n the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  This is how we Christians begin all our prayers because we believe in and worship a triune God.  But, what do we actually mean when we say that God is a Trinity?  As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, allow me to offer some reflections on this very important mystery of our faith.

First of all, it is important to realize we are dealing with a mystery, a reality that is well beyond our total understanding, just as the Incarnation and Resurrection are mysteries beyond our comprehension.  Our words, our concepts and even our minds cannot adequately grasp or describe this aspect of God – just as we are incapable of completely understanding or expressing so many aspects of God.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states so well, “[t]he mystery of the Trinity in itself is inaccessible to the human mind and is the object of faith only because it was revealed by Jesus Christ, the divine Son of the eternal Father” (CCC, p. 902).

At the same time, it is very important for us to reflect on the Trinity because it is at the center of our faith.  To quote the Catechism again, “[t]he mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in himself.  It is, therefore, the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith’” (CCC, 234).  So, it is essential that we have some understanding and appreciation of this “most fundamental” mystery of our faith.

Our New Testament epistle lesson for today is an example of early Christian teaching and writing that includes a reference to all three persons of the Trinity although, St. Paul does not attempt here to set out a doctrinal teaching about the Trinity or explain how God could be three persons but also one.  Paul simply names our experience of God in ways that flow naturally and organically: “we have peace with God through our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ . . . because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that he has given to us.” (Romans 5:1,5)

Here is what Paul knows, and what his readers (then and now) know: through our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ we experience inner peace, and we sense profound connection and access to God we could not know apart from knowing Christ, and this closeness to God feels like our hearts and souls are filled to the brim with the love and presence of God, which is the witness and warm embrace of the Holy Spirit of God with our spirits.

Paul is naming here the experience of God that all of us have who know and follow God through obedient trust in the witness and teaching of Christ, and who walk now in the assurance and confidence that God is with us and within us through His Spirit.  But the great Apostle, St. Paul, also gives us a glimpse in this lesson about what it means for Christians to know God in all of these ways: we are filled and sustained by hope even in the midst of our afflictions.  His powerful refrain in this passage is well worth our reflection.  He says that we have hope because we have obtained access to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  How important that access, that connection, that intimacy with God is for all of us!  Where would we be if God were only a deity far removed, remote and uncaring?  But, through Jesus, we know that God has come near, that God is inclined toward us, that God wants to have relationship with us, that God would do anything – including giving up His own beloved Son – in order for us to know about and be redeemed by His love.  And that is the foundation of our hope.  It is a solid and gracious foundation, indeed!

But, Paul goes a step further.  One might think that if God loves us that much, and if we have that wonderful access to God through Christ, then surely God would not allow anything bad to happen to us.  We might be tempted to think, “Surely a God who loves that much, and who has that almighty power, would protect those He cherishes from any suffering or danger or persecution.”

And, we would be wrong.  God does love us – infinitely, powerfully, eternally.  But we are not promised a path without obstacles, or a life without suffering and pain and challenge.  In fact, just the opposite is true, as we hear from St. Paul who assumes here that followers of God through Christ will also suffer in life.  Sometimes that suffering is precisely because we are followers of Christ.  But when that suffering comes – as it most surely will to us all – we are not cut off from the hope we have in God.  It is not a sign that we have strayed off the proper path, or that God has turned his back on us.  Times of suffering are all part of the human experience of life, and even in those difficult and challenging moments, Paul gives us a glimpse of the larger plan of God, a plan that is often lost on us when we are in the intense times of struggle and pain and sorrow.  Paul says that our suffering produces endurance, like exercise and resistance weight training producing stronger muscles.  And endurance produces character.  Our character is forged in the furnace of our most difficult moments.  Those are the times that test and shape our integrity and values.  And then, character becomes the seedbed out of which springs hope, a hope that does not disappoint.  So whether we suffer or not, succeed or not, live or die, all roads lead to Christian hope, which never fails.

As in every parish, we have many ways to experience the life and work of the Trinity in our midst right here in St. Katharine of Siena parish and to be strengthened in our faith through our times of suffering!  Whether it is in the daily or Sunday Eucharistic celebration – the most important work of our faith community – or through any of the many other parish organizations and activities, we are sharing in the life of the Blessed Trinity!  As God’s faithful stewards, we build community here in the parish, reflecting the mystery of the Trinity and making it known right here in our midst and encouraging each other as St. Paul encouraged his readers thousands of years ago!  “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all!”