The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – June 12, 2022
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalms 8:4-9; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
The Central Mystery of the Faith and Life
The Trinity lies at the origin and core of it all, at the origin and core of our entire faith, the central Mystery of our faith (Catechism 234). And I don’t know about you, but for the longest time, I never really understood the importance of this fact. I was too caught up in defining and understanding the Trinity. Three persons in one God, but God is one, but there are three.
But then one day, I was talking to one of my good friends (a father figure really) and he said something that changed it all. We weren’t even talking about the Trinity; we were talking about something else entirely. But what he said changed everything! Because as I have alluded to before, I was very caught up in trying to understand and comprehend the faith—I was trying to encapsulate the faith, “figure it out.” And what he said helped me begin to make a shift from that (trying to know everything, follow the rules and expectations)—it shifted from that to allowing the faith to embrace me, embrace me and the desires of my heart.
And what he said was this line from Psalm 8. He posed the question to me that the Psalmist poses to God in our Psalm today. The Psalmist asks God, “What is man/humanity that you should be mindful of him? mortal man/humanity that you should care for him?” And then my friend said—and the sincerity and seriousness with which he said really struck me—he said, “No question in life has ever struck me like this one.”
Why? Why did that one line from Psalm 8 strike him so much? Why did it strike him to the point of saying that, of all the questions and problems and reflections in life, this question was the question that struck him the most, that stayed with him day after day?
And really, the answer becomes clearer the moment you read the line before it, and the answer to this whole Trinity Sunday business becomes clearer as well.
“When I behold your heavens…the moon and the stars”
The line right before that question is this—the Psalmist is speaking to God and says this, “When I behold your heavens [the sky], the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place…” In other words, “When I am looking up into the night sky, all of the moon and the stars, all of this which you have created and set in place—when I gaze at this seemingly infinite and unfathomable glory—the question comes to my mind, the question overwhelms me: Why do you think of me? Why do you bother with me? Why do you care about me?
Have you ever contemplated the universe? Have you ever gone outside of the city where there is no light pollution and just laid on the ground and stared into the night sky? Or have you looked at the pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the galaxies and stars?
Do you know how many stars there are? Do you know how many galaxies there are? Do you know how big the universe is? The universe is (or at least it was this morning, since it is still expanding)—the universe is 92 billion light years across. That’s 92 billion times 5.88 trillion miles across. There are around a 100 billion (some would say 100 trillion) galaxies in the universe, each one of them containing around 100 billion stars.
Those are crazy numbers! Almost incomprehensible! I was at a talk once by a high energy particle astrophysicist—you don’t need to know why!—and he was trying to help people picture how big the universe is, because how do you picture 92 billion times 5.88 trillion miles or 100 billion or trillion galaxies each with 100 billion stars? And he said, “Picture a sandcastle where every single star is a single grain of sand: how big would the castle be? Five miles high, five miles wide, and five miles long—where every single star is a grain of sand!” “There are ten times more stars in the night sky than there are grains of sand on the world’s deserts and beaches.” (UK, Telegraph) There are in the universe 70 sextillion stars; that’s 7 followed by 22 zeros [remember that number]. How big is that number?
So our sun—you can fit about a million earths into our sun. The biggest star that we have found is called “Big Dog,” and inside Big Dog you can fit 7 quadrillion earths. What’s a quadrillion? We’re going to do a little exercise and try to learn numbers. Imagine I’m going to ask someone to count to a million: we’re going to see that person again in 11.5 days. Another person is going to count to a billion: and it’s going to be some time, they will come back in 31 years. Another is going to count to a trillion: we’re not going to see that person again, it would take them 31,000 years. And I’m going to count to a quadrillion: it will take me 31 million years. You can fit 7 quadrillion earths inside one star.
Ok, so remember a sextillion? You want to know how long it would take me to count to a sextillion? You will have to count to a quadrillion (which would take 31 million years) 10 million times. And there are 70 sextillion stars in the universe.
“What is man that you should be mindful of him?”
Why is this important? Because as scripture tells us, this God we believe in, this Triune God we celebrate today—God knows every single one of them by name: “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.” (Psalm 147:4, c.f., Isaiah 40:26). He knows all of them by name! And in this universe which is 92 billion light years across and filled with 70 sextillion stars, there is one creature He loves the most. And it’s you. This God who made all of this out of love, this God holds you, your life, in the palm of His hand. And He’s not anxious. And He has no rival. God, this Triune God we celebrate today, is massive beyond all comprehension, and yet His loving gaze, His affection, His care, He is mindful of one creature—and that’s you.
As our first reading spoke of so beautifully (I encourage you to go back and read it), the Wisdom with which God created all of this, the “engineer” behind the entire universe, so the Son and Holy Spirit—one thing caught His eye. We were told, “When the Lord established the heavens I was there…I was beside him as his craftsman…and I found delight in” the incredible galaxies of the universe. No. “I was beside him as his craftsman…and I found delight in the human race” (Proverbs 8).
This God delights in you. He wants you—not just wants, but has created, destined you to share in His own life! That Triune life, the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—He has destined you to share in that life! Not even the angels have that privilege! Do you realize that? Not even the angels are destined to share in God’s life like we are!
Not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived
It’s very easy to lose sight of this. I mean, with all of the problems and the mess that the world and our families, and maybe even our own life is in—it’s easy to be bogged down and anxious, or fearful and discouraged.
And yet what are we told? What is the question posed? “What is man/humanity that you should be mindful of him? mortal man/humanity that you should care for him?” The psalmist is so convinced of God’s mindfulness and care for him—while gazing at this seemingly infinite universe, he is so convinced of God’s mindfulness and care for him, that all fear and anxiety, all discouragement begins to lose its power over him. In fact, as Paul says today, “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts!” This God who created the universe which is 92 billion light years across, who created all of these 70 sextillion stars—this God loves you, cares for you, upholds and sustains you. And has destined you to share in His life. This is precisely what we just spent all of Lent and Easter celebrating! God became man, suffered and died for us, rescued us, and has sent His own Spirit so we can share in His life!
That God comes to meet us. Here in this Eucharist He comes to meet us. We share in His own divine life. What is going on here is so much bigger, so much more awesome that we can possibly fathom—we can’t even fathom those numbers! And yet the Triune God, creator of the universe—His delight is you. No question has ever struck me quite like this one: “O Lord, what am I that your are mindful of me? Poor, weak, frail, mortal me that you care for me?”