John 3:16.  Anyone in America, Christian or not, knows that name and number.  And it’s all thanks to that one force that binds every American together.  You know what that binding force is?  No, it’s not love!  It’s football!  Used to be that anytime you turned on a football game, you’d see some fan standing in the bleachers behind the goal posts, holding up a sign with that simple message, John 3:16.

Before entering my theological studies, I was a huge college football fan.  I’d spend hours on Saturday watching as many games as I could, especially the Big 12 games, with an all-too-worldly hope that my Red Raiders would finally rise thru the ranks and win the conference.  To my disappointment, the closest we ever got in this century was in 2008, when Texas Tech had a three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 south division with the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma.  It was a tie because we all had the same record, and the head-to-head matchups had UT beating OU, OU beating Tech, and Tech beating UT.  A three-way tie.

I remember that season so well because that was a rare year when we beat Texas at home.  Not only that, but they were ranked #1 in the nation that week.  It was the best moment to be a Red Raider.  The game came down to the last drive, with 8 seconds left to play, when Graham Harrell threw a 28-yard fade to receiver Michael Crabtree, who miraculously tip-toed into the end zone, scoring the winning touchdown with one second left on the clock.

Michael Crabtree, despite what you may think of his NFL career, was undisputedly one of the best receivers of his time.  He was a two-time unanimous All-American and twice won the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the best wide receiver in the nation.  Though the quarterbacks usually get the spotlight and the glory, their passing game is only as good as their wide receivers. And receiving is the key message today, on Trinity Sunday.

Receiving revelation

In every human heart, there is a longing.  It’s hard to describe.  It’s a desire for joy, but not fleeting pleasure.  A desire to quench our thirst, but not for a drink.  A desire for peace, but not just absence of conflict.  A desire to be in communion, but not just to stand next to someone.  And yet, we find nothing in the natural world that completely satisfies this longing.  There are plenty of things with which we try to satisfy this longing, but it’s ultimately a desire that nothing in this world can fulfill.

I’m talking about the desire for God.  It’s a desire that musicians have sung about in every age.  Two songs I can think of off the top of my head, “Everybody’s got a hungry heart” by Bruce Springsteen, and “God-shaped hole” by Plumb.  Both songs speak of the human heart’s search for a perfect love that can satisfy that deepest desire.

Because of this desire, we go searching for an infinite being who can satisfy the desire.  In ancient times, people created idols to worship, grand temples in which to pray to them, and mythologies to explain the world and our place in it.  Some of the smartest ones were even able to figure out that, if there is a God, he must be one, and he must be almighty.

And those philosophers were right.  But they still didn’t know this God.  They didn’t know his name.  They didn’t know much about him at all—they just had an inkling that he was there.

Then, that God did something amazing.  He revealed himself to mankind.  Slowly but surely, he began to call certain men and speak to them:  Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses.  And to Moses, he finally gave his name:  I AM.  In Hebrew, Yahweh or Jehovah.  The God who simply is, and who created all that is.

You see, for all the marvelous things that humans have been able to create, discover, and build, we would not be able to discover who this God is on our own.  He had to reveal himself to us so that we could know him.  We had to receive God’s self-revelation.  We didn’t create this God out of clay or wood; we received knowledge of him.But that’s not the end of the story.  This God continued to reveal himself to us. 

Receiving God as Trinity

When was the last time you went on a date?  For me, it was about 10 years ago, so I’m a bit rusty on how dates are supposed to go, but maybe you can remember what it was like to get to know someone special.  It doesn’t happen all on the first date!  A relationship takes months and years to unfold.  You get to know the other person little by little.  That’s the way it is with God.  We couldn’t handle it all at once, on the first date!  God slowly revealed himself to mankind in a way that we could receive it.

Think of that moment when Moses approached the burning bush and heard the name of God for the first time:  I AM.  That was a big moment in the relationship.  The next big moment in our relationship with God was the Incarnation—the coming of the Christ in the flesh!  Jesus was foretold by the prophets, but even they didn’t quite understand that the Messiah would be God’s own Son.  God had to reveal that to us.  And lastly, the final big moment in our relationship with God, the sending of the Holy Spirit, which we just celebrated last week.  Now we know who this God is!  He’s one God, but he’s a community of three persons.

Just like that three-way tie in the Big 12 south, the three persons of the Trinity are co-equal.  They all share in the divine substance.  In other words, each person of the Trinity is God.  That’s what we mean when we say in the creed, that the Son is “consubstantial with the Father.”  He is of the same divine substance.  Paul’s letter to the Colossians says of Jesus, “in him dwells the whole fullness of deity.”[1]  And in Jesus’ own words, “All that the Father has is mine.”[2]  That means that not only was Jesus a man, but he is also God.

Each person of the Trinity is eternal.  There was not a time when the Son did not exist.  He is “born of the Father before all ages.”  There was not a time when the Holy Spirit did not exist.  St. Augustine once reported that some people dared to ask, “What was God the Father doing before he begat the Son?”  to which he answered, jokingly, “He was preparing Hell for those who ask such questions!”  The Holy Trinity has always existed, and always will exist.  Remember, God’s name is simply, I AM.  In every moment, I AM.

We couldn’t have known who this God is by using our own intelligence alone.  That is how we know that this God we worship is not one of our own making.  Rather, we received our knowledge of him.

Receiving who we are

Not only do we receive God’s self-revelation, but we also receive our own being from him. You see, brothers and sisters, we are made in his image and likeness!  That explains our longing for community, our longing to live forever, our longing for perfect beauty, goodness, truth and peace.  We long for God!  It’s no wonder we spend our lives chasing these things, because we want God to be within us!

And he offers himself to us, each and every day.  Most especially in the Holy Mass, when we receive the Holy Eucharist, the real presence of the Son, into our very bodies.  And there, dwelling within us, our God makes us like him.  He transforms us from within,calling us to become like himself!

If God is holy, then he calls us to a life of holiness.  Scripture says, “be Holy, as the Lord your God is holy!”[3]

If God is love, then he calls us to grow in the virtue of love. St. John says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”[4]

If God is one, then he calls us to be united.  Jesus himself prayed for us, saying, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.”[5]

I could go on, but I think it’s clear: we who have received our being from the Holy Trinity, bear his seal upon our souls.  “He made us, we belong to him.”[6]  We receive our identity from the Holy Trinity, and we are destined to become like the Holy Trinity.

God himself is the answer to every hungry heart.  With St. Augustine we cry out, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

[1] Colossians 2:9

[2] John 16:15

[3] Leviticus 19:2

[4] 1 John 4:7

[5] John 17:11

[6] Psalm 100:3