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Homily – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Prov 8:22-31
Ps 8     R/. O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Rom 5:1-5
Jn 16:12-15

Audio: soundcloud.com/pereroger

When we examine Scripture and the history of salvation, one of the things that stands out very clearly is God’s desire for us to be in relationship with Him. From the Fall of Adam and Eve to the gathering of the people of Israel to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus until this very day, God is searching out for us, calling us to come to Him so that we might be in relationship with Him.

But not just any kind of relationship. God doesn’t just want to be friends: He wants us to be in communion with Him, to be one with Him. This is the heart of the Gospel message we’ve been hearing for several weeks now, and which, in a sense, culminated in the celebration of Pentecost last Sunday. God want’s us to be one with Him; that’s why He sent His Son Jesus to teach us about Him and His love for us, and to show us how to respond to His invitation; and that why He sent us the Holy Spirit, to make that union possible and to deepen our knowledge and experience of His love and mercy.

Trinity_StainedGlass.jpgAnd this is why now we celebrate this Sunday the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity,
because God is not isolated or alone, but is in His very being a relationship of love. Last year I described to you the notion of the Trinity as a communion of love: the Father is the One who loves; Jesus, the Son, is the One who is loved and who loves in return; and the Holy Spirit is the One who is the mutual love.

In celebrating this great mystery the Sunday after Pentecost, we also celebrate the reality that God wants us to be participants in that relationship of mutual love, in this communion of divine Persons. God created us not to be independent and solitary beings, but to be one with Him. That’s why He created us in His image and likeness: so that we, too, can love as He loves. In fact, loving is at the very core of what it means to be human.

But our capacity to love isn’t to be focussed on ourselves, on being loved. To love means to reach out to the other for the sake of the other, to desire for the other what is good for the other. And this is what Jesus teaches us most perfectly by reaching out to us in our sinfulness and bringing us mercy so that we might truly live.

As disciples this is key for us, because we’re called to imitate our Master. Jesus brought us into communion with the Trinity through Baptism, and He continues to sustain and nourish our union with Him through the other Sacraments. But He does this not just for our individual sake: we’re not united to Jesus just for ourselves alone. Precisely because we’ve been called to share in the life and love of the Trinity, we’re also called to share in Jesus’ mission to bring that same communion to the world.

Love, precisely because it always looks to the other, also always seeks to expand itself toward another. That’s why Mother Teresa wasn’t satisfied to just embrace one dying person, or why missionaries don’t stop after just one conversion. Jesus thirsts for everyone to share in His Trinitarian life, and so must we.

If we’ve truly experienced the love and mercy that Jesus has come to bring, then we need to share it with others; like Him, we need to desire that others may come to know and experience His love for them. This is our mission as disciples.

But we also need to love one another; we need to seek communion with each other as well. As a children’s book once put it, “If Jesus loves me and He loves you, too, then I ought to love you, too”. We need to reach out to each other to build communion, and not just as a closed-off group of mutual affection and appreciation, but as a community that is constantly reaching out to others to invite them in also. This is particularly the mission of the family and of the Parish, because it’s through us that the world will come to know and experience the love of Jesus. By the way that we greet others; by the way that we welcome them and include them, others will come to know that God loves them and wants them in communion with Him. But if we ignore them, give them the cold shoulder or push them away, then that becomes the experience of God we give them. This is why Jesus said, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35).

When we ponder on this reality of being called to communion with God and with each other, we can begin to get a glimpse into what it means for the Trinity to be a communion of love.

As we celebrate today this great mystery of the God who reveals Himself as a communion of love, may we open our hearts to His invitation, allowing Him to draw us into this communion with Him, so that in turn, we might work to bring others in as well. Amen.

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Holy Trinity 101

On the Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate the most profound mystery of our Faith: the Holy Trinity. Now by ‘mystery’, I don’t mean some sort of puzzle or thing to be solved. ‘Mystery’ in terms of the Faith refers to a belief based on Divine Revelation, especially one that’s beyond our full human understanding. So to say the Trinity is the most profound mystery, is to say it’s the most central aspect our faith as Christians: it’s “the mystery of God in himself. …the source of all the other mysteries of faith” (Catechism, no. 234). It’s also the most complicated mystery of our Faith, one that we cannot know by reason alone.

We know about the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – only because Jesus Himself told us about it. He spoke frequently of His Father, and later of the Spirit of truth who would come to teach us (Jn 14:16-17; 16:13). Then there’s the great Commission: Baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). We find in these, and many other passages, the three Persons of the Trinity: Jesus the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev, 15th century.

Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev, 15th century.

But these three Persons are not three separate gods; they’re one God. And they’re not three ‘faces’ or ‘roles’ of the one God, as if God took on different forms to do different jobs. The Trinity is one God because the three ‘Persons’ have the same ‘nature’; they’re consubstantial, as we say in the Nicene Creed. That’s why we call it the Trinity, the ‘tri-unity’, the ‘three-in-one’.

This Tri-Personal Unity can be better understood by looking at how they relate one to another. The Father and the Son and the Spirit all have the same Divine Nature; therefore they are one God. But they differ from each other according to how they relate:

The Father is the source and origin of all things. We call Him ‘Father’ not because He is male, but because everything finds its beginning in Him, and because He is loving to all His children (Catechism, no. 239). As St. John says, God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and love necessarily seeks to flow out of itself toward the object of affection.

The Son is the first object of affection: He is the beloved who is begotten by the Father’s love. It’s this begetting that makes the Father ‘Father’, and the Son ‘Son’. And since God is love in His very nature, the Father has always flowed out to the Son, and the Son has always existed with the Father as the receiver of this love. It’s for this reason that St. John writes: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1). They are distinct Persons because they relate to one another as Father and Son, as the One who loves and the One who is loved and who loves in return.

The Spirit, in this analogy, is the Love who binds them; the Love which flows from Father to Son, and from Son to Father. And since this exchange of love between the Father and the Son has existed from eternity, so also has the Holy Spirit. While knowledge of the three Divine Persons was revealed to us over time, their existence is from eternity. As the early Church Fathers would say: There was no time when the Father was without the Son or the Spirit. Now you begin to see why it’s the most complicated mystery of our faith.

As we rejoice in this great mystery of God’s divine love, may we contemplate it so as to grow in our love for the Father, Son and Spirit. For more reading, see Catechism, nos. 232-248.

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