Breath of the Spirit: Resting in Mystery

Breath of the Spirit: Resting in Mystery

In our soundbite, social media culture, we tend to value clarity and brevity above all. However, today’s reflection on God as Trinity reminds us that the need to define can unnecessarily limit our knowing. Instead, there can be great comfort and consolation in the mystery of Love’s vast unknowability. 

May 26, 2024: Trinity Sunday
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33: 4-6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans: 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Resting in Mystery

A reflection by Carter Fahey

When I first told people I was writing a reflection for Trinity Sunday, I was met with sympathy—even from priests! The readings for this Sunday are some of my favorites in the entire lectionary, so I was somewhat baffled by this response. Why wouldn’t I be excited to write about the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, one of the most beautiful and profound tenets of the Catholic faith? Upon further investigation, though, I understand why people might be hesitant. I’ve spent the past two semesters in lectures on historical approaches to the Trinity, and we still haven’t made it past the early medieval period! There’s obviously a lot to be said, and it can feel a bit overwhelming! While there is much to be gained from academic theology, I think there’s also much to learn in considering the Trinity as a mystery, not something we can fully understand.

Anyone who knows me well or has heard me talk about theology knows that I tend towards answers and definitions, so this is a bold statement for me. I like to know what I believe in and be able to explain why. This is mainly because I didn’t grow up Catholic, and a lot of my faith formation took place in a very academic environment—I’ve had to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how I fit into the Church and placing myself in boxes. Is my spirituality more Dominican, or is it Ignatian? Do I prefer modern liturgy or something more traditional? Should I be open about my queer identity, or is it better to keep that private? These categorical questions allow me to make space for myself in a Church that has otherwise left me in a state of pastoral and doctrinal limbo, and to build an identity for myself that is distinctively Catholic and queer. In some way, we all tend to lean into categoriesit’s part of human nature. Life is uncertain, and recognizing these attributes in ourselves gives us a concrete way to understand our lives and relate to others. Our choices, preferences, and experiences do, after all, shape who we are. 

But, as it is often said, life is always so clear cut. Despite my best efforts to fit into the Church’s mold, not everything has an easy answer, or even an answer at all. Some things are simply mysteries, and this can be hard to accept. These mysteries, though, aren’t all the same. There’s the version of mystery that we often think of—something that we don’t yet know but could, in theory, find out or discover through human means. The monk in my favorite mystery series doesn’t know who committed the crime at the beginning of the book, but he can do some sleuthing to find out. But there’s also the theological sense–a reality that we, as humans, cannot fully understand by our own efforts. 

It is this sense that we mean when we say that the Most Holy Trinity is a mystery, and it is this sense that can challenge us. In a world so packed with information, categorization, and distraction, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and what truly has meaning in our faith and lives. We are challenged to remember, in contemplating the mystery of the Trinity, what our true focus should be as Christians: the awe-inspiring depths of God’s love and mercy, revealed in Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, in the outpouring of the Spirit, and the ways we enact these realities in our very own lives. Like Moses in the first reading, we must ask ourselves, “Did anything so great ever happen before?”  

The very nature of God, so fundamentally different from anything we can imagine, ensures that the Trinity remains a mystery. This inherent enigma should be comforting, though. It gives us the space to be human: to change, to grow, to be uncertain. Even when the world asks us to define ourselves, to explain and justify our way of being, we do not need to fit ourselves into neat, tidy boxes and categories or explain our existence for the comfort of the Church. God gives us permission to be the complex, indefinable people we truly are. Christ certainly did not require definitions and explanations during his life on earth; he only asked that we love. 

So we, too, can rest in comforting uncertainty and mystery. LGBTQIA+ people are models of radical love and living proof that there is joy in breaking boundaries. Our lives do not need to follow some predefined path, and accepting uncertainty can allow us to see God at work. What matters the most is not how we define ourselves—though this can be helpful—but, as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, that we are “led by the Spirit,” and are therefore “children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” 

We have been adopted and given everything we need to be visible witnesses of God’s love. This infinite and unchanging love does not depend on our ability to fit ourselves into predefined boxes or conform to societal norms. Love never leaves us. Even when we face uncertainty, suffer, and bear the crosses of our daily lives, we are never alone. Christ assures us in the gospel reading that he is always wherever we are—with us “until the end of the age.” 

Carter Fahey (he/him) is from Boston, Massachusetts. He is a recent convert and has an interest in doing outreach work to Catholic communities to combat misinformation and create opportunities for community among LGBTQIA+ people.