OLPH Ellicott City/Our Lady of Good Counsel
I’m delighted to be with you today. One of the great joys of my ministry is visiting parishes, as often as I can, to offer Mass and just to visit informally with parishioners. I’ve served here as Archbishop of Baltimore for just over a year and have visited about half of our 154 parishes – so many joys await me!
We’ve just celebrated the Lord’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension – as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Now the Church sets aside this Sunday to celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. It’s a moment for us each year to “take in” what Jesus revealed: God’s Eternal Son, in taking on our humanity, showed us the Father not only by what he said and did but also by sending us the Holy Spirit. Especially in this Year of Faith it is important for us to reaffirm our belief in the Trinity, the most central of all the mysteries of the Faith: One God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
II. Eyes Glazed Over
Yet, with the mention of the mystery of the Trinity eyes can start to glaze over. To be sure, we profess our faith in the Trinity every Sunday in the Creed, and affirm it every time we make the sign of the Cross. But because we can’t fully understand this doctrine, we might regard it as a mystery wrapped in an enigma with little impact on our lives.
This was brought home to me years ago in my theology studies at Catholic University. One weekend, a professor assigned a 500 page book for our reading pleasure; this book was meant to be a comprehensive look at what it means to be a Christian. Needless to say, I didn’t go to the beach that weekend – there was work to do! When I finished reading the book, I realized that in this long description of what it means to be a Christian the author had devoted only a few pages to the Trinity. I sat there for a moment and began to say to myself, “Well, wait a minute! Didn’t Jesus reveal God to us as a Trinity? Didn’t He come to show us the Father of Mercies and take flesh in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit ... the same Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his Baptism in the Jordan River? I thought about how on the Cross Jesus commended his life into the Father’s hands and emitted His Holy Spirit ... and how, before ascending into heaven, Jesus commissioned the Apostles to teach all nations and to baptize them in the Name of the Trinity. Then I reflected on how the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles to inspire and strengthen them to begin the work of spreading the Gospel. It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that the Trinity must central, not peripheral, to our being Christian. That became my main critique of the book and I’m happy to say I didn’t flunk!
Obviously the Church herself believes with all her heart that the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity occupies a central place in her own existence Yet it’s one thing for me to say that the Trinity is front and center in our lives but quite another for me to back that up in a way that will make sense. So stay with me as I attempt to show how the Trinity is central in our lives of faith.
III. A Communion of Love
We read in the First Letter of John: “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him ... ” (1 Jn 4:6). We all believe God to be all powerful and all glorious, greater than anyone or anything we could ever imagine. But God’s power and glory are not brute force or a beauty that is merely external; rather His power and glory are identical with love.
Think of it this way: In his inner life, God always was, always is, and always will be – love. From all eternity, there are 3 Persons in the One God, 3 real relations of love. The Father loves the Son and Son perfectly loves the Father, so much so, that the Son is the complete and unblemished reflection of the Father. And the bond of love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. All three Persons are God; all three are distinct; yet there is but one God. So, the One God we worship is a communion of Truth and Life and Love.
But there’s more. The God who is love in Himself turned that love outward by freely creating the world and freely redeeming the world. Both creation and redemption are the work of the Trinity. Both are part of His plan to reveal Himself and share His life with us.
IV. What This Has To Do with Us
Now we need to take this a step further. If we search the pages of Scripture and study the Church’s teaching, we readily see that the Trinity was revealed to us in God’s wonderful plan to create and redeem us and our world. But even that can seem far away. After all, we get caught up in our own plans, our own worries and issues, so much so that God’s plan for us and for our world can seem almost irrelevant.
So what’s a Christian to do? Well, for one thing, we might turn St. Paul for enlightenment. In today’s send reading, he tells us that we’ve gained access by faith to the grace and peace of knowing and loving our God. Because of the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, we truly can know Jesus and if we know Jesus we know the Father. The mystery of the Trinity isn’t just “up there” or “out there” somewhere. Through Baptism, the Sacraments, and especially the Mass, the Trinity dwells within us – the Tradition speak so the indwelling of the Trinity in our hearts – for we truly are temples of the Holy Spirit.
So if you and I want to know how the Trinity, we must fall in love with God. Pray to the Lord who seeks to dwell in your hearts. Ask for the grace to remove from your hearts anything unworthy of him. Seek intimate friendship with God by imitating his love in all your relationships, keeping his commandments in the spirit of the Beatitudes. And when you do, you will be a living stone in the Lord’s temple, a living part of the Church’s communion of love modeled on that of the Trinity. In love with the God who dwells in your hearts, you will help build the Church as a sign of the presence of the Trinity in our world, as invitation for all people to be caught up in that love for which they were created.
So, while God’s inner life and glory exceeds everything we can imagine, we should rejoice that the Lord has revealed himself to us through his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit and on this Trinity Sunday ask that our faith be deepened in this most central mystery!
May the Lord bless us and keep us in love!