Entering the Grace, Love and Communion of the Blessed Trinity, Holy Trinity, June 11, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Annunciation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Suffern, NY
Trinity Sunday, Year A
June 11, 2017
Ex 34:4-6.8-9, Dt 3, 2 Cor 13:11-13, Jn 3:16-18

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following text guided today’s homily: 

The Central Mystery of Our Faith

Today we celebrate the feast of who God is. Every Sunday is, in a very real sense, dedicated to God and therefore every Sunday really is, and is meant to be, a Trinity Sunday. But since the 1300s, the Church has celebrated on the Sunday immediately following Pentecost a feast dedicated to the Holy Trinity, to help all of us focus more explicitly on who God is in his profound mysterious depths, and therefore who we’re called to be made in His image and likeness.

“The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity,” we read in onne of the key paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “is the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (CCC 234). It’s the central mystery, note, not just with regard to what we believe but how we live. The Catechism goes on to say why: “It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith.’” The mystery of the Trinity, in other words, illumines the mystery of Creation, the mystery of Redemption, the Mystery of Sanctification. It illumines every page of Sacred Scripture. It helps us to understand the commandments. It sheds light on the four last things. It reveals what is at the root of all of the sacraments and prayer. It unveils for us the deepest reason for the dignity of every human life and person.

The Catechism paragraph concludes, “The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.” Underneath the history of the world, underneath our own personal history from the moment of our conception in our mother’s womb, until now and beyond, has developed within this mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Therefore, it’s crucial for us as human beings, not to mention believers, to pour ourselves — not just our minds but our heart, soul, strength and entire existence — into the mystery and reality of the Trinity. The Christian life is meant to be a Trinitarian life. Your life, my life, the priestly life, the religious life, is meant to be a Trinitarian life.

Living a Trinitarian Life

How do we live a Trinitarian life?

We certainly are helped to live this reality liturgically, although many fail to recognize it enough. This whole Mass, for example, is lived in communion with the Trinity. We began this Mass in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We will end it by receiving the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Everything we do and say during this Mass is nothing other than a prayerful dialogue between us and the Father, through the person of Jesus Christ, united by and in the Holy Spirit. In the middle of Mass, we loudly proclaim that we have grounded our lives in the mystery of the Trinity, uniting ourselves to the entire Church on earth as we say: “I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth… I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God… I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.” At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, as we lift up Christ’s Body and Blood to the Father and offer ourselves together with him, the priest on behalf of Christ’s whole mystical body summarizes the fundamental orientation of a Christian life: “Through [Christ], with Him and in Him, O God, Almighty Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.” And at the end of Mass we leave blessed by our Triune God to glorify him by our Trinitarian life and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, helping people to understand and live all that Christ has instructed us, knowing that he is with us always. From our baptism when we become a temple of the Blessed Trinity’s indwelling to the end of our earthly existence when a priest, after anointing us, will whisper to us, “Depart from this life, Christian soul, in the name of God the Almighty Father who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who descended over you,” our whole earthly existence is meant to be lived explicitly within the life and in the company of the Blessed Trinity: the three Persons are with us, they walk each step of life with us — and when we’re in the state of grace, they do so on the inside! But often we can be like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who even though they have walked several miles in God’s presence didn’t recognize by whom they were being accompanied.

The Prayer we make for each other today and always

Trinity Sunday is a day in which God wants to help us to enter more deeply into his own inner life and allow that life to become the defining reality of our own. At the beginning of Mass, I prayed, with the words of St. Paul from today’s second reading, “The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you,” and you wished me the same blessing. We know that whenever a Person of the Trinity acts, it’s almost always a concerted act with the other Persons, but St. Paul’s separation of these three gifts, specified to the three Persons, can help us to grasp three concrete, fundamental ways that the Three-Person-in-One-God wants to help us grow in his Trinitarian image.

