Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, May 31, 2015
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, May 31, 2015
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today, of course, is Trinity Sunday.
It is wonderful day,
celebrating a magnificent mystery of God and of our Catholic Faith.
But it’s also a day that intimidates a lot of priests.
Because it’s one of the hardest Sundays to preach:
I mean, who can explain the Trinity?
Have you ever tried to?
It’s really next to impossible to adequately explain the Trinity,
to try to explain the very essence of God Himself—his inner most being.
After all who can explain the inner most being of another human being,
much less the inner most being
of the eternal, omnipotent Creator of the universe?
To say the least, it is difficult to explain, and difficult to understand.
First of all, what does this dogma of the Trinity hold?
We believe there is one God, who is three persons.
They share the same divine nature,
but each is God, whole and entire.
They are really distinct from one another—not simply different modes of being
–you can’t say we call God “Father” when he’s creating the world,
but we call him “the Son” when he’s on the Cross,
and we call him “the Spirit” when he dwells in us.
No: God the Son is a different person than God the Father
who is a different person than God the Holy Spirit
—but they are still one God.
In particular they are seen in relationship to one another:
relating as Father to Son, a son who is eternally begotten from the Father,
and the Spirit of the two that proceeds forth from them both,
some say the personification the love between the Father and Son.
Still, one God, three persons.
So all that’s clear.
No—it’s still difficult to explain and to understand.
And it always has been.
2000 years ago it was hard for the Jews believe.
After all, the central dogma of Old Testament Judaism
is that there is only one God.
As we read in today’s first reading:
“Fix in your heart, that the LORD is God…
and that there is no other.”
But they kept hearing Jesus say things like: “the Father and I are one”
–so they called him a blasphemer and tried to kill him,
and eventually succeeded.
And it was hard for many wannabe Christians in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries,
heretics like the Gnostics: they couldn’t and didn’t believe it.
And it was hard for the rich Arab merchant who searched for the true God
and apparently found Him in Christianity, but rejected Him
because he could not accept the truth
that God is one, but 3 persons.
And so Muhammad made up his own religion, to suit his unbelief.
It is very difficult to understand, and, so, difficult to believe.
And yet we do believe.
Very simple: because we believe that Jesus is “the Christ, the one sent by God.”
And Jesus taught us the dogma of the Trinity.
For example, on the one hand,
Jesus himself proclaimed the central dogma of Judaism:
“The LORD our God is one.”
And yet, he called God his “Father,” and says:
“the Father and I are one.”
Now, some might say that Jesus was speaking metaphorically,
but as we read in John, chapter 10,
when the Jews accused him of “making himself God”
and tried to stone him,
instead of saying, ‘no no, you misunderstood,’
he said to them:
“I am the Son of God….
know and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
And he kept on insisting on this.
Who can forget the last supper,
when he went on and on about his unity with the Father.
Particularly in his rebuke of St. Philip, who asked “show us the father”.
“Have I been with you so long,
and still you do not know me…?
He who has seen me has seen the Father;
how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?
Do you not believe that
I am in the Father and the Father in me?”
And not only did Jesus insist that he was one God with his father,
he insisted that the Holy Spirit was one God with them also.
He promised his apostles:
“I shall send to you …the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father.”
but also promises:
“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name.”
Both the Father and the Son send the Spirit.
Because while Jesus calls him: “the spirit of the father”
St. Paul calls the Holy Spirit not only
“the Spirit of God” but also “the spirit of Jesus Christ”,
All the while insisting “there is one Spirit.”
We believe, because Jesus said it,
and because the apostles taught it
and handed it down from generation to generation,
both in Sacred Scripture and in the Sacred Tradition.
And so the Church has always accepted it
as not simply an interesting bit of trivia,
but as the first tenet of the Christian Faith:
if you do not believe in the Trinity,
you are NOT a Christian.
This has been so important to the Church
that the earliest summaries of the Christian faith, like the Apostles Creed,
which some say the apostles themselves wrote at the first Pentecost,
are centered around the Trinity.
