Last week was Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church, one of the most important feasts in the Church year. We are the Church and Pentecost was our feast. Now as the first thing we are invited to look at as we move forward is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
Don't think of the Trinity as something complex or beyond understanding. It is simple. And it is our example. Three persons in one God, each with a different role, each in communion with the other. A family of persons, where there is complete harmony, love and total peace. A wonderful community of love. A true example for us to follow.
The mutual self-giving love that is present within the Trinity overflows into creation itself. The persons of the Trinity love each other so much that this is the very cause of creation. There is so much love that it is almost necessary for creation to have been made in order to soak some of it up.
The mystery of the Trinity is at the very heart of the Spiritual Life. It is the summit and source of that yearning that causes us to enter on this journey of faith.
When we talk of the Trinity we are talking about how God is in himself. But the great mystics and men and women over the ages who are steeped in prayer tell us that we cannot speak about God until we learn to speak to him.
We are only God's acolytes, responding to the initiative he first made to us. For it is indeed true that each one of us has had a religious experience; each one of us has experienced God’s intervention in our life in some shape or form. If we did not we would not be here.
He has taken the initiative; of course this may be mediated through all sorts of other agencies, through the example of our parents, through illness, through accidents, through sudden flashes of insight. Whichever way this has come, it has made us realise that God loves us and wants us to be with him. He draws us to himself. He draws us into the mystery of himself; into the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
A few years ago I was in hospital at the bed of a dying man; he was a neighbour I knew fairly well. He was effectively an atheist and had known he was dying for about a month. I got a message from his wife to say that he had asked to see me. We spoke about the difficulty he had in believing in God. He thought that there must be a God but he felt that all the different religions got in the way. I didn't agree with him, but it is a commonly held view.
That was a few weeks before he went into hospital. But while he was dying, I stayed with him and his family for quite some time and before I left I asked him if he would like me to say the prayers for the dying. As soon as I started I was amazed because he suddenly started to gush forth in deep and profound prayer. This was a man who had not said a prayer since he was eight years old.
He spoke loudly and directly to God saying he really did believe in him and asked forgiveness for all his doubts and for the many sins he had committed over the years. He said that he was ready to die and asked Jesus to welcome him. He said all these things and much more in the same vein.
Accordng to me because he had not prayed for fifty years there was a tremendous build-up of prayer and at that moment within a few hours of his death the dam broke and he just poured out a great quantity of prayer. It was a most moving experience I can tell you. There were tears in my eyes as I listened to his words. This was a powerful intervention of God in his life. And it had a profound effect on me and the members of his family gathered around.
We cannot speak about God till we learn speak to him. And this is what God wants us to do; to communicate with him. After all, this is what we will be doing in heaven; communicating with God; communing with him; loving him; praising him. And there is no better preparation for heaven than spending time in prayer here and now.
We can become preoccupied with so many things, we think that there is so much to do, so much to learn, so much to get on with in the present moment that we tend to push prayer to the sidelines. Yet prayer is probably the most important activity we could ever engage in.
Profound though that experience was with that dying man pouring out a great fountain of prayer when he had never prayed for fifty years, we realise that it is not advisable to leave things that long. Prayer is something we need to do each day, prayer needs to be an essential part of our lives, prayer needs to be the bedrock on which everything else is constructed.
And we need to learn to pray in our youth; when we are eight, nine and ten we need to become aware of just how close God is to us and to enter on a journey of faith with him. This will lead us through the difficulties and temptations of the teenage years and help us to negotiate the beginning of our adult life.
Prayer is therefore an essential part of our life, without prayer we see God as a stranger; without prayer we become strangers to ourselves and we become unhappy with our lot in life. All this is because without prayer we have become disconnected from the very source of our being.
There is no doubt about it prayer is the key to life; prayer is the key to the Trinity; prayer is the key to heaven; prayer is as important to us as the very air we breathe.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket