystery is all about, it means that God has a fantastic relationship within the Trinity itself. And you and I, made in God’s image, are all about relationship – with each other and with God.
One day a man was riding in the back of a taxi and he tapped the driver on the shoulder to ask him something. The driver screamed and lost control of the cab. He nearly hit a bus and went up on the curb, nearly hitting a building. When the cab came to a stop, the driver turned around and said, “Look, friend, don’t you ever do that again! You scared the daylights out of me!”
The passenger apologized and said that he didn’t realize that a little tap on the shoulder could scare him so much. Still sweating, the cab driver replied, “I’m sorry, it’s not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver. “Really,” said the passenger. “What did you do before this?”
“I’ve been driving a hearse to the cemetery for over 30 years,” he replied.
I believe that is what God does to us again and again – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God taps us on the shoulder when we least expect it…not necessarily when we are driving a car. But I don’t doubt that God taps us on the shoulder so that we will lose control and surrender our lives to him. God wants us to become who he created us to be and to be doing with our lives what God wants us to do. As Jesus said with his own life: “Not my will, but thine be done.”
There was once a priest who looked out at the congregation every Sunday from the altar. He always saw an elderly couple sitting in the first pew. They were married over 60 years. She seemed to always be holding her husband’s hands. The priest felt that this was wonderful – holding his hands and still being so in love after 60 years of marriage.
One day the priest mentioned this to the woman. She replied, “Oh sure, we’re still very much in love, but I’m also trying to keep him from cracking his knuckles.”
I hear that story and I think of the lines of the old Elvis song: “Take my hand, take my whole life too, for I can’t help falling in love with you.” These are words that God the Father is just waiting to hear from us.
And we’ve all heard the song, “Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.” When we give Jesus our hand, no matter our age, he sends us the Holy Spirit who keeps us from getting into trouble, trouble that is far greater than cracking our knuckles. For the Holy Spirit keeps leading us down the right paths in life.
It is not by accident that for almost 2,000 years Catholics have been making the Sign of the Cross in their prayers. They have been calling upon God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to make their human family like the divine family.
When has God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit – tapped you on the shoulder during these last 3 months of the pandemic? What was God saying to you? What did you say to God?