And at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD,
when all the bishops of the world could all come together
for the first time since the death of the apostles,
the most important thing they did was give us
a more elaborate formulation of the Trinitarian Creed:
the Creed we say at every Sunday Mass—the Nicene Creed:
“I believe in one God, the Father….the Son… the Holy Spirit.”
The Trinity is the First Dogma of Christianity,
because the whole Church comes out of,
revolves around and moves toward this mystery.
Heaven is sharing in the communion of life and love of the Trinity.
The whole incarnation, life, death, resurrection of Christ are Trinitarian:
the Father gives his Son, the Son offers himself to the Father.
The Pentecost is Trinitarian:
the Father and Son send the Spirit so they can dwell in us,
and we can be one with them.
The Sacraments are Trinitarian:
in Baptism we are baptized
“in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”
and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls,
and where the Holy Spirit is there also are the Father and Son,
and so we begin our sharing in life of the Trinity.
And in the Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit
Christ makes us one with him and presents us to His Father.
[We see this reflected in the whole Mass: the Mass itself is Trinitarian:
we begin and end the Mass in the name of
“the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit”;
and throughout the Mass, listen carefully to the triple repetitions:
“Holy, Holy, Holy,”
“through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,”
the triple “Agnus Dei,”
“this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim.”
the triple ringing of the bells at the consecration,
the three candles on each side of the altar….]
The Church itself is Trinitarian:
it is one, because the Trinity is one,
and it is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Spirit to praise the Father.
Creation itself is Trinitarian:
God created man in his own image so he could invite us
to live and love in the life and love of the Trinity.
This is what we believe.
Still, all this is difficult to understand.
Does this make us stupid, or naïve or irrational?
No, because it would be stupid, naïve, irrational and the height of arrogance
to think that we could ever really understand everything about God
—especially about his inner most being.
Do you understand how God created the universe?
No; but you believe it, and it is very rational to do so.
Do you understand how God can love each one of us uniquely and totally,
even though you and I are like mere specks of dust in this huge universe?
Do you understand how God could become a man and die on the Cross,
and still be completely God?
Do you understand how God could truly come to us,
body, blood, soul and divinity,
under the appearance of a piece of bread we could eat?
No; you have some inkling of an understanding of these things,
but you don’t understand any of them completely.
But still, you believe them.
Think about it: It would be so much easier for the Church
to proclaim the Gospel without the Trinity
—who would make something so difficult to understand
the central tenet of their religion?
But some things we don’t understand,
we still believe because Jesus has revealed them to us.
These are what we call mysteries of the faith.
And by that we don’t mean just accepting it blindly and without understanding.
But rather, mysteries are truths that are hidden in God,
things too big or magnificent for us to understand,
and which we could never begin to know anything about,
unless they are revealed by God.
As Scripture reminds us:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
…and weighed the mountains in scales? …” like God has.
And if we can’t understand something like creation, or the incarnation,
how can we really hope to ever completely fathom
the dogma of the Trinity.
After all, this dogma is a peek into the very inner most life
of the eternal boundless God.
To believe this dogma is not to be foolish, but to accept a wondrous gift
—to know God in his deepest self,
to know something of the boundless and eternal
intimate love and life that the Three Divine Persons
share so perfectly and completely,
and of an invitation to us to share in that
relationship of divine, eternal and boundless love and life,
imperfectly in this world
and perfectly and forever in the next.
As I said at the beginning of this homily, like many priests,
I am intimidated by the prospect of preaching on this Sunday
because the Trinity is impossible to explain.
And yet, I also love this Sunday,
because if I can even in some small way help others to understand
the wondrous truth of our Triune God,
the intimacy and awesomeness of his eternal life and love,
what a great thing to preach about.
As we continue with this Holy Mass,
let us turn to the Trinitarian mystery of the Eucharist,
the sacrifice of the Son to His Father
made present by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And by these sacred mysteries
may we now be lifted up
into the wondrous and intimate mystery of
the eternal life and boundless love that is the Holy Communion
of the Most Holy Trinity.