Our tradition holds that God is “agape,” i.e. love in the sense of self-gift. The tradition, e.g. 1 John 4:8 & 16, says that God is love (‘agape’), not that God is “one who loves.” “Love” is not the name of a person. It’s the name of a relationship between three persons. God is “Love.” God is the loving community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That God is not a person but a relationship still feels strange to many Christians. Christianity doesn’t see God as a “supreme being” out there someplace who creates the universe and whom we are supposed to believe in and love. Yet many if not most Christians feel more comfortable with the idea of ‘a God out there.’ A non-Christian view of God.
The outcome is that for them the fact of the Trinity makes little or no difference to the concrete understanding of their lives: how they pray, how they live out their marriages, how they bring up their children, why they are part of the church, how they relate to others, how they spend their money, or even how they vote.
Philosopher William James said that if something is true, it makes a difference; and if it makes no difference, it mustn’t be true. I wonder if for most Christians the fact of the Trinity makes a difference. I suspect many people find it to be very strange information about God, but of no particular importance to their lives. If the pope were to announce that God is not three, but four persons, most parishioners might just shrug and wonder how to fit the fourth one in to the sign of the cross!
When we say the creed at Mass we don’t actually say that we believe in the Trinity. It is not one belief among others; it is the shape of all our beliefs. The whole creed is a Trinitarian confession. “I believe in God the Father who…,” followed by the doctrines of creation and providence. “And in God the Son who…,” followed our belief in the incarnation, redemption, and resurrection. “And in God the Holy Spirit…,” followed by statements of belief in scripture, the church, sacraments and the last things.
Where does our belief in God as Trinity relationship lead us? It leads us to community, to self-giving relationship to others. When a scribe asked Jesus about gaining eternal life, Jesus responded by asking him what he read in the scriptures. The scribe answered, “Love God….and love your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus agreed, “Right, do that and you will have life” – Lk 10:25ff.