Gods Rule of Three

God’s Rule of Three 

If you ever take a class at one of the comedy clubs in the neighborhood, you’ll learn about a concept called the “rule of three.” It is ubiquitous in the jokes of late night comics, sitcoms, and movies. An example of the rule of three is a waiter in a restaurant saying, “I’d like to introduce you to today’s fresh fish specials. We are serving salmon, halibut, and canned tuna.”

The structure of the joke is actually very simple. First, a comedian trains the listener’s thoughts to flow as if they were on the established tracks of a train. The first two examples in the joke “set up” the track, but then a third example intentionally derails your thoughts and the resulting jolt (hopefully) is something at which we will chuckle. It is the thrill of the expected meeting the unexpected that delights us.

Today is the Church’s celebration of our own “rule of three,” the dogma of the Holy Trinity. Like the comedian’s “rule of three” it plays with the “entirely predictable” meeting the “entirely unpredictable” and delightfully so. This dogma of the Trinity is so important to Catholics that it we acclaim it before we begin or end anything we do. From our Baptism to our daily prayers to our final farewell at a funeral, we do these things “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

But where in the readings of today (or anywhere in scripture) do we see God named as “The Holy Trinity?” Nowhere actually. The closest we might come in today’s reading is when Saint Paul writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Cor 13:13) But to go from that inference to a theology that enshrines the notion of God as a trinity is quite a leap. Which makes it curious for us as Christians. At the end of the day, it certainly would have been easier if God had used Moses, Saint John, or Saint Paul to explicitly say “Hey, this is who God is. God is actually one God, but you’ll experience God in three persons.” But he didn’t.

Why then do we define ourselves through this belief especially when we can’t fully understand it? This teaching was never explicitly taught by Jesus. Rather it was inferred through the thought and holy reflection of the early Christians. Since then, we’ve held to it, even after it has become a sticking point between us and other monotheistic religions who think we are worshiping three Gods. (Hint… we don’t),

The mystery of the Trinity and rich and wondrous. Saints, poets, and artists have exhausted countless efforts to describe this mystery, and each attempt both inches us closer to understanding the nature of God and at the same time pushes our understanding farther away. As we try to ponder the Trinity, we discover more about who God is in much the same way that we learn to deeply value the mystery of a good movie, or a good book, or a good friendship. Mystery isn’t about something being unknowable, but rather realizing that the more we explore it, the more we appreciate it.

In this way, the core teaching about God within the Catholic Community is itself a revelation about the expected meeting the unexpected, like the “rule of three” in a comedian’s finely tuned routine. God’s mystery comes crashing into our forecasted plans with an embedded joy. In this way, God delights both in us and with us. Through the Holy Trinity, which we celebrate today, God invites us to enter his ever-unfolding revelation as we do everything in God’s “rule of three.”

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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