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The Holy Trinity and the Church: the truth will set you free
Anyone who is not an ostrich will be more than aware of the disunity among the Catholic Church's members. Notice, among the members. For there never can be disunity within the nature of the Church, founded as it was by Our Lord Jesus Christ. He knew that unity had to characterise his followers, and he prayed ardently for it to his Father at the Last Supper (John 17).
His intention was to achieve the unity of all mankind within his Church. Not to see this is to misunderstand the relationships within the Blessed Trinity, the purpose of creation, the Incarnation, Christ's work of salvation, the nature of his Church and her purpose, and her essential oneness with him.
To understand anything in our Catholic faith, we must relate it to the Trinity, wherein the cause and purpose of all things is discovered. Unity is more than mere agreement, and in God we see it in perfection, so much so that we have one nature shared by Three Persons.
From all eternity, the Father's infinite determination to do good generates the Son. There has to be more than one person in the Godhead because, by His nature, God has to be good, evil being a limitation and thus impossible in God.
Now, goodness, of its nature, has to go out to someone or something else; so the Father's love - His determination to do good - has to have someone to receive that infinite love, someone who is both capable of receiving it all and returning it all, so that the Father, in turn, is adequately satisfied by receiving infinite love. So we have the Son, eternally begotten by the Father.
Most mysterious of all, perhaps, is the Third Person, the Holy Spirit. Since there can be nothing in God that is not personal, the love between Father and Son has to be the Third Person, who takes his eternal origin from both Father and Son - "who proceeds from the Father and the Son" (qui ex Patre, Filioque procedit). The infinite charity and joy of each and all the Three Persons is their one shared nature. Thus, unity in God.
Having, therefore, infinite joy from the infinite love of each for each Person, God decides to share His infinitely enjoyable unity outside Himself. He decides to create.
Here we are amazed to discover that, because all is present to God - for He lives outside time, and before and after it, that everything and everyone He was to create was in His mind always. Saint Paul reminds us of this: "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:5).
Then there was our special moment when all the loving creativity of God centred on each personally and brought us into being in the wondrous uniting of seed and ovum and His breathing out our soul. Gratitude to Him must be the motive of everything that makes up our life.
We know the next tragic part of creation's history. The great Lucifer put himself before God, and fooled our first parents into doing the same. Out of His nature, love, goodness that must go out, not because it is deserved, but because of its very nature, just as the sun must warm and water must refresh, He comes to earth: the Incarnation - the infinite Son actually dwells among us (Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis).
Herein the second great mystery of our Catholic faith: first the Trinity, now the Incarnation, involving the most wondrous of His creatures, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We know what happened then, thanks to the inspired Gospels and certain Tradition, and we come to Calvary to see that eternal and infinite love of the Son making up for the dreadful ingratitude of us all in that act of love that is infinite in its goodness, embracing the Father and all those that He made out of love, and bringing back to Him those who wanted to be loved by God.
The Church? It is the Body of Christ because it has his life in it - the Holy Spirit - "Power from on high ... bringing all things to your minds that I have taught you ... living water springing up into eternal life ... my grace is sufficient for you". And there it all is in one word, grace. Favour! God's favour, given by His sacraments (the life), kept by living His Commandments (the way), desired because we know Him (the truth).
All this is conserved on earth by His preserving authority resident especially in His Vicar: "Thou art Peter ... I am with you always."
We would expect Our Lord, if his way and truth and life are essential for us, to leave a means of keeping them free from being destroyed by man's huge determination to put his mind and will before God's mind and will - the sin of Lucifer and our first parents, and the source of all human trouble.
And so, by the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have an infallible Church. It has to be that way. The alternative is either all that Christ brought was not important enough to preserve, or that it was that important, but He did not bother to ensure its preservation. Both propositions are absurd.
Our prayer must be that our minds will be always absorbed in the wonder of God and the deeds that proceed from His unity of love. Herein lies that unbreakable thread of truth whose thrill makes saints and lifts mankind in holiness and good works and moves him to creative wonders.
Then we pray for perseverance, trying to win back the cynics who limit their horizons to the limits of their own restricted human minds, and make the fundamental error of believing that each individual mind is the source of its own "truth".
If this is true, then there is nothing to unite us, no cause or motive for loving. God existing, saving and revealing is and must be recognised and believed in. The alternative is human chaos, which seems daily to worsen.
The truth will set you free!
Fr John O'Neill is parish priest of Doonside, Parramatta Diocese, NSW, and the author of several books and collections of poems.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 18 No 2 (March 2005), p. 20
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