Prov 8: 22-31; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15
Filipino Bishop Jose R. Manguiran points out the special significance of the number “3” in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ:
At his birth at Bethlehem, the child Jesus was paid a visit by 3 kings who handed him 3 gifts. His appointed time to proclaim the good news to the public was only 3 years. He was condemned to death on the cross at the age of 33; breathed his last at the hour of 3 in the afternoon. After 3 days in the tomb he rose to life again.
In his most sacred moments, Jesus would bring with him 3 closest companions: Peter, James and John. On Mount Tabor, 3 persons were seen: Jesus, Moses and Elijah. On Mount Calvary, 3 were crucified: Jesus, Estas and Dimas.
While Jesus was being publicly condemned before Caiaphas, his closest friend Peter disowned him 3 times at 3 o’clock in the morning. Realizing his grave sin, Peter repented, turning out to become the most faithful disciple. Without doubt, Christ appointed Peter the first shepherd of the Church. His appointment was very simple; only one question was asked of him, but repeated 3 times, “Peter, do you love me?” The question asked 3 times reminded Peter of his 3-declaration betrayal. And so, he affirmed 3 times, “I do love you.”
(From Life Today, August 2000)
The number “3” also is significant to our faith because we believe that there are three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality. One might be surprised to know that the word Trinity is nowhere to be found in the Bible. The Church came to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity simply because its reality has become part of the faith-experience of God’s people.
First of all, the People of Israel experienced God as a Father, the creator of all things, whose salvific action has been part of their life-story as a nation. Second, the Israelites also experienced God as a Son who became human and whose life, death and resurrection gave meaning to their lives. And finally, they experienced God as one who unifies and enlightens them, who enables them to proclaim the message of salvation to the world. The Holy Spirit is the same God who loves and sanctifies them from the very beginning.
In the gospels, Jesus himself speaks about God as Father (Jn 1:18); he reveals himself as God’s only Son (Mt 11:27); and he mentions about the oneness he shares with his Father (Jn 17:21). Then, he tells about the Holy Spirit who comes from the Father and who leads disciples to the complete truth (Jn 16:13). Thus, we are confident in believing the doctrine of the Trinity because Jesus himself has made it known to us.
Since we are created in the image and likeness of the Triune God, we need to understand the inner life of the Trinity in order to know about the kind of persons we should be or the kind of life we should live.
First and foremost, the doctrine of the Trinity reveals that there are three Persons in one God. Though each Person is unique and distinct in personality, all three are equal in dignity. In the same way, each human person is unique and different from others, and yet, we are equal in human dignity. This is an important reminder because usually we find it difficult to consider another as equal. When we look to a person, we either look up to him or look down on him. John Paul II once said: “The image of God is reflected in each human being. That is the basis for the deeper truth of the human being, which must in no case be denied or injured. Every insult to a human being is in the end directed at his Creator, who loves him like a Father.”
Moreover, the Trinity makes known to us a God who exists in a community. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist for one another in love and in perfect unity. This reality reminds us that we, too, are created as social beings. God observed from the beginning that “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gn 2:18). We are meant to exist with and for one another. Therefore, a Christian must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. The Trinity shows that we become fully human only when we live our lives with and for others.
A pastor in a country parish heard that one of his parishioners was going about announcing that he would no longer attend church services. His rebellious parishioner was advancing the familiar argument that he could communicate just as easily with God out in the fields with the natural setting as his place of worship.
One winter evening the pastor called on this reluctant member of his flock for a friendly visit. The two men sat before the fireplace making small talk, but studiously avoiding the issue of church attendance. After some time, the pastor took the tongs from the rack next to the fireplace and pulled a single coal from the fire. He placed the glowing ember on the hearth.
The two men watched as the coal quickly ceased burning and turned an ashen gray while the other coals in the fire continued to burn brightly. The pastor remained silent. “I’ll be at services next Sunday,” said the parishioner.
(The story is by B. Cavanaugh)