Jesus Our Shepherd

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Homily for 22 May 2005
Rev. Jim Ryan

Too often, I’ll bet, this Feast of Holy Trinity brings to mind some reminder of a doctrinal statement about the concept of how God is. And that’s usually the end of thought on the matter – it’s a dead end concept, because it doesn’t open us to all of God.

Today, the questions are, “How to speak of God?” “How does one experience God?” “What moves us to become excited about God?”

In the matter of trinity, we’re told that shamrocks spoke of God to St. Patrick. In the world of creation, we’re told that flowers spoke to St. Francis. And in the experience of sorrow, we’re told that St. Paul of the Cross on occasion would throw himself into thornbushes because they spoke to him of the Crucifixion of Christ.

The experience of God is a wide, wonderful thing. It can also be dangerous without reflecting on its meaning. Theologians attempt to explain this experience. Paul Tillich, 20th century theologian and exile from Nazi Germany, explained the depth of the experience of God as the “ground of being” in other words, the stuff of all that is. He also described faith as the “ultimate concern” that frees us from worry, yet assures us of God’s taking hold of us in love.

The statement about God – in this case, Holy Trinity – is the result of these experiences and such reflections. We can say that God is a community of persons precisely because we experience God as creative, redeeming and inspiring. The energy of this community moves us to reflect on how we may make God present every day in our lives and for others. This activity allows to offer the statement that God is a Holy Trinity. In this way the dead concept comes to life – or at least it should.

No catechism statement is the foundation for this faith, in the sense that we believe in God because of what the doctrine teaches. Rather, we believe because we come to know, love, and trust in God who we experience in so many wonderful and revealing ways.

We celebrate God today – the One who is Three. And it is this kind of seeming misstatement that allows to put our arms around the mystery we celebrate in prayer and Eucharist.

So, appreciate the shamrocks and the flowers. But, it’s probably better to stay out of the thornbushes.