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Brothers and Sisters of the Son

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trinity Sunday. Fr John O'Connor uses the Our Father to explore the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Some Christians think that the doctrine of the Trinity is so baffling that it's better to forget about it. Other recognise that it must be important in some way, but do not see how it could possibly be of any help to us in our daily lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

I think this is a terrible pity – not only because I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is true, but even more so because I see it as being of the greatest help in showing us the way to God. Far from being irrelevant, I believe that belief in the Trinity is at the very centre of our lives as Christians.

When we reflect on what Jesus shows us about relationship with God, we see that this relationship is about our sharing in the life of the Trinity. To be fair, the doctrine of the Trinity can seem not only very confusing, but confused. It tells us that God is both One and that God is Three: the Persons of Father, Son and Spirit. There is in God a profound and perfect unity, so that we can rightly speak of God as One. And yet in that unity there is distinction, of Father, Son and Spirit.

The passage from the Gospels that I often begin with when I reflect on the Trinity is where Jesus is asked by his disciples how to pray, and he replies that they are to pray like this: 'Our Father…' We see in the Gospels that Jesus, the Son, speaks to his Father, and that his relationship with the Father is one of the greatest intimacy and trust. The conversation of the Jesus with his Father is a real conversation, not Jesus talking to himself. If Jesus is divine (as well as human) and the Father is also divine, then we immediately see a distinction in God between Father and Son. We are already part of the way in thinking about the Trinity.

We see at this early stage the presence of two of the Persons of the Trinity: Father and Son. If we are invited by Jesus to address his Father as our Father, then we must have a relationship with the Father that is like Jesus's relationship with the Father, because the Father is not only his Father but ours. This tells us that when we address the Father as our Father, then we are like Christ himself in some way. As Christians we believe that Jesus is both God and man, and also that the Father is God. What allows us to address is the Father as our Father in the full sense of that is not simply that we share in the same humanity as Christ, but that we are raised to the level of the divine. Being raised to the level of the divine, the Father is not only the Father of Jesus the Son, but is truly our Father too.

It is here we see the role of the third Person of the Trinity, the Spirit. We are like Christ, the Son, because the Spirit is working in us, shaping us. By the power of the Spirit we are raised to the level of Christ and can address the Father as our Father, because by the working of the Spirit we are made brothers and sisters of Jesus the Son, who is both God and man. We are not only brothers and sisters of Jesus in his humanity. We are also brothers and sisters of Jesus in his divinity.

So even if we think of the Our Father as a fairly ordinary prayer, we see that it reveals to us the most wonderful truths about ourselves and our relationship with God. Even when we do something that seems as ordinary as reciting with faith the Our Father, we are participating in the life of the Trinity: we are raised to the level of the divine and made like Christ by the power of the Spirit so that we can address the Father as our Father.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a great gift to us. It helps us see that we are truly brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, not only in his humanity, but also in his divinity.

Readings

Ezek 2:2-5 |2 Cor 12:7-10 | Mark 6:1-6

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