Saturday, June 02, 2012

Homily Trinity Sunday, Year B–Love, the Essence of God and of the Family

rublev trinityI’ve been involved in many youth and young adult groups over the years. One of the most effective ways I have seen for causing the group to be quiet was for the leader to make the Sign of the Cross. You could have 20 or 30 talking, joking, clowning teenagers but when the leader said, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” the whole group, with its Catholic instinct, immediately made the Sign of the Cross and quieted down.

While this is sort of a gimmick, I think it speaks to something very true. The Sign of the Cross was for most of us, the first prayer we ever learned. It is commonplace to Catholics, we make it all the time and know it right away. The Sign of the Cross in the life of a Catholic serves to root his entire life in the mystery that it expresses. But it can also have an unfortunate effect. It is so common that we can easily take it for granted and not give it, or our Trinitarian God, much thought. When we dip our fingers in Holy Water and make the Sign of the Cross as we enter the Church, do we think about what this really means? When we genuflect to the tabernacle before entering the pew, do we make the Sign of the Cross purposefully? When we make the Sign of the Cross after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, do we make it with reverence and awe at Who we have received?

Today, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is the perfect day to re-focus and concentrate all the more on Who God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, really is. The Holy Trinity, is the most supreme Truth of our Christian faith. For that reason, this Sunday is commonly regarded among priests as the hardest feast day to preach. It is important though that we still strive more and more to be as clear as we can about Who God Is. This is a great mystery that is only fully understood in heaven. But just because God is a mystery, doesn’t mean we simply resign and move on. The meaning of life itself is the lifelong pursuit of this mystery, of Who God Is and who we are to Him. We must not give up on it.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity comes now, near the beginning of Ordinary Time, I think, because it is the pinnacle of all of the great feast days we have celebrated so far: of Christmas, of Mary, Mother of God, the Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord, Lent, Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost. They all culminate in the Holy Trinity. Each feast day, one after the next, has revealed one more aspect of who God is. He became man, to a virgin mother, revealed himself to all nations, and underwent Baptism to show us the way to eternal life. He was crucified, died, was buried and ascended into heaven to show us, as Paul said, that “if we suffer with him we will be glorified with him.” And God the Holy Spirit came to us to preserve us in these truths. In fact, every feast day, every Sunday, every liturgical act is a celebration of the Holy Trinity, of God who is one in nature, but three in Persons. These three are numerically one, for there is only one God, just as Moses said in our first reading, “The Lord is God… there is no other.” There is only one, single, undivided God. This God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Scott Hahn, a popular Catholic theologian, has an interesting approach to the Trinity that I like very much. He explains that we often give up when it comes to mystery because we approach mysteries like we approach math problems. The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that three Persons are One God, but we know in math that three does not equal one. The Church accepts the truths of other sciences. How then can we understand the Trinity? Hahn suggests that mystery is better understood less like a math problem and more like a marriage. He wrote in his book, Signs of Life: “We cannot ever ‘figure out’ a spouse, but we can certainly grow in love, knowledge, and understanding of that person. The Trinity is the loving relationship we hope to know forever in heaven. If we are not growing in our love of that mystery, we are not growing any closer to heaven. And if that is so then our faith is superficial” (p 221-226).

The image of marriage helps us to understand mystery, but especially the mystery of the Trinity. God is not an in solitary confinement in heaven. The Godhead, the Trinity, is a community of love. The Father loves the Son from all eternity. The Son receives and returns this love from all eternity. And the love that they share is divine and so intense that it is a third Person, the Holy Spirit, proceeding forth from them from all eternity. This image of the Holy Trinity as the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love They Share is the one St. Augustine used to illustrate the Holy Trinity. This is an image we can know ourselves. In marriage, we see a husband who loves his wife so much that he gives his life and all he has to her. She receives this love completely and loves him completely in return. And the love they have is so intense that proceeding from their love is a third person, a child. Love is the essence of the family, as it is the essence of God. “Deus Caritas Est,” we read in 1 Jn 4:16 – God Is Love.

That is why Jesus empowered and commissioned his apostles to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” so that we could be “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,” brought into the inner life of the Trinity, into the family of God, and made sharers in His eternal exchange of Love. In our Baptism we received “a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” In the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist, this Spirit and this love is renewed. Through the Eucharist, behold, God is with us always, “until the end of the age.” This renewal allows you to continually know God, even if your particular point of reference for God, your natural family, is broken. He forms us in love to the degree that we accept His love through the sacramental life of the Church and share it through our good deeds. Love is a mysterious thing, the more we give it away the more it increases in us. This is a love we can rely on even if everyone else fails us. It all starts with the Sign of the Cross, the power and the mission to live the life of God.

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