God creates, redeems and sanctifies

By | May 29, 2012

Who can explain love? Who can explain the triune love we call the Trinity?

St. Augustine (354-430) took a crack at it. In his famous “Confessions,” Augustine addresses God: “The idea I had of you was falsehood and not truth, a fiction of my own littleness, not the solid ground of your beatitude.” We cannot comprehend the mystery of the Trinity: one God, three persons. Yet Augustine would go on to write in another context that God is love (Father, creator), beloved (Son, redeemer) and loving (Spirit, sanctifier).

Does this not seem to parallel St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which the Apostle to the Gentiles speaks of God as “Abba” (Father), certainly a loving creator? Paul goes on to tell the Romans and us that we are heirs of Christ, the beloved who suffered and was glorified. Further, Paul makes it clear that it is the Spirit that leads us from a spirit of slavery to a life free from fear. Again and again, we confront this mysterious triune God who creates, redeems and sanctifies us still.

In the book of Deuteronomy we are given this injunction: “… you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” How do we come to know about the mystery of God and how do we fix that knowledge in our hearts so that it has an abiding quality? One way is to make the sign of the cross with reverence and keen intentionality: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Too easily this powerful ritual can be done perfunctorily. We do not realize that we are invoking the Godhead to be with us as we start liturgy or our meal prayers.

The Gospel gives us the Trinitarian formula for baptism. We are baptized in the name of our creator, redeemer and sanctifier; we are sealed in confirmation with the sign of the cross and wish of peace; we leave liturgy with the final blessing and are sent forth to live a Trinitarian life.

And what is that life? It is to be a life giver (emulating our creator) in a culture of violence and death. It is to be agents of healing and reconciliation (emulating Jesus) in a world of broken relationships. It is to be instruments of God’s love (emulating the Holy Spirit who is love) in an environment characterized by indifference if not outright hatred.

The bottom line in our thinking of God always comes back to love.

Questions for reflection

1. What does the Trinity mean for you?

2. Do the categories lover, beloved and loving offer some meaning about the mystery of God?

3. Take a whole minute to make the sign of the cross!

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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