Comedian Jay Leno is known for his sharp wit, but in his autobiography, called Leading With My Chin, he shows a warmer side—especially when he writes about his now-deceased parents. Jay fondly recalled an incident from high school. He had finally saved enough money to buy his first car—actually an old, beat-up pickup truck. It wasn’t much, but it was his, and he spent many hours working on his new prized possession. His parents saw how important the truck was to him, and as an expression of their support, they bought brand new upholstery for the seat. They also realized how disappointed Jay was when he accidentally broke the driver’s side window and couldn’t afford to get it fixed. One school day Jay was sitting in class when dark clouds appeared overhead, and soon it began raining very hard. From his desk Jay could see his truck in the parking lot, and he could imagine the rain coming in through the broken window, ruining the new upholstery. Then, to his complete surprise, Jay saw his parents’ car race into the parking lot; his mom and dad got out with a big sheet of plastic and rushed over to cover the broken window. As he watched them, Jay realized they had left work, purchased the plastic, and come immediately to school to protect his truck from the rain—just because they knew it was important to him. Jay Leno writes that as this realization came to him, he sat there in his high school classroom and cried (William J. Bausch, A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers, p. 421).
This is a beautiful story of family love—and this is the way God wants us to understand His love for us. God loved the world so much that He sent His Son for our salvation, and later the Father and Son together sent the Holy Spirit that we might be made holy and thus enabled to share in Their life. The Three Persons comprise a perfect family of love—and we are invited to enter into this mystery.
On Trinity Sunday, the Church celebrates one of the central teachings and mysteries of our Christian faith: there are Three equal Persons in One God. Understanding and explaining this truth is beyond our ability; what matters is that we believe and accept it—and the best way to do so is to see the reality of the Holy Trinity in terms of God’s love for us. God the Father is our Creator; Jesus the Son is our Redeemer; God the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. Each divine Person relates to us in a perfectly loving way. The Lord revealed Himself to Moses (Exodus 34: 4-6, 8-9) as “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” Moses had already seen the powerful deeds the Lord had performed in freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and he was well aware of the people’s sinfulness; instead of being terrified of the Lord, however, he trusted in God’s mercy. Jesus speaks of this mercy in the Gospel of John (3:16-18), telling Nicodemus that He, as the Son of God, was sent into the world not to condemn it, but to save it; because of God’s great love, all who believe shall have eternal life. And St. Paul greets the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:11-13) by saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!” As Christians, we believe that God seeks to share His life with us by offering us grace, love, and fellowship—and our response determines our eternal destiny.
The idea of love and the number three go together—not only in terms of the Holy Trinity, but also in regard to how God wants us to live our lives. We should have a three-fold experience of love in our lives: love of God, love of our neighbor, and love of ourselves. Loving God simply means placing Him first in our lives, doing our best to obey His commandments, and trying to come closer to Him each day. Contrary to what many people believe, love is not primarily a feeling, but an act of the will. This means we can choose to love God, even if we don’t automatically have warm and personal feelings toward Him; once we make this decision, the proper emotions and sentiments will eventually come.
We’re also called to love our neighbor, which means anyone and everyone we encounter. In practical terms, we are asked by the Lord to help those in need, treat others as we wish to be treated, and recognize and accept each person we meet as a fellow member or potential member of the family of God. This sort of love is also a choice, not merely a sentimental feeling; when we try to love others in God’s Name, even if we feel little more than indifference toward them, our Heavenly Father is nonetheless very pleased.
Lastly, we’re called to love ourselves—not in a conceited, egotistical, or narcissistic way, but in a manner which recognizes the dignity we possess from being made in God’s image and likeness. This sort of holy self-love means holding ourselves to high moral standards, forgiving ourselves when we fall short, and using God’s grace to grow in virtue and to develop our talents and abilities. Jay Leno witnessed a beautiful example of his parents’ love for him; their act of simple kindness touched him deeply, and was something he always remembered. God has shown us a sign of incredible love, and it’s something that should change us for all eternity. We need not try to explain the Holy Trinity or delve deeply into this theological mystery; what matters is knowing that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are a perfect family of love, and seeking to share in Their life. With one Voice, the Three Persons call to us; with united and loving hearts, may we respond.