A story’s told that St. Augustine, one of the great intellectuals of our western world, was walking along the seashore one day and saw a little boy playing on the beach, taking water from the sea in a small bucket and pouring it into a hole he had dug in the sand. Back the forth the boy went.
“What are you doing?” Augustine asked, “Do you think you can put the whole sea into that little hole?”
“No,” the little boy answered, “And neither can you put God into that small mind of yours no matter how smart you think you are.”
The story reminds us how limited our minds are before the mystery of God, even the smartest, most brilliant minds, God is beyond us. The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a reminder of how incapable we are to know God completely.
And yet, this feast also reminds us that God has approached us and revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Father, God’s the creator of heaven and earth. All creation ultimately comes from God’s hand. The gift of life, the gift of all things. God, our Father and Creator, has given us everything. Through these same gifts we come to know him.
God has also made himself known to us in Jesus Christ, who was born of Mary over two thousand years ago, who walked this earth and died on a cross, who rose from the dead and remains with us in his church and his sacraments. We have his words, his actions, his promises. He’s our Savior and Redeemer, a sign of God’s love; he’s promised us life eternal..
The Holy Spirit also is God with us, within us, guiding us and our world to our common destiny.
Yet, though we believe that God reveals himself to us, we’re still like the little boy on the seashore. We’re looking at an unmeasured sea that we approach with the little buckets of our minds. We can’t grasp it all.
You remember the story of the conversion of Paul the Apostle; one of the most dramatic stories in the scriptures. Saui, the unbeliever, was on his way to the City of Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus, when suddenly a blinding light throws him from his horse. “Who are you, Lord?” Paul cries out. “I am Jesus whom you persecute, “ the voice from the blinding light says.
Jesus Christ is like the blinding light of the sun. He shares in the nature of God, who is brighter than sunlight, who blinds us when we try to see him. God dwells in light inaccessible, the scriptures say. So, even though we know so much about Jesus from the scriptures, even though great scholars can describe him, he is still beyond anything we can know.
Like the sun, Jesus is like a blinding light, yet, paradoxically a light that shines into the darkness of creation to give life and light. At the beginning of his gospel, St. John says: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” (John 1,18)
As people of faith we’re not like those who say you can’t know God at all or like those who say God doesn’t exist because my mind cannot grasp him. Yet, as people of faith we know God little by little. That’s why we come to church week by week, that’s why we pray for our daily bread, that why we search for God in life as it unfolds day by day.
As we consider the mystery of God today we also have to recognize that we are children of the Enlightenment, that movement in our western world that tells us there’s no need to pay much attention to God. Pay attention to the world at hand. Pay attention to yourself. That’s the important thing.
But, we should never leave the sea. We’re meant to stand before the mystery of God and reach out to him with our minds and to love him with our hearts, small as they are.
There’s a trivialization of the mystery of God today. I think you can see it in the way the name of God and the name of Jesus Christ are tossed about in our ordinary talk. “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” You can see it in God’s absence from our culture, our schools, our media. our homes. You can see it in the belittling of our church and the signs of God’s presence. Even churches can become human gathering spaces, instead of holy places where we meet God.
The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a holy reminder of the mystery of God at the center of our life and the life of our world.