The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
Catholic faith does not begin with belief in the existence of God. Properly speaking, we do not believe that God exists. “To believe” is the language of faith. Yet, reason demonstrates the existence of God, so faith is not necessary. Faith is what we believe about the God whose existence reason demonstrates. As such, we can truly say that the Catholic creed does not begin, “We believe in God.” Rather, it begins, “We believe in God, the Father almighty …” Reason tells us that God exists. Faith tells us that God is our Father. The first principle of Catholic faith is that God exists in relationship, first and foremost among the persons of the Holy Trinity and then, “when the fullness of time had come” (Gal 4:4), with us.
But, did God not have a relationship with humanity before the coming of Christ? Yes, of course. That relationship was manifested in the various covenants God established with Israel. But, the purpose of the covenants with Israel was not merely that this particular people would have a unique relationship with God. Israel was to be the instrument by which all nations would come to know God (Dt 4:5-7). When Israel obeyed God, they would be blessed; when Israel disobeyed God, they would be punished. The other nations would see this, and learn that the God of Israel is God.
But, Christ came to offer more than simply a relationship between God and a people, or even between God and all people. Christ came to redeem humankind. To be redeemed is more than being in right relationship with God. To be redeemed is to share in the divine nature (2 Pt 1:4). This is the inheritance Christ has won for us — to share in the very life of God! What is that life? It is love. It is love so profound that those who share in that love are one Being.
Sacramental marriage is a prefigurement of this, an image of the love shared among the persons of the Holy Trinity. When Christ sees those united in sacramental marriage, He does not see two people, but two people who are one in Christ. United in Christ, they are one. St. Paul speaks of Christ and the Church using the language of marriage. Christ and His Church are one, Christ is the head and the Church is His body.
This is the fundamental mystery of the Holy Trinity: three persons in one being. Three persons, one God.
We cannot hope to comprehend such a love in this life. We look to sacramental marriage as a model. Even still, it is a mystery that we cannot hope to comprehend this side of the veil. We will only comprehend this mystery when, as 2 Peter says, we come to share in the divine nature, when we are absorbed into the life of God.
This is the outward turning of which St. Augustine of Hippo spoke. It is a turning away from ourselves and our own concerns and a turning toward the other. We practice this, in a very real way, in our relationships with others in this temporal order. This is why the Church can say that the family is where we learn to love, because in the family are our first relationships, our “boot camp” for learning how to love. This is why we can say that our love for God is made manifest in our love for our brothers and sisters. This is why we can say that holiness is each day learning how to love a little better. It is all about love, and love is all about turning toward the other. Finally, our hope is that, when we stand before God, we will be absorbed into the life of the one who is utterly Other.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.