A few years ago the Vatican came out with a ruling that certain Baptisms were invalid and must be redone. This ruling came about because certain Catholic clergy thought, for various reasons, to change the words of the sacrament. Among them were: ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier‘; or ‘I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer‘. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained that the words, first of all, were not biblical; Jesus specifically gave us the formula ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’; and of course, since Jesus gave us these words, commanding us to use them – not using them meant that we were ignoring our Lord’s directions.
Those rejected formulas I just mentioned, failed to express the Catholic belief in the Holy Trinity. The words Jesus gave us about Himself, about God expressed the relationship between the three persons, not their functions; indeed The Father is Creator, as is the Son and so also the Holy Spirit; and all three persons redeem us and sanctify us – for there is unity in all three – actions from God are not split between them as responsibilities – that would limit the totality of God Himself.
But what we see with Jesus’ revelation of God as one substance in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in my opinion, is that God is love, pure and simple. Love doesn’t exist in solitude, it is communion; and God’s love is perfect communion. True Love is opening our self to the other, doing for the other, living for the other. I exist for you, I give for you, I sacrifice for you – and I do this freely for you. Love only can exist in relationship with those around us because love is manifested in relationship – anything else is isolation, self-centered and loneliness. If any other proof is needed we only need to remember what loneliness feels like – that emptiness within.
When Jesus gave us those Trinitarian words ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ He was not only showing us who He was, who God is; but He was showing us who we are. It seems very appropriate that the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity and Father’s Day are together this year because our Father’s Day is, fundamentally, a celebration of relationship. For most men it isn’t hard to become a Father. But that isn’t what we celebrate on Father’s Day; it is being a Father that is celebrated; it the relationship of a man to his offspring, which we call Father, that is celebrated; that is why we can turn to our Priests and say happy Father’ day – because they are in that relationship with their flock. And though most people in this country don’t appreciate it, Father’s Day reinforces the goodness of God because it witnesses to right relationships; it witnesses to love; it witnesses to the Holy Trinity.