May. 26, 2018

Holy Trinity, 2018

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Readings: 1st- Deut. 4:32-34, 39-40; 2nd- Rom. 8:14-17; Gospel- Matt. 28:16-20

The doctrine of the Trinity occupies a central place in the history of Catholic theology. Historically, the doctrine has faced attacks, but we are not going into all the history of Arianism, or Docetism today. Questions have also arisen about where we find the word “Trinity” in the Bible. What we might rather ask is, “What is the contribution of the Old Testament to the Christian doctrine of God?” We know that the Old Testament Israel professed monotheism. This demanded Israel’s unreserved loyalty. Any reference to other gods was viewed as blasphemy, hence to think about God in any “three-ness” would be unwelcome polytheism. Both Christians and Jews join in the famous Shema, Israel’s “confession of faith”: Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one” (Deut. 6:4). But do we profess three gods in the Trinity? The answer is NO. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 233) teaches, “there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.” The Catechism goes on to say (CCC 234), “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.” 

In the Genesis account of creation, God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26). The term “Let us,” signifies a presence beyond one person commanding the action. The “Word (dabar), is another agent of God” in the creation account (Gen 1:1-2:4a).  We also see an incipient plurality within the one God expressed in most OT terms of “Wisdom,” “Word,” and Spirit.” The reality is that it is hard to figure out the word “Trinity” in the Old Testament Scriptures. But references to the Trinity abound. All we need to understand is that the Old Testament God was constantly leading the people of Israel towards a history inherently pointing towards the New Testament plan which is God’s saving power through His Son Jesus Christ.  Saint Paul makes it explicit in the New Testament while concluding his letter to the Corinthians, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13). We use that formula at Mass till date. 

In the first reading of today, Moses recalls God’s love for the Israelites in a way unknown to them; “Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes. Moses summons them to appreciate the need to commit to God’s love in return for the special privilege granted them as His chosen people. 

That foreshadows the image of adoption. St. Paul writes in the second reading that God has made us sons and daughters in Christ and given us the right of inheritance as heirs and as co-heirs. What a privilege. This privilege should eliminate all fears in our lives. Through baptism we become adopted into the trinitarian love. We receive power and strength to do mission and to propagate the unity of the Trinity. Christ tells his disciples, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. He sends them out to baptize, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Christ is God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and we are heirs with him. We have great powers that come from God. We are called to evangelize, to teach others to observe God’s commandment. God’s abiding presence is with us always.

Our call to discipleship begins at baptism, and runs through the entire course of our lives. We are on a mission powered and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We are incorporated into that mission at baptism. At confirmation, we are commissioned. In the Eucharist, we are nourished. In the sacrament of penance, we are strengthened and reassured of God’s love. In marriage we are sanctified to live continuously as co-creators of God’s love. We produce more heirs for God through the bond of marriage. The Trinity is therefore central in every marriage relationship.

Talking about marriage, I remember this funny story about a couple preparing for their wedding. They sent the invitation card to the printer with the words they had chosen. The scripture text they picked was 1 John 4:18 which says, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Mistakenly the printer omitted the figure 1 in the text and chose John 4:18 reads: “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband." That’s to say that marriage has gone through a lot.

Marriage embodies unity and the relational love that the Trinity portrays. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote,

“Because Spirit impregnates marriage, there is first seen in it the reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. As the Father knows Himself in His Wisdom, or Word, or Son, Who is distinct but not separate, so the husband discovers opposite to himself one in flesh with him. As the Father knows Himself in His Son, so man knows himself through the person opposite. He is present to himself in her for, thanks to sex, two persons are merged and revealed, one to the other. As the Father and Son are one in nature through the Spirit of Love that binds them, so the husband and wife find unity in sex, despite their differences, through the bond of love that makes them one.”

Marriage fulfills the divine intention for humanity as adopted sons and daughters in Christ. The Jesuit theologian, Grenz argues that God has “interior relationality” and that “the formula: “God is love,” means that the inner life of the Trinity is characterized by loving relations—and is expressed toward creatures.” It means that human relationality, including the love between husband and wife in the ecclesial community, “marks a visual, human coming-to-representation of the mutual indwelling of the persons of Trinity.” That makes us disciples of LOVE in marriage. Disciples of love are disciples of forgiveness. That’s one sure way or key to the survival of marriage relationships. Please look up to the Trinity when things get tough in your marriage. Remember the that moment when you exchanged your rings saying, “Take this ring as a sign of my love for you… “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Amen. Christ says to you today, “I am with you always, until the end of time”.