Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
May 22, 2016
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
In the first chapter of Genesis, we read:
“God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”
This is one of the foundational passages of scripture,
as it lays the basis for our whole understanding of the meaning and dignity
of man and of human society, especially marriage and family.
But often overlooked here is that this passage tells us something
even more fundamentally important about God himself.
Look again closely:
it does not say: “God said ‘I will make man in my image,’”
but rather: “God said ‘let us make man in our image.”
God, a singular noun, refers to himself in the plural personal pronoun, “US.”
This is no mistranslation: it is a literal translation of the original Hebrew.
And it is not a simple matter of God speaking of himself
in the so called “royal ‘we’”
—there is no evidence of such a thing in the ancient Hebrew language.
Rather, it is a subtle revelation right there, in the beginning of the Bible,
of what Jesus would later reveal in its fullness:
that just as God creates the one creature Man in His image as plural–both male and female,
God himself is also one and plural: God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Think of how Jesus constantly talks about the intimate relationship
between him and his Father, but also says “The Father and I are one.”
And how he tells us that both He and the Father will send their one Holy Spirit.
And how he brings this all together
as on Ascension Thursday he goes up to heaven to be with His Father
in order to send down their Spirit on Pentecost.
And what does he say before he goes:
he commands his apostles to go out to all nations and
“baptize…in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Trinitarian mystery is at the heart of Christ’s salvific mission.
And this is the mystery revealed in Genesis,
as right from the beginning God tells us
he created “man” in his image as “male and female”
to live together and love each other, so that the “two become one”.
And in this, revealing himself as One God, in three persons, three who are one,
sharing a perfect unity of eternal life and infinite love.
And this is what we celebrate, on the feast of the Holy Trinity.
Now, this is a difficult concept to understand,
and so it leads to all sorts of mistakes in understanding and explaining it.
For example, some say the Trinity just means
God acting in different ways at different times:
so when God creates, he is the Father,
or when God becomes man he is the Son,
or when God descends and dwells within us he is the Spirit.
But that’s not what Scripture says.
In Genesis God says “let US make man”
—Father, Son and Holy Spirit all create together.
So in today’s 1st Readings from Proverbs,
“the Wisdom of God,” whom St. Paul tells us is Jesus, says,
that when God created the universe:
“then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth…”
Who is that but God’s Son, Jesus, saying he created the world with His Father.
And the Gospels tell us how the Son, Jesus,
clearly carries on a constant dialogue with His Father
who is distinctly other and is still “in heaven”
–Jesus was not talking to Himself!
And then the Son ascends and sits on his heavenly throne with his Father
while the Spirit descends to dwell in the Church and in our hearts on earth
–the Son is bodily in heaven, while his Spirit dwells in our souls.
Jesus clearly teaches there are 3 distinct persons—not 3 multiple personalities.
But he also teaches there is only one God.
Again, it is hard to understand.
But elsewhere in scripture St. John gives us the key to beginning to understand,
as he writes those beautiful words: “God is love.”
These words can be used so tritely today,
especially as people so often reduce the word “love”
to mean some simplistic inane feeling.
But love is not simply an emotion, and God is not a feeling.
True love is “willing and striving for the good of the other”:
love is “self-gift”, not “self-satisfying.”
This is the love of God.
But the thing is, how can you love, without “the other”
—the one whose good you “will and strive for”?
And so when we understand that God is love,
we see how God reveals himself as a trinity of persons,
sharing one love, one life, one being, one essence and substance.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, an eternal perfect communion of life and love,
constantly willing and striving for the good of each other,
constantly mutually giving themselves to each other.
But not like the normal human relationships
—theirs is perfectly pure and totally self-abandoning,
boundless and complete, without beginning or end.
And this love is what he reveals to us in revealing the mystery of the Trinity.
How magnificent, really breathtaking.
But even more wonderful is why he reveals it to us.
And that is because he created us in his image
—in the image of God who is love—
and so He created us solely
so that we could share in that perfect life and love:
to share in that inner Trinitarian life,
right in the center of the uncorrupted and infinite love
of the Father, Son and Spirit.
As we read in the Psalm today:
“What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
[Yet] You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.”
Who are we?
And yet, Jesus prays at the Last Supper:
“that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you,
that they also may be in us.”
All of us were created for this.
But there is only one person who has lived it out perfectly and without
exception in this world:
Our Blessed Mother, Mary,
whom the Church honors a special way in this month of May.
Read what the angel Gabriel said to her on that great day in Nazareth:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy,
the Son of God.”
Mary was created to be the Daughter of the Most High God the Father,
the Mother of God the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
This is amazing.
But, in the words of that holy young Virgin, “how can this be?’
It can be, first of all, because, as the angel says, she is “full of grace”:
God has given her,
from the moment of her immaculate conception
in her mother’s womb,
a special share in his grace
—including the grace we would receive in baptism.
Second, it can be because of the angel’s invitation:
Gabriel presents God’s call for her to take part in this unique relationship.
And third, it can be because the Blessed Virgin
freely chose to accept the grace and invitation:
“let it be done to me according to your word.”
Now, while God’s grace and invitation
are the most important parts of this relationship,
Mary’s “yes” is also critical:
love can not be commanded, it can not be forced.
Love is, after all, self-gift.
And so God asks her, will you accept my love and return that love
as Daughter, Mother and Spouse?
And Mary responds with love, “yes!”
“Let it be done to me according to your word.”
Did Mary fully understand the Trinitarian mystery she was partaking of?
No, not fully.
But she stood in awe of this tremendous gift laid before her,
and saw it as an offer she could not refuse
—not out of fear, as the angel tells her “be not afraid”—
but out of love.
How could she say “no” to being loved and to loving as she had been created to,
how could she refuse the most sublime gift ever offered to a creature?
Even so, as unique as this gift to her was,
this is essentially the same gift God offers to each of us.
Not to be His Mother, certainly.
But to enter into his family, the unity of the Trinity,
through baptism in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
To be sons and daughters of God the Father.
To be brothers and sisters of Jesus, God the Son.
To be members of the bride of Christ, his Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We do not understand completely—that’s why we call it a “mystery.”
But if we open our hearts and minds to this mystery how can we say “no” to it?
The grace is ours in baptism.
And the invitation comes to us constantly
—as we read the Scriptures, as we pray
and as we live life facing the challenges
in a world so full of sin and temptation.
And in the same way, the choice is also constantly ours to make,
from moment to moment, every day.
The choice to say yes to live and love as God created us to
—caught up in the power of the life and love of the Father, Son and Spirit
–both in this world and in the world to come.
As we now turn toward the mysteries of the Mass,
we remember that the Eucharist is nothing less
than a profound sharing in the Trinitarian mystery,
as by the power of the Holy Spirit
we are united to the Son
and in Him are offered to the Father;
and as we share in the Body of the Son
our Holy Communion with our Triune God
is renewed and strengthened.
Like the Blessed Virgin, let us not be afraid to accept this Communion.
But rather, let us say “yes” with Mary,
“yes” to being who we were created to be from the beginning:
creatures made in the image of the God who is love,
created for the ineffable joy of sharing
in the most blessed life and love
of the Most Holy Trinity.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.