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Jonathan Milberg wrote:

Hi, guys —

A big part of me would like to be a Catholic. There is one problem.

I believe Jesus Christ is God, the Father and the words Son of God and Holy Spirit are modes of the One Person.

This seems to be the way for me, given my Jewish roots.

  • Can I still be a Catholic?

Jonathan Milberg

  { Given my Jewish roots, can I still be a Catholic if I hold this view of the Trinity? }

John replied:

Hi Jonathan,

My name is John DiMascio. I'm one of Mike's colleagues who sometimes helps out with the questions posed to the web site.

It's wonderful that you want become a Catholic . . . truly this is God calling you to perfect your Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As a Jew, we consider you an older brother in this faith. God used Israel and descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, to be the beacon for the Gentiles to navigate the darkness and enter into the light of His Love.

Now to your question about the Trinity. It is indeed a profound and substantial question — indeed a question or Mystery that the Church Herself has been grappling with from the very beginning but the operative word here is Mystery. A Mystery is something that is revealed to us. We know it is so because God has revealed it to us. We see it, but our ability to fully understand it, is limited.

So the actual definition of the Trinity is that there is One God, in three (3) Persons, each distinct, each fully God, of the same substance, but only one God. Now that's a really difficult thing to try and wrap our human minds around.

  • How can this be?

What you have described is known as Modalism and while there are elements of truth in your description, it is radically incomplete. I don't say that to condemn you. I'm just pointing out how difficult the teaching on the Trinity is to grasp. The fact is, if we were to have more than a 10-second discussion about the Trinity, we would be bound to involuntarily fall in to a heresy so our approach must be to ponder and enter into the Mystery rather than try to explain it.

So I'm going to ask you to think more like a Jew or an Eastern Catholic, rather than a Western Catholic. Why? Because the Eastern or Semitic mind set more readily embraces paradox rather then reject it as contradiction.

Yes, in once sense the Son is an expression of the Father, as is the Holy the Spirit but that's not the whole picture. So let's talk about Jewish traditions that are seemingly unrelated just to get you thinking like a Jew.

When you celebrate Passover, you don't just remember the event, you actually enter in to it with your ancestors. The Seder isn't a re-enactment . . . it is a making present. The Greek word for this is Anamnesis. In English it gets translated remembrance or memorial but it is far more. To the rest of the world it might be the common calendar year 2104 but at the Seder meal, today's Jews sat an ate with the Moses and Jews as they awaited their deliverance and indeed their own deliverance.

  • Now this doesn't really make rational sense does it?

Our western mind set, rooted in Greek philosophy and logic, immediately rejects this sort of thinking as illogical and irrational but it is still true. . . and so it is with all the Mysteries of our faith.

There is only so much we can fully understand yet God calls to us to participate.

Pope St. John Paul II explained the Trinity as follows . . . God is family . . . He didn't say like a family, or a family. He said God is family. God's infinite love eternally begets the Son, who eternally loves the Father back and that Love is the Holy Spirit.

In Genesis 2, God describes marriage by saying the two shall become one flesh. Just as Marriage completes a man and woman and their love produces new life, the Trinity is complete and, in Itself, is a Perfect Expression of Perfect Love.

Now this is still an incomplete picture and, as I warned, any discussion of This Great Mystery that goes beyond any official dogmatic definition, is bound to lead to accidental error or heresy but, in a way, that's the beauty. You see, just as God is Relationship, He calls us all to a relationship.

  • And what is that relationship?

It's fellowship, company, and constant discovery. As we ponder the wonders of who God is and as we seek to draw near in response to His Beckoning, we continue to discover. There is constant wonderful novelty that, as we discover more, the Revelation becomes clearer.

We can't exhaust this discussion in one e-mail — in fact, we can't exhaust it in a life time but the mere fact that God has called you to ask this question, tells me that He is calling you to complete your faith as Jew and enter the Church.

So I would recommend a few things:

  • First and foremost pray. Ask the Lord to draw you nearer to Himself. Tell Him you want know Him and, when you pray, remember that God wants nothing more than to spend time with you. It says in Genesis that God used to walk with Adam in the Garden in the cool of the evening. He created us as an expression of His Love. He not only loves us, but He likes us. No one likes your company more that God. He cares about everything you think. When you laugh or take joy in something, so does He. He wants to share eternity with you but that's not just an abstraction — that's a tangible reality. He wants to share your work day, your family time, that movie you might enjoy, that ball game or concert, that stressful situation at work, your successes and failures, and more.

    As you let Him into the all the areas of your life, He will continue open your eyes and more importantly open your heart to understand or enter in to the Mystery of who He is.

  • Second, you need to be reading the Scriptures . . . both the Old and New Testaments.

    Also read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and perhaps, since the Trinity seems to be your biggest question right now, do a web search for the documents from the First Nicene Council and the subsequent Council of Constantinople which dealt with the Trinity. This is not light reading but if you want to dig into the actual process by which the Church discerned the definition of the Trinity, this is where to start. (About the Catholic Councils.)

    If you can't find a Catechism, it's available on-line and or Mike can make arrangements for you to get one.

  • Third, please remain in contact with us. No doubt you will have more questions. If you could tell us where you live, we might be able to connect you with someone in your area or find you a good parish where you can start attending Mass.

  • Finally, I recommend you try to find a solid RCIA Program (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Entering such a program is an important step in your journey.

    It is not a commitment to become a Catholic, but it is a commitment to enter a period of discernment and study. It is meant to be a community of folks, like yourself, with Catholics, both laity and clergy. If we can help find you a good program local to you, we would be thrilled to be of assistance.

God Bless for now. Please stay in touch. Copy Mike on any e-mails you send me as he likes to follow these discussions.

Welcome home Jonathan and welcome to the family.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio
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