Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Big Secret Decoded

Trinity Sunday Year B

With the proliferation of jokes about God in trivia-dom, one may actually agree with the adage, “Nothing is sacred and little secret.” Wikileaks’ most recent publication of secret correspondence leaked from the personal desk of the Pope and Vatican officials are merely signs that nothing escapes the public eye, not even the sacred are spared. Confidential information has become an oxymoron. The prevalence of this invasion into personal privacy merely demonstrates man’s fascination with the mysterious, and especially with our deepest secrets. But here lies the paradox of secrets: We all crave the mysterious, and hope to have its secrets opened to us, yet we wish it to keep its numinous quality intact.

Secrets. Why do people have them, and what do they do in your life? People choose to have secrets for many reasons. One is from a fear of judgment from another. Others hide their failures out of shame. But, perhaps, the most common fear is that that those who come to have knowledge of our secrets will have power over us. It is, therefore, a great risk to let someone into your secret. It is a great sign of friendship and trust to tell someone a secret about yourself. And the more personal and intimate the secret, the more personal and intimate is the friendship. In fact, you tell the secret not only as a sign of friendship but also as a way of getting closer to your friend, for your secret is part of yourself. By disclosing your deepest secrets, you hand over to the other person the key to your heart where you have locked away the most private knowledge of yourself. You allow him to enter into your very soul, as it were.

The love which Jesus has shown us can no longer be doubted. The cross provides the irrefutable testimony. But Jesus has also shown his love by disclosing his very nature and his intimate relationship with the Father and to the Holy Spirit. He is our greatest friend and thus lays bare his soul, or one might add divinity, for all to see. It is not surprising then, that he has revealed secrets to us about himself that we would not be able to discover on our own. The secret he offers us is that God is Trinity – three persons in one God. It is a secret regarding the private life of God himself. The Church teaches we can know with certainty by our human reason that God exists. But there are truths that we cannot discover until God reveals them to us. The doctrine of the Trinity is such a Divinely Revealed truth. By such disclosure, the word mystery in our Christian context takes on an entirely differently meaning. Frank Sheed, one of the great Catholic apologists of the 20th Century, said that the word mystery “does not mean a truth of which we cannot know anything: it means a truth of which we cannot know everything.”

Non – Christians often deal with the mystery of God by speculating or postulating that he is either one or many. But if God is the wholly Transcendent Other, man can only speculate on His inner life. It takes God to give the correct answer.  No one knows God except the one who comes from God. Thus, Jesus, the Son of God has revealed to the whole of mankind that God is one but he is also three persons. In the words of the 6th century Athanasian Creed,“the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” The three persons of the Trinity are all co-equal and co-eternal, uncreated and omnipotent. Thus, the Christian answer to the mystery of God continues to baffle as much as it reveals. There are more questions than answers raised by this revelation. The First Vatican Council while affirming the Church’s faith the mystery of the Trinity has been revealed through Divine Revelation, admits that the mystery “remains hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness... Our understanding of it remains only partial…”

But this should not deter us from trying to understand and make sense of this mystery. The reason for us is clear. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (CCC 234). But, why has the Church placed such central importance on this doctrine?

First, this mystery is important because God has called each of us into relationship with Him. He wants us to attain more than only knowledge about Him; He wants us to actually know Him, personally – it is relational. A central element of knowing Him is to know who He is. The doctrine of the Trinity helps us know who God is. So, those who wish to know God as He is and enter into an ever-deepening relationship with Him must spend time in prayer and also study what the Church teaches in order to embrace and receive this knowledge of His Triune nature. When we address God, we do not just address him impersonally as if we were strangers? His son has called us ‘friends’, and as friends we come to relate with him in person and not just intellectually and conceptually. That is why we have used the words ‘persons’ to speak of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. A person is always a ‘someone,’ never ‘something.’ Our personal possessions, treasures or even live pet animals may give us great comfort or delight. But they are not persons with will and intellect. One can never enter into an authentic relationship with a ‘thing’. Only persons are free to love and open themselves for love.

The second significance of this mystery is that the Trinity himself becomes the model or blueprint of humanity. We can no longer hide behind the clichéd adage, ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine.’ Man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God.  Although we may lose the likeness of God by sin, we never forfeit the image. Thus, in learning about God and coming to better know who He is through the doctrine of the Trinity, we learn something about ourselves. We were not made to be solitary beings; we were made to be in community. We were created to live and love as God does. We all know that God is love. We’ve seen that God’s knowledge and expression of that love is the inner life of the Holy Trinity. And that teaches us something very important about us – if we are to be true to whom we were made to be, we will live and love as God does and in doing so we will find joy and peace. God’s love is life-giving and boundless.  Created in His image, God calls us to share in His life and work. The family  is to be an image of the love shared in the Holy Trinity. A man loves his wife without condition and expectation. He gives everything to her, holding nothing back, willing to sacrifice even his life for her. A woman loves her husband without condition and expectation, holding nothing back, giving herself fully to her husband, willing even to die for him. This mutual love, sanctified by God, is so life-giving, that from that love pour forth children whose image was first formed in the mind of God… children made for heaven! Sounds like the dogma of the Trinity, right? Because it is. Family life must reflect the life of the Trinity.

This the great secret, made publicly known by Jesus, which we celebrate today. It is not the secret that is publicized by the book and movie “Da Vinci Code.” In that book and movie, the writer claims that the greatest secret about Jesus is that he was married to Mary Magdalene, he had a child, and Jesus was human. The author of the book claimed that this secret was withheld by the Church’s authorities from the beginning. Although the book may be an interesting mystery fiction novel, it is only that. What it claims about Jesus is false. There is no basis in the bible and in history to support the claims of the author but it does make juicy reading – a fictional Wikileaks, perhaps. The real secret that has been ‘decoded’ is actually the mystery of the Trinity. God is Father. God is Son. God is Holy Spirit. This is the truth which must be proclaimed to the world and should never be kept hidden.

In the age of Wikileaks, telephone tapping, internet hacking, RPK exposes, this question often looms like a Sword of Damocles over our heads: “Is no secret safe?” You’ll never know what might be leaked. Of course, that itself is nothing new: Whenever we reveal information to even one person, we risk it being spread. Here, God has risked disclosing the mystery of his inner life to us not in order that we may continue to keep it confidential. The disclosure’s purpose is clear – it is meant for leaking. In fact, we are to shout it from the roof tops, proclaim it in the market squares, and sing of it on every street corner. This is one secret that needs no safe-keeping. It is meant to be proclaimed and spread to the four corners of the earth because it is the single most important Secret, the greatest Mystery of all, a Secret that truly saves!

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