The Image of God
Father Hanly’s very moving homily for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year C, builds to a beautiful conclusion.
Readings for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year C
- First Reading: Acts 14:21-27
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
- Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-5
- Gospel: John 13:31-33, 34-35
Yesterday, I was having supper with Father Lee, or it was lunch time, and he looked at me and he said, “Tomorrow is the feast of the Holy Trinity.”
And I waited for something else, but that’s all he said. And I realised what the other half of that is, if someone reminds you, this is the day that the priest is very hesitant to talk because this is the deepest of all mysteries.
The idea that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and yet one God, has been the teaching of the Church since the very beginning, so we know it is revealed doctrine, but if somebody asks you to explain it then it’s rather difficult. And that’s a good thing.
There’s an old story about a man goes up to the mountain to meet the guru. And the guru is sitting there and kind of half nodding. And he shoves him a little bit and he wakes up. And the guru says, “What can I do for you?”
And the man says, “Well, I’ve come from the United States, and I heard you are a very wise man, so what I really want to do is I want you to explain to me God, so that I will do my best to worship Him the way you do.”
And he was a very nice man and the guru says to him, “A god that you can explain is not a god that you should worship.” And this is true.
“God dwells in inaccessible light,” says John. And that would put us in our place. So everything that we say about God is sort of a puzzling out in a human way. And, fortunately, God has become a human being and made it so much easier.
The wonderful thing about the Incarnation, that God looked down upon us with great love and He realised that the only way that they could begin to understand Him would be for Him to make the first move and so the Incarnation took place and He became man, body and soul, and experienced the life, the whole life, of humanity. And this was His Son, Jesus.
And because of that, we can say many things about God. We call God “Father” and indeed He is our Father. We can call God our brother and indeed He is our brother Jesus who walks with us through life. And we call God the Holy Spirit, for Jesus says, “There is another who comes after me. This is the Spirit. And He will fill you with the understanding and knowledge of all that the Father has given to me, He will give to you.”
And so we walk in the spirit of God, the deep love of God, we walk with the Father and call him Father, we walk with the Son and call him Son, and we’re enveloped in the love that binds us all together.
Basically, the Trinity is not a doctrine to be understood. Basically, it is a way of living with the great unknown, but now revealed by Jesus, of God the Creator, God the Redeemer and God the Saviour.
There is an old story which I’ve told before. It’s a story about a gypsy man. A gypsy man goes into a village that has a little fountain in the middle of the square. And he’s drinking heartily from the water.
And there’s a little boy watching him because, after he drinks, he keeps looking into the water and looking into the water and looking into the water as if somebody was down in the water that he was maybe talking to.
So the little boy runs over and he says, “Excuse me but who lives in the water?” And the gypsy man smiles at him and he says, “God lives in the water.” “Can I see him?” the little boy says. “Sure you can.” He picks up the little boy and puts him over the well so he can look deep down into the water.
And the boy looks deep down into the water for a time and he’s waiting and finally he says, “I don’t see anything. I only see myself in the water.”
The gypsy man smiles and he says, “Yes, that’s where you’re going to find God, for he lives in you, yourself.”
It’s a kind of a lovely way of putting where we should be looking for the Trinity. We’re not supposed to be looking for Him outside, or in books of philosophy, or all these wondrous explanations or attempts to try to understand the mysteries of the world. You’ve got to look into your own heart. You are made in the image and in the likeness of God.
Think about that now. And spend the rest of your life trying to puzzle it out. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? Well, it doesn’t mean physically, but it does mean spiritually. It means that God has created you out of love in order that you might love Him in return. And it is indeed His love with which we love each other.
If you want to know who God is and what does He do and how He works, you must begin with love. Because as St John, the author of these gospels, himself says, “God is love.” If you refuse to love, you will never know who He is. If you refuse to reach out in care for all His human beings around you, you will never know who He is. Because God has come and He hides Himself in our own hearts, and the name of that hidden place is God’s love.
So today we celebrate the arrival of God’s love, for God is love, and how He swoops us up into a new understanding that when we love each other, we are loving God; and when we reach out to each other, we are welcoming God; and when we care for each other, we are caring for God.
And does God need care? Look at the cross. There He waits, looking down. He came out of love and received a crucifixion instead. He came to bring joy and He spent His life much in tears.
And this is the real lesson of God. The real lesson is when we look at the cross and see the weakness and we see the need and we see something that moves, not our minds and understanding of what it is to be immortal, but our God on a cross seeking love.
And when we give Him that love, the only way we can give Him that love is by sharing His love with each other. And that is the great mystery, that in some mysterious way our love for each other will dry the tears of God Himself.
So let us celebrate the Trinity, not as some obscure doctrine of two thousand years, but as the life that we must lead. It is the giving of ourselves, it is the forgiving of God that we share with each other. And this is what makes life with God eternal.
To be one with Him is to love each other and to experience the eternity of God’s life, one with the Father, one with the Son and filled with the Holy Spirit.