IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON AND OF THE THE HOLY SPIRIT
The TRINITY is one of the most basic doctrines of our Christian faith. When we enter the Church we are baptised “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.
It forms part of the very earliest teaching of the Church. It can be found in the letters of Paul, which were written before the gospels:
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same SPIRIT gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same LORD is served. There are different abilities to perform service but the same GOD gives ability to everyone for their service” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. This is a greeting often used at the beginning of the Eucharist but is in fact the closing words of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:13).
“There is one body and one SPIRIT, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one LORD, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and FATHER of all, who is Lord of all, works through all and is in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
The First Reading from the Book of Exodus is the story of the second giving of the law after the people of Israel broke the covenant by worshiping the golden calf. Moses is asked by God to bring a second set of blank stone tablets up the mountain, and this time to come alone. Here our passage begins, with God’s appearance to Moses and a revelation of the divine name as -“merciful and gracious . . . slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” This one is less ambiguous than the one given in the sight of the burning bush – “I am who I am.” For the purposes of the Liturgy of Trinity Sunday, this revelation of God’s name is central. Compassion is of God’s essence. In this passage, we catch a glimpse of God in the loving act of offering a restored covenant relationship to a ‘stiff-necked people.’
Again, in the Second Reading from St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians we find the formulation of the Holy Trinity, in his greeting – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” This greeting we use in our day at the beginning of the Holy Mass.
THREE DIFFERENT ROLES:
The Latin word ‘persona’ really refers to the mask that actors used to wear to indicate the role or function they were playing. The mask then comes to mean role or function or job. What the Trinity then says is that God has three ‘masks’ indicating three distinct roles or functions. God reaches us personally in three different ways. Although it took the Church a couple of centuries to express this in theological language, the three ‘roles’ of God are clearly delineated in the Scriptures, both Hebrew and Christian. The three Readings today are a clear testimony of this:
1) God the Father creates and provides for His creatures. This is beautifully expressed in the First Reading of today from the Book of Proverbs.
2) God the Son redeems us and reconciles us with God the Father. He builds a bridge between the human and divine. He is the pontifex, the bridge-maker. God’s love becomes humanized and therefore tangible, understandable and able to be more easily followed and imitated.
3) God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, strengthens us, comforts us, teaches us, forms us and guides us to God. We find God through His Spirit acting in and through us, in and through others, constantly creating and re-creating, making all things new.
So, the Most Holy Trinity is often seen and understood as God’s three different functions; viz. – Father as the Creator, Son as the Redeemer and Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier. Inseparable in what they are, the Divine Persons are also inseparable in what they do. There is a beautiful prayer to the Most Holy Trinity quoted in a book on Celtic prayer, which expresses beautifully the different qualities of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, ‘O Father who sought me, O Son who bought me, O Holy Spirit who taught me.’
Gospel: If you want a reminder of how important the Trinity is, THAT is it. From the very beginning of our lives as Christians, we are sealed in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It signifies the extraordinary importance the Church places on this singular belief – one God, in three persons.
It all comes down to the Trinity.
That is one of the reasons we celebrate this feast, one week after Pentecost – the Trinity has been revealed to the world—Father, Son and Spirit—and we mark this great gift.
The words in the Second Reading should be very familiar. From Paul’s letter we get the words the priest uses at the beginning of Mass. He invokes the Trinity in a beautiful and meaningful way – God’s grace, Christ’s love, the Holy Spirit’s fellowship or communion. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” The priest offers it to us, and we proclaim it back to him.
But that’s not the first time we have mentioned the Trinity at Mass. It begins with something that most of us probably take for granted, and hardly think about. We do it so often…it’s the Sign of the Cross.
In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It’s not just a gesture that we use to punctuate prayer. It’s not just a sign of our being Catholic. This is a re-statement of our baptism.
These words were said over each of us as water was poured on our heads…the first words that made us members of the Body of Christ. These are the same words we speak again as we re-christen ourselves. We brand ourselves with God in three persons. And whatever we do or say after is in the name of the Father…and the Son…and the Holy Spirit.
Just think of what that simple gesture means.
We touch our heads for the Father – the one who created us. This is where we began, in the mind of God, the Creator of our beautiful world. That finger on my forehead is a reminder not only of a Creator but of God so totally in love with us that He sent His only Son to draw us back into His presence. This is the same Father we speak of as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”
We touch our hearts for the Son – the one whose unceasing love took him to the cross, and the one who taught us, as well, how to love through his own Sacred Heart. He gave the ultimate and agonizing proof of His love for us on the cross.
