The Triune God

Question: I was taught that the persons of the Trinity are all equal. But Jesus says, somewhere, that the Father is greater than him. Is this so, and does this mean I was taught incorrectly?  

Edwin, Oklahoma

Answer: You were taught correctly. The three person of the Trinity are all equal. Regarding their equality and oneness, the preface of the Holy Trinity says of our Triune God: In the confession of the true and eternal Godhead there is adored a distinctness of persons, a oneness in essence, and an equality in majesty. 

So, what does it mean when the same Jesus who said, “The Father and I are One” (Jn 10:30), also says, “The Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28)? 

Theologically it means that the Father is the source in the Trinity. All the members are co-eternal, co-equal, equally divine, but the Father is the Principium Deitatis (“the Principle of the Deity”).  

Jesus proceeds from the Father from all eternity. In effect Jesus is saying, “I delight that the Father is the principle of my being, even though I have no origin.” 

Devotionally, Jesus is saying I always do what pleases my Father. Jesus loves his Father, is crazy about him, is always talking about him and pointing to him. In effect, he says, by calling the Father greater, “I look to my Father for everything and I do what I see him doing (Jn 5:19) and what I know pleases him (Jn 5:30). His will and mine are one, and what I will to do proceeds from him and I do what I know accords with his will, Whom I love.” 

It says in Luke, that Jesus was subject to his Father and Mother, Joseph and Mary. Were they superior to him? No. And neither is Jesus less than equal to his Father by looking to him for everything and being of one will with him. 

Disabled

Question: If God made us to know him, love him and serve him, why did he make some of us who will never be able to do this because they do not have all their faculties? 

Thomas, Pennsylvania

Answer: Your question seems to define “knowing” in merely intellectual terms. Yet knowing, in terms of faith, is something richer than a mere intellectual grasping of God. 

Further, we cannot know fully the inner life of the mentally disabled. The same can be said for the very young.  

I have a memory of my very early childhood when I was perhaps 5 years old, and that memory is of great intimacy with God, who spoke to me simply and with love, and I to him. As I grew older, and my brain grew “bigger,” my heart also seemed to diminish and I lost that experience of intimacy with God. I have spend my later years trying to recover that intimacy. 

I do not offer this memory as proof that little children, or, by analogy, the mentally disabled, all have this intimacy, but only to indicate that there are mysteries in how God relates to us that cannot be simply reduced to high intellectual knowing. 

It would seem rather that God relates to us in ways appropriate to our state. It would also seem we should at least be open to the possibility that the mentally disabled may have an even greater intimacy with God than we of “able mind” can only admire as we seek to become more “like little children, so as to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mk 10:15). 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyrpian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.