When we celebrate God and recall that God is a Holy Trinity, we are remembering something essential about God that also tells us something essential about ourselves. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is three persons and one substance, but this idea does not get to the heart of why this notion is important, and worth celebrating: as my colleague in theology, Michael Himes has argued, God is by nature an act of love. God is not simply a static substance. The influence of Platonism on Christian thought has been beneficial in some respects, but the Greeks thought that to be perfect was to be totally self-sufficient and unaffected (apatheia). But how can a perfectly self-sufficient being and an unaffected being, be in relationship? What does it mean for an unaffected being to love? To be in relationship and to love means both to affect and to be affected by another. Jesus’ compassion and the Incarnation itself show us that God’s love is central to who God is. The Trinity gives us a way of articulating how that can be part of God’s completion: God is already a God of relationship from the very beginning. God is already an act of love from the start, before all creation.
I remember a parish priest once remarking that the Holy Spirit rarely gets sufficient attention, compared to the rest of the Trinity. Yet it’s the Holy Spirit that allows us to participate in God’s life. When God sends the Holy Spirit to the disciples, that is God sharing of God’s very self. One way to understand the Holy Spirit (as a Jesuit friend once shared with me) is to see the Spirit as the love between the Father and Son, a love that is so great that it has to go beyond the two of them and be shared with all the world. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we are receiving God, acknowledging that God unites us to God’s most intimate self through that gift. God’s love becomes our love-if we can act from the Spirit instead of from other, less perfect motives. Jesus says, “Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.” (Jn 16: 15). God gives us God’s very self.
Although we celebrate a season of Easter and a season of Christmas, we don’t celebrate a season of Pentecost. But that’s because, in a way, Pentecost doesn’t end with ordinary time: the Holy Spirit given to us can permeate all of our lives with love. When we love others, we are already participants in the life of God. When we love God, we cannot help but want to share and spread that interior love to others, to all others in a more universal way.
What stands in the way of such love, if we are already partakers of it? For me, it’s essential to find time within the rhythm of my day for prayer, so that I can go back and “dip into” that well of love. It also means learning to let go of all the superficial attachments that stand in the way. We are easily distracted by respect or blame, pleasure or pain, whether others like us, worries about health or money, or conventional ideas of success, but these are only distractions. When we can let go of these concerns, and return to that loving center that holds us in the Lord, then we can love from a freer and deeper place. Our true nature is to be rooted in God and rooted in Love.