The Trinitarian Dimension of our Prayer

The first prayer is “the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, … be with you.” What is grace? Grace, the Catechism tells us, is a “participation in the life of God,” which “introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life (1997). It’s a “gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life” (1999). We could certainly examine how in all of the Sacraments, we receive this grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but what I’d like to ponder is the way God infuses this life into us in our prayer. Prayer, we know, is not principally an exchange of words, or thoughts, or affections. It’s principally an exchange of persons, in which God seeks to abide in us and have us abide in him, as Jesus describes in the Parable of the Vine and the Branches (Jn 15). And this prayer, to be fully Christian, must be Trinitarian. St. John Paul II, when he described the importance of prayer in our day in his pastoral plan for the third Christian millennium, stressed that this interpersonal “reciprocity is the very substance and soul of the Christian life, and the condition of all true pastoral life. Wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, this reciprocity opens us, through Christ and in Christ, to contemplation of the Father’s face. Learning this Trinitarian shape of Christian prayer and living it fully, above all in the liturgy, … but also in personal experience, is the secret of a truly vital Christianity” (NMI 32). We have to learn the Trinitarian shape of prayer and live it fully to have our Christian life come alive. How is this done? I think the greatest explanation of it was given to us by the future Pope Benedict in his book Feast of Faith. He described for us that the basic reason why we can pray is because God, himself, is speech, word, the Logos. God exists in an eternal intercourse of partners in dialogue. When we pray, we are drawn to share in this internal speech. This happens as a result of the incarnation, when God, in assuming our humanity, body and soul, took human speech into the divine speech. This work of incorporating us into the interior dialogue of who God is, so that our prayer can be a true exchange between God and us, is what the Holy Spirit seeks to accomplish. The Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus so that we can cry out “Abba, Father!” And in response to our prayer, God gives himself. As Jesus says, after explaining that God the Father won’t give us a snake when we ask for a fish, “If you who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk 11:13). Prayer, this grace our Lord Jesus Christ, this participation in the life of God, is the first means we grow in Trinitarian intimacy and existence.

Entering into God’s Chaste, Poor and Obedient Love

The second prayer of St. Paul we make our own at the beginning of Mass and wish for each other is, “the love of God… be with you.” This love is the love of the Father about whom St. John exclaims in today’s Gospel: “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.” God wants his love to be with us. Jesus said during the Last Supper, “Just as the Father loves me, I love you!” (Jn 15:9), and a little later, “The Father himself loves you” (Jn 16:27). That love was made incarnate in Jesus and demonstrated most powerfully on the Cross. That love was intensified by the sending of the Holy Spirit in word St. Paul describes as, “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). God wants to unite us to that love in a transformative way so that his love may be “packed together, shaken down, overflowing and poured into your lap” (Lk 6:38). He wants to help us receive his love, remain in his love, reciprocate his love and pay it forward. We do this in many ways, but the way I would like to focus on with you today is through the evangelical counsels, which St. John Paul II called a “reflection of the Trinitarian life.” Listen with fresh ears to what he writes in Vita Consecrata:

“The deepest meaning of the evangelical counsels is revealed when they are viewed in relation to the Holy Trinity, the source of holiness. They are in fact an expression of the love of the Son for the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. By practicing the evangelical counsels, the consecrated person lives with particular intensity the Trinitarian and Christological dimension that marks the whole of Christian life. The chastity of celibates and virgins … is a reflection of the infinite love that links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity. … Poverty proclaims that God is man’s only real treasure. When poverty is lived according to the example of Christ who, ‘though he was rich … became poor’ (2 Cor 8:9), it becomes an expression of that total gift of self which the three Divine Persons make to one another. … Obedience, practiced in imitation of Christ, whose food was to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34), shows the liberating beauty of a dependence that is not servile but filial, marked by a deep sense of responsibility and animated by mutual trust, which is a reflection in history of the loving harmony between the three Divine Persons.” We know, I can add, that Jesus himself said and did whatever he heard from the Father, and the Holy Spirit’s mission was to remind us of everything Jesus himself had said. Our obedience is a reflection of the loving filial obedience of Jesus made possible by the Holy Spirit. St. John Paul II concludes, “Consecrated life is thus called constantly to deepen the gift of the evangelical counsels with a love which grows ever more genuine and strong in the Trinitarian dimension: love for Christ, which leads to closeness with him; love for the Holy Spirit, who opens our hearts to his inspiration; love for the Father, the first origin and supreme goal of the consecrated life. The consecrated life thus becomes a confession and a sign of the Trinity, whose mystery is held up to the Church as the model and source of every form of Christian life (VC 21). It shows the path to true freedom, true love, and true wealth.