John 3:16 is probably one of the most well know verses in scripture just by virtue of the fact that it is advertised a lot in televised football…”God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The first time I ever saw that banner on TV, I had to look up the verse, and I have never forgotten it.
We touch our shoulders for the Holy Spirit – the one who gives us strength, on whose shoulders we are carried, and who enables us to be God’s arms, working on earth. With the Holy Spirit around, no one is ever alone. God through the Holy Spirit is always with us. What we span in blessing, the Holy Spirit strengthens in life so that we may better shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.
In St Augustine’s conception of the Trinity, he said, “The Father is the lover. The Son is the loved one. And the Holy Spirit is the love they send forth.”
God wants us to find Him. God is not an isolated Being, but a relationship of persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have been told so often that God is love, and the more we understand of love the more we will understand God. The more we understand of God, the closer we come to finding Him.
The heart of the mystery is that God dwells within each of us. God is not just out there somewhere, God is alive within us…in the spiritual life that makes a human a child of God. Jesus promised us that He would never leave us alone, and we are not alone. He is with us always, not just outside of us but within us.
And so, we come to the end of the blessing – the joining of hands and the concluding, “Amen.” And we remind ourselves that the word “amen” means “so be it;” it is itself an expression of assent, in itself an act of faith in all that has gone before. And so with my “amen” I renew my faith. I believe in you…Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
When we make the Sign of the Cross, and pray the Sign of the Cross with those words, we make of ourselves an offering, and a prayer. We embody what the Trinity represents, and we strive to bring that with the example of our lives and with our actions to all those we meet.
We do it in the name of God – all that God is, all that God does. We do it in the name of the Trinity.
How Does the Trinity Practically Apply to Our Lives Today
The Trinity is undoubtedly one of the most mysterious Christian doctrines. It can be intimidating to explain and we tip-toe carefully with our words so as not to slip into heresy. However, we would miss the point if we left the Trinity as a mere doctrinal discussion. How does the Trinity practically apply to our everyday life?
The practicality of the Trinity is clear in John 13–17. The disciples were deeply troubled at Jesus’ words about leaving them, thinking it would bring a devastating break in their relationship with God. But Jesus spoke tenderly to them, giving them guidance for continuing their walk with God after his departure. In giving this instruction, Jesus spoke about God’s Trinitarian nature. This passage of Scripture teaches that knowing God as three in one should be at the center of our daily relationship with him.
Responding to the Father’s Love
In light of Christ’s lessons on the nature of the Father . . .
•He is the fountain of divine love. He is the source of the encouragement we receive in the Scriptures, in answers to our prayers, in the grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and in all the other blessings we receive.
•As the source of all, He is to be served as the object of all. He is the One to whom we respond with love, prayers worship and adoration. We also worship the Son and the Holy Spirit, but because even the Son and the Spirit give glory to the Father and share in his glory (e.g., John 16:14-15; 17:4-5), we worship the Three-in-One with an understanding that the Father is the ultimate object of all.
•We should honor the Father with the fruits of our lives. Just as a vineyard owner plants his vines in order to receive a harvest, so the Father (the Vinedresser) rightly receives the fruits that Jesus (the Vine) brings to our lives (the branches). John 15:1-5.
Responding to the Son’s Mediation
There are four main ways we are to respond to the Son’s Mediation . . .
•We look to the Son to bring us into favor with God. It is only in the words and work of Jesus that favor with God is provided.
•We join ourselves with believers—specifically within a local church. Jesus instructed his disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, your are also are to love one another. (John 13:34-35; cf. John 13:13-17; John 15:12)
•We pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. (John 16:23)
•Jesus brings the Father’s words to us, so we respond to his role within the Trinity by using the Scriptures as the standard for our faith and life.
Because of the promise of the Spirit . . .
•We expect the Spirit to instruct our decisions through the Word. This doesn’t mean the Spirit will produce new meanings from the Bible tailored to our individual questions, but we expect the Spirit to help us as we bring our lives under the light of God’s Word.
•We expect the Spirit to guide Christians as a community. It is important for us to study our Bibles with confidence that the Spirit will help us, and to do so with careful attention to the counsel of others who have studied the same Scripture.
•We trust that the Spirit authorizes us to serve as witnesses. Wherever Christians live, the Spirit is with them to make them witnesses to their communities.
•We respond to the continual presence of the Spirit by welcoming his conviction. When we lack faith, the Spirit stirs our hearts to believe at the hearing of Scripture. When we sin, the Spirit brings conviction and draws our hearts to remember and obey the words of Scripture.
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.