Truth in a Name

Today we pick up where we left off at Ash Wednesday, we are back in Ordinary Time.  Our time for intense celebration and reflection on the works of our Lord gives way to learning how to be His disciples. But first, we attend to two great celebrations next week we celebrate Corpus Christi, and today we celebrate the Holy Trinity.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity is unusual, indeed singular, in the celebrations of the Liturgical Year.  Whereas other feasts celebrate actions of Lord such as the Nativity, Good Friday, Easter; or the result of His action such as feast days for saints and our blessed Mother; today we celebrate the very mystery of God.  Today, we celebrate who God is, we celebrate the central mystery of the Christian Faith. CCC states:

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. 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 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”’[1]

That is what we are celebrating – the central mystery of our whole faith – it is that important.  Out of the infinite aspects we can reflect on – three points come quickly to mind.

First. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.
He chose to reveal himself to us– this not something we can figure out ourselves. It is God who brought to us who He is. Through history He started to make us aware of who he is. But it is Christ, who makes whole the revelation of who He is.

Second – And reveals to us that He is a Trinity.
‘The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because that is who He is; One God three persons. There is no other name by which He can go by. Creative as we can be there nothing we can do to repackage this.  God is a Holy Trinity, 3 persons in 1 God; He Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Christ said so, the whole bible speaks of this in hidden ways until Jesus proclaims it openly and clearly.

From the meeting of Abraham in Mamre:
The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: “Sir, if it please you, do not go on past your servant.[2]

To the words of Christ in John: ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.[3] And today’s Gospel and of course Christ’s great commission ‘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…[4]

Three – He is relational.
As creatures we are limited in our ability to explain the unexplainable; but we try. There have been some rather clever attempts throughout history to try and explain what a Holy Trinity is like. We have all heard the comparison credited to St. Patrick of a three leaf clover; or the likening of the Trinity to a piano chord and so on.  These comparisons are good as far as they go to describing the unity within the Trinity; but recently, in past 60 years or so, there have other attempts to describe the Trinity; attempts that actually do damage to our understanding.

Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier or Creator, Liberator, Sustainer have been used. They have not only been used to explain the Trinity but they have, sadly, been used in the Sacrament of Baptism to replace Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These are very disturbing because they reduce the Trinity to actions or jobs, and most importantly, they erase the Trinitarian reality of God. For instance the Father is creator, and so is the Son and the Holy Spirit; The Son is the redeemer and so are the Father and Holy Spirit and the same goes with Sanctifier. Though we attribute some attributes to each of the persons for convenience, as in our opening prayer when we heard ‘the Spirit of sanctification[5], in truth all three hold all attributes, as evidenced by the prayer over the offerings we are about to hear: ‘Sanctify by the invocation of your name, we pray, O Lord our God.[6] These attempts have caused grave damage to the faithful to the point that Holy Mother Church is requesting those who went through a baptism with these ‘labels’ to be found, for they were not baptized. No, these names are not the same as what God Himself revealed to us – and for that reason alone we should not use them.  But, there is a deeper import, revealed to us, for using Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

God is love!!!!!!
Love is relational!  God, in His very being is self-giving total love, to be that means to love others just because they are other. The Father loves the Son, He does everything for the Son. The Son likewise, does everything for the Father. And this is so perfect that it is the third person the Holy Spirit. God’s revelation to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit allows us into the inner part of our creator – not what He does but who He is – Love.

Brothers and sisters, this is why the Catechism says the mystery of the Holy Trinity is central: ‘It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”.[7] God is Love, He offers Himself totally, and all of His revelation and His actions towards us should us bring us to the realization that this is what we should do as well. God has revealed His nature to us to allow us to strive for and participate in it – we are made in His image after all.  So, as we start into the great school of discipleship, Ordinary Time, let’s look within and ask ourselves how we are doing in trying to understand the great and central mystery of our faith.

How is our participation in this mystery doing?
How are we in living a life of self-giving love?
Our answers to these questions are the only and true gauge of our understanding this mystery of the Trinity.

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[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶234
[2] Genesis 18:1-3
[3] John 14:9
[4] Matthew 28:19
[5] Collect from the Mass of the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
[6] Prayer over the Offerings from the Mass of the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶234

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Who He is – Who we should try to be.

As we enter back into Ordinary Time, the school of discipleship, Holy Mother Church gives us a few more intensive lessons about our God.  During the first six months of this liturgical we have delved deeply into the act of God coming among us and giving Himself up for us and restoring our lives and how He will be intimately with us through His Spirit. Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates something other than how God has revealed Himself or what God has done for us. Cardinal Ratzinger spoke in 2004: ‘Today we are not celebrating an event in which “something” of God is made visible; rather, we are celebrating the very mystery of God. We rejoice in God, in the fact that he is the way he is; we thank him for existing; we are grateful that he is what he is and that we can know him and love him and that he knows and loves us and reveals himself to us.[1]

Today, we celebrate that God is absolute Love.  We celebrate that this love is made manifest to us in the Holy Trinity – 3 persons 1 God.  Why is God as He is? Well, ultimately this is a mystery and only He can help us with the answer. What we do understand is that this love that God is; is a perfect love of self-giving.  This love that is God is active, creative and to be that there needs to be a giver and the object of the giving.  The Father loves the Son totally with all He has – the Son loves the Father totally with all He has and this perfect love is the Holy Spirit.  This love requires an emptying of oneself for the sake of another; it requires effort – communion – interaction.

Brothers and sisters, this gift of God – of partial understanding of Himself is also our goal.  We are made in His image; therefore to be complete in ourselves we need to participate in who He is – we need to reach for this total self-giving love – this Agape. It is no wonder that when He was asked what the most important commandment is Christ replied, albeit cryptically, with a description of who God is. “… you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.[2]

St. John tells us in his first letter ‘God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.[3] Our understanding of who God is should be what drives our lives. We should celebrate that we can know Him, that He knows us.  We should take strength in that He loves us as He loves Himself.  We should do the same.  Let’s come to know Him even better by loving Him and our neighbor better.

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[1] A homily given in the Cathedral of Bayeux on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, June 6, 2004.
[2] Mk 12:30-31 (RSV)
[3] 1 JN 4:16 (RSV)

Heart of God

As Holy Mother Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity a lot energy is spent on reflecting on the Trinitarian makeup; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We try to come to a better understanding of the great mystery, three persons in one God, and this is a good thing; we should desire to understand better what our Lord has revealed to us.  But this year I was struck with the idea that by striving to understand the nature of our God we might be missing another and very important aspect of the Trinity – their dynamic.

Deus Caritas Est, God is Love, His nature is all about self-giving love – He offers His love – so much so that by the Father giving to His Son and the Son giving to His Father that love is made manifest in the Third person the Holy Spirit. But again I am discussing the makeup.  God is a total giving and loving God; this is His dynamic, He always shares, gives. He always loves.  We should take time to reflect on this energy and realize that since we are made in His image we too are made to give, to love.  In fact we are not whole until we embrace this part of our humanity.

God in His loving plan has given us a guide to help us fulfill this. His revealed word in scripture is a written panorama of our life – as it should be, and what happens when we fall short.  What to some might seem like rules, restrictions and impersonal dictates is in reality a beautiful plan of happiness and peace. Sacred Scripture are loving letters of a loving friend