Entering into Communion

The third and final prayer of St. Paul with which we began Mass today is “The communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.” Jesus’ great prayer during the Mass was for us to be one just as the Father and the Son are one by the working and in the person of the Holy Spirit. “I pray for them … [and] not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us. … I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (Jn 17). God wants us to have among ourselves the communion that exists in God, the communion that flows from love, the communion that is a fruit of our participation as creatures in God’s own interior life. Just as in the Blessed Trinity, their oneness is greater than the distinction of persons, so in the Christian life, our communion is meant to be more distinctive than the diversity of our gifts, personalities, opinions. This is something that the early Christians themselves approached, by cooperating with the Holy Spirit, and is something that we need urgently to pray for and seek again, at a time in which the devil’s great work is to divide Christians among themselves so that the world may not believe that God the Father sent the Son so that we might have eternal life, and so that the world may not believe that God loves us just as much as he loves Jesus. St. John Paul II talked about the prophetic sign of Trinitarian communion that is meant to be glimpsed in the community life of religious. “Fraternal life,” he wrote, “whereby consecrated persons strive to live in Christ with ‘one heart and soul’ (Acts 4:32), is put forward as an eloquent witness to the Trinity. It proclaims the Father, who desires to make all of humanity one family. It proclaims the Incarnate Son, who gathers the redeemed into unity, … above all [by] his death, which is the source of reconciliation for a divided and scattered humanity. It proclaims the Holy Spirit as the principle of unity in the Church, wherein he ceaselessly raises up spiritual families and fraternal communities” (21). He adds, “By constantly promoting fraternal love, also in the form of common life, the consecrated life has shown that sharing in the Trinitarian communion can change human relationships and create a new type of solidarity. In this way it speaks to people both of the beauty of fraternal communion and of the ways that actually lead to it. Consecrated persons live ‘for’ God and ‘from’ God, and precisely for this reason they are able to bear witness to the reconciling power of grace, which overcomes the divisive tendencies present in the human heart and in society” (41). This new type of solidarity, the communion of the Holy Spirit, is meant first to be shown in all its beauty in consecrated communities. And Jesus prays at every Mass that you may be one, so that we may be one.

Anticipating Heavenly Fulfillment

This grace, love, and communion that the Blessed Trinity seeks to give us is meant to leave us to the fulfillment of God’s plans for us and the granting of our greatest desire, heaven. The way we best prepare for heaven is through our prayer and sacramental life, through our entering into and sharing God’s love, through our cherishing and advancing the communion of Trinitarian life and love here on earth. If God in his goodness grants us the blessing of heaven, we will enter into the communion of persons in love that is the communion of saints, within the loving communion of persons who is the Blessed Trinity, a reality that we are meant to anticipate here on earth. This Trinity Sunday is a chance for us, once again, to hear God calling us to live up to our dignity and enter more deeply into the communion with Him and with others that will bring true joy to our lives in this world and eternal joy in the next. It’s a time for us to receive the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in it and to let that grace, love and communion overflow. And so let’s pray for that, in the words with which St. John Paul II concluded his beautiful exhortation on the Trinitarian dimension of the consecrated life:

“Most Holy Trinity, blessed and the source of all blessedness, bless your sons and daughters whom you have called to praise the greatness of your love, your merciful goodness and your beauty. Father Most Holy, sanctify the sons and daughters who have consecrated themselves to you, for the glory of your name. Enfold them with your power, enabling them to bear witness that you are the Origin of all things, the one Source of love and freedom. … Jesus our Savior, Incarnate Word, as you have entrusted your own way of life to those whom you have called, continue to draw to yourself men and women who will be, for the people of our time, dispensers of mercy, heralds of your return, living signs of the Resurrection and of its treasures of virginity, poverty and obedience. May no tribulation separate them from you and from your love! Holy Spirit, Love poured into our hearts, who grant grace and inspiration to our minds, the perennial Source of life, who bring to fulfillment the mission of Christ by means of many charisms, we pray to you for all consecrated persons. Fill their hearts with the deep certainty of having been chosen to love, to praise and to serve. Enable them to savor your friendship, fill them with your joy and consolation, help them to overcome moments of difficulty and to rise up again with trust after they have fallen; make them mirrors of the divine beauty. Give them the courage to face the challenges of our time and the grace to bring to all mankind the goodness and loving kindness of our Savior Jesus Christ (cf. Tit 3:4).” Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 EX 34:4B-6, 8-9

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the LORD had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, “LORD.”
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
“The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people;
yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own.”

Responsorial Psalm DN 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Reading 2 2 COR 13:11-13

Brothers and sisters, rejoice.
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Alleluia CF. RV 1:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
to God who is, who was, and who is to come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:16-18

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.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.