Legend tells us that St. Patrick used the three-leafed clover to teach his people about the three persons in one God. It is an ingenious pedagogical device, very neat and understandable. However, it does little to explain the mystery we call God. Nor do the readings for this feast explain the divine essence or how the three Persons of the Trinity interact with each other. They employ the language of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit without explaining that these titles describe the inner relationships among the three persons of the Trinity, not their relationships with us. However, the readings do throw some light on ways that the Triune God touches our lives. Relating this activity with three statements found in the Apostles Creed will demonstrate this.
“I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” In the first reading from Proverbs we hear primordial wisdom, the only witness to God’s creative activity, describe the ease and artistry with which the almighty fashioned our universe. The splendor of creation is but a reflection of the magnificence of the wondrous creator. The threatening chaotic waters of the deep were no match for this divine architect, who simply established the vault of the heavens above them. The unruly sea was also secured within land boundaries, making the land safe for its inhabitants. Not only is the structure of the natural world mysterious and breath-taking, but it is also reliable. Its orderly arrangement allows all creatures to follow their natural paths.
For our part, all we need to do is look around to behold the expanse of the sky that covers us and delights us with its ever-changing display of light and color, or stand in amazement in the generosity of the earth that feeds us with such liberality. The natural world is a canvas upon which is painted awesome beauty that enriches our minds and hearts; it is a storehouse of nourishment and delight that sustains our bodies and our spirits. And this all comes to us from the hand of a loving creator.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only son, our Lord.” In all of his writings, Paul, the great Christological teacher, insists that it is Jesus who saves us. In today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans, he further explains how each person of the Trinity plays a role in our salvation. This salvation begins with faith in Jesus. It is this faith that justifies us and establishes peace with God. This new relationship of peace is the basis of our hope. Furthermore, Paul declares that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” In this short reading we discover the possible relationship binding affliction, endurance, character, and hope. In this way we see how faith, hope, and love flow together and are the ground of our Christian living.
The faith that Paul tells us is salvific is a living faith. It calls us to believe firmly that we have been born anew though our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus. This means that we now live according to the teachings of Jesus, patterning our lives after his. This faith calls us to live lives of hope, confident that the battle against evil has already been fought and won, and that through our manner of Christian living it will become apparent to others. This faith calls us to genuine love of others, as Jesus loves them. The salvation of which Paul speaks is grounded in the love of God in which we live.
“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” In the gospel account for today, Jesus refers to this Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. As in the passage from Paul, here too all three divine persons work in our lives. Jesus says that his Father has given all things to him; Jesus himself teaches us truths that we will not yet be able to understand; finally it is the Spirit who glorifies Jesus and guides us in our search for the truth of Jesus’ teaching. We might say that Jesus teaches us what the Father wants us to know so that we can live lives of integrity. Because this teaching is too deep for us to comprehend, we need the Spirit to bring us to an understanding of it.
It is not enough to profess our faith in the Triune God. We must live as if we truly believe what we proclaim. Today’s readings help us to realize that we have been saved by our Triune God and are continually brought by this same God to a deeper appreciation of the truths of a life of faith. That life is one to be lived on union with God and with each other. The unity within the Trinity is the model placed before us today. The three divine persons work together for the salvation of all. So too must we work together for the good of all.