Growing into the Image of our Trinitarian God, Trinity Sunday (B), May 31, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of the Holy Family, New York, NY
Trinity Sunday, Year B
May 31, 2015
Deut 4:32-34.39-40, Ps 33, Rom 8:14-17, Mt 28:16-20


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


The following text guided the homily: 

The Central Mystery of Christian Faith and Life

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 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 a very important paragraph 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 enlightens 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.

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 into the mystery of the Trinity. This means not just pouring our minds, but also our heart, soul, strength and entire existence, into this reality. The Christian life is meant to be a Trinitarian life. Your life, my life, is meant to be a Trinitarian life.

And so the question we ought to ponder today is: How do we live a Trinitarian life?

The Trinitarian Shape of the Liturgy

We certainly are helped to live this reality liturgically, although often we can fail to recognize it. 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 as we will put into action the words at the end of today’s Gospel and “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing … [and] teaching them to observe everything” that Jesus has commanded us. Everything we do and say during the Mass is nothing other than a dialogue between us and the Father, through the person of Jesus Christ, in the light and with the help of the Holy Spirit, who helps us, as we saw in the Epistle, to cry out “Abba, Father” and makes us recognize we are joint heirs with Christ of all the Father’s love. The priest greets us all at the beginning of the Mass with St. Paul’s words, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” The Mass is supposed to help us to enter into God’s grace, love and communion. 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, in heaven and in Purgatory 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.”

As we see in the liturgy of the Mass, our whole life is meant to begin and end in the name of the Blessed Trinity and be a profession of the faith we proclaim together. We see this in the other Catholic liturgies that are likewise Trinitarian. Our spiritual life begins when a minister of God makes us God’s child and a temple of His presence by baptizing us, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At the end of our life, a priest, in the prayers after the anointing, will say, “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.” Between these two extremes — birth and death — our whole earthly existence is meant to be lived explicitly within the life of the Blessed Trinity: in the name of the Trinity spouses are united in holy matrimony; in the name of the Trinity, priests and deacons are ordained and consecrated for God’s service; in the name of the Trinity, our sins are forgiven. Our whole Christian existence develops in the company of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the three Persons are with us, the walk each step of life with us — and when we’re in the state of grace, they do so on the inside! In today’s first reading, Moses describes the acts of God’s love and queries, “Did anything so great ever happen before?” and that concerned only the various manifestations of God in the desert. That’s nothing in comparison with the far greater reality of the divine indwelling? In the Responsorial Psalm we stated, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own!” And the truth is that we are those people, and God has mind-blowingly chosen to live within us. Often do not recognize this accompaniment, however. We can be like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who ever though they have walked several miles with Jesus, never really recognized him.

Learning to Live in Loving Communion

But liturgy should never be separated from life. The Catechism says we’re called to live as we pray, to put into practice what Triune God has come to reveal to us and make possible. And so this Trinitarian Life that is emphasized and effectuated by the Sacraments is meant to overflow into daily existence. Jesus has come to reveal to us who God is so that not only we may come to know him and experience his life and love each day and into eternity but so that we can also grow to know ourselves, who have been created by Him in his image and likeness.

St. John wrote in his first letter something so simple but yet so theologically deep. He said, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). This statement strongly implies that the one God somehow had to be a Trinity of Persons. For God to be love, he could not have been solitary, because no one can love in a vacuum. In love, there is always one who loves, one who is loved, and the content of their love for each other. God the Father and God the Son, in all eternity, loved each other so much that their love generated (“spirated”) a third person, the Holy Spirit. They exist in an eternal communion of persons in love, in which the three persons exist in mutual self-giving that not only makes them united but makes them truly one, three persons in one God. Because love is naturally expansive, their mutual self-giving was bound to overflow. Out of no necessity, our Triune God created the world — and created us — to share his love. We were made in God’s image and likeness and hence are created in love and for love. We’re created in the image of the divine giver and called to live in a communion of persons in love. We see this image reflected in the way he created man and woman to exist in a communion of persons in love so strong that their love for each other can actually generate a third person, similar to what we see in the Holy Trinity. Saint John Paul II used to say that this is the deepest thing that can be said about the human person made in God’s image: we are in God’s image most not by our reason and our capacity freely to choose, but by our nature and call to live in a loving communion of persons. This image of God as communion is meant to be reflected in the family, in the Church, and in society. And each of us, on this Trinity Sunday, is summoned to ask whether we really strive to live in as a loving communion of persons in God’s image and likeness, or whether we live selfishly, egocentrically and individualistically.

I’d like to make that more concrete. During the Last Supper, when Jesus should have been preparing direclty for the enormous sufferings he knew he was about to experience later that night and the following day, he was instead praying, almost obsessively, to the Father about something else: gamely that we would be one just as the Father is in Him and He is in the Father, that we be so completely one that the world may know that the Father sent Him and that the Father loves us just as much as He loves Jesus (Jn 17). Jesus prayed that we show to the world a glimpse of His Trinitarian Love. If people want to see the loving union that exists in God all they should need to do is to look at the way any two Christians love each other, any two parishioners of Holy Family Parish, any two students at a Catholic School or catechetical program, any two members of a Catholic family. That’s obviously a big challenge, but we know from the resurrection of Lazarus that God the Father always hears Jesus’ prayer. All the graces needed for us to live by that standard are ready for us to respond to. Christ has come into the world to bring us into that interpersonal relation who is Father-Son-and-Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s principal work is to insert us into that communion. And the Holy Spirit fulfills that work through Christ’s body the Church, through the teaching God gives us, through the sacraments by which we enter, re-enter, or intensify our communion with him, and through the prayer and life that mutually help each other. God, however, wants us to respond to these graces so that we may experience the joy of that communion here on earth forever in heaven, when we, God-willing, will enter into the loving Communion among Father, Son and Holy Spirit as a member of the communion of saints.

Giving Glory to Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The way we best prepare for heaven is by entering into that type of communion of love here on earth and we do that, first, by God’s help in the liturgy, as we pondered earlier. This Trinity Sunday is a chance for us, once again, to hear God calling us and helping us to live up to our dignity as Christians, to become one just as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, and enter more deeply into the joy-filled communion with Him and with others. It’s a time for us to recognize how blessed we are that God has chosen us and then 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. Today we thank God Father-Son-and-Holy-Spirit for the gift and calling to that communion of love, and ask him to strengthen us to respond to the help he gives so that we might truly be men and women in a communion of love and say, by words and deeds, in this world and forever, “Glory 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

The readings for tonight’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 DT 4:32-34, 39-40

Moses said to the people:
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
This is why you must now know,
and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.
You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today,
that you and your children after you may prosper,
and that you may have long life on the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22

R. (12b) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
For he spoke, and it was made;
he commanded, and it stood forth.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Reading 2 ROM 8:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Alleluia REV 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 MT 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”