I’ve just finished reading the latest excellent book by Andrew Cohen and Professor Brian Cox, entitled The Planets, which brings to life the most memorable events in the history of the Solar System. It’s also been turned into a TV series being shown on the BBC, and critics say it’s much better than the book, so I look forward to watching it. As I read the book, my memory was drawn back to a book I read way back in 1983, Lost in the Cosmos, by Walker Percy, in which we find an extraterrestrial being persistently signaling these questions to earthlings: “Do you read? What do you read? Are you in trouble? How did you get in trouble? If you are in trouble, have you sought help? If you did, did help come? If it did, did you accept it? What is the character of your consciousness? Are you conscious? Do you have a self? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are doing? Do you love? Do you know how to love? Are you loved? Do you hate? Do you read me? Come back. Come back.” ‘Come Back’ is a term used in CB short wave radio (Citizens Band) lingo which has been widely used since its invention in 1945: ‘Come Back’ is a request for someone to acknowledge a transmitted message or reply to a question.
Humanity has spent billions on space exploration and will spend billions more. We devote enormous resources to our communications industries. We have built and will continue to expand an information highway that has radically changed the way we live. But when it comes to discussion about whether or not there is a personal God, we are quite skittish. Many of our contemporaries are actively sceptical that God has anything to say to us. Others say we shouldn’t take God seriously. Still others want to remove all references to God from our schools and away from all public discourse. Any number of intellectuals inform us that when it comes to the cosmic stage upon which we act out our lives, there is no author, no director, and no text. They suggest that it is man’s task, not God’s, to bring order out of chaos and to create things out of nothing.
It is in this context that the Church puts us today in contact with that Being upon which all realities find their purpose and meaning.
Is religion based on myths and lies? Well, the author of The Da Vinci Code and many books like it would have us believe that. Others tell us that humans have constructed a God for themselves. What they are telling us is that God is fiction.
And yet, when you sit down and think about it, no human intelligence would have ever fabricated a God that was three Persons in one God. Such a depiction of God would have been beyond the wildest imaginings in any human’s mind, if not now, then certainly two thousand years ago. It is, at least to me, absurd to think that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was invented by monks in the Middle Ages or created by otherworldly priests incarcerated in some impregnable citadel in Spain.
The teaching that God is Three Persons in One comes to us only from Jesus Christ. It’s a doctrine found nowhere else in any other known religion, past or present. It is totally unique.
Our Lord commissioned His Apostles and sent them out into the world to baptise believers in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord asks His followers to live in the life of the Triune God and to share that life with others.
Those first followers were Jews, children of the Faith of Abraham. Their view of God’s presence was magnificent. God was everywhere and in everything. For example, when it rained, they didn’t complain, because they saw rain as a blessing, rain made things grow and gives us life.
When the Jewish converts to Christianity met Jesus, their vision of God took on another dimension, one requiring a stupendous adjustment. In Jesus of Nazareth they discovered that God lived among us. They observed how He behaved, how He cared and loved, how He lived his life with an inner authenticity, an integrity, and an authority that gave His humanity powers never before known in any human being. Saint Peter announced Him to be the Messiah. Saint Thomas, when he encountered the risen Christ, declared “My Lord, and my God!”
After Our Lord’s Ascension these same followers experienced God’s Presence in yet another way. They realised that Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, was personally present to them in His Spirit-filled, resurrected humanity. They experienced God’s Presence in the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, they experienced God in moments of special and great human significance, in suffering, and even in death. They came to know and experience the Holy Spirit who comes to us now and forever in His Mystical Body, the Church.
Christ gave these people courage. He gave them joy. He gave them love. He gave them power to face the world. He gave them God’s Presence. Filled with God’s personal Presence, they entered into our world. We, their successors, do the same as we carry on their mission.
That same Holy Spirit is present among us to empower us, to heal us, to love us, and to lift us up. That same Holy Spirit invites us into God’s life. He is like Walker Percy’s extraterrestrial who persistently signals these questions to us: “Are you in trouble? How did you get in trouble? If you are in trouble, have you sought help? If you did, did help come? If it did, did you accept it? What is the character of your consciousness? Are you conscious? Do you have a self? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are doing? Do you love? Do you know how to love? Are you loved? Do you hate? Do you read me? Come back. Come back.”
God says to us: Come back to me with all your heart.