There is an African story about God which goes like this. One day, as he travelled up and down the vast continent, God noticed that one particular tribe was losing its faith. So he manifested himself in a field where four men were working, one in each corner. The men saw God standing there in the center of the field, looked closely at him, and then fell to the ground in adoration.
God then vanished but watched what ensued. The four men ran back to their village, assembled all the people, and proclaimed that there could be no doubt: God truly existed, and cared for them, since he had come down to visit them. Hence, they should all start worshipping him in earnest. The people received the news enthusiastically. They could see that these men had had a holy vision. Then one of the villagers asked, “What was God wearing?”
wearing a red cloak,” the first man answered.
“No, he was wearing a blue cloak,” said the second.
“You”re both wrong,” said the third. “It was a green cloak.”
“You”re all crazy,” shouted the fourth. “He was wearing a yellow cloak.”
And with that they started to argue. The argument turned into a fight. In the end they despised and hated one another, and split up into four factions.
With a little reflection, they might easily have reached agreement. Each had been given a glimpse of God. Instead of insisting that each had the complete vision, they might have admitted that each had only a partial vision. Had they been open to the other person’s point of view, they could have ended up with a larger and richer image of God.
God is greater than us all. We can never fully comprehend God. We struggle to understand even earthly things. So how can we grasp heavenly things? Only the gift of wisdom can help us to understand the ways of God. People can know the truths of the faith and yet not know God.
It is very important to have a correct image of God. If we get this wrong, everything else will be out of focus. How can we pray properly, or how can we have a proper relationship with God, if we have a false or inadequate image of him? The Christian sees life as a response to God’s love.
To tell what God is like, all we have to do is look at Jesus. In the words of St. Paul, “He is the image of the invisible God.” What is Jesus like? Of all the images we have of Jesus, one of the loveliest is that of the Good Shepherd. It was Jesus himself who used it. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep. In Jesus we see the Father’s love for us. And what of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son, and between them and us.
The mystery of the Trinity is not something to argue about or even study. It is more some-thing to pray about and to live. The Christian lives in the world of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. This world is not somewhere in outer space. It is the same world of every day. As the African story shows us, that is where God manifests himself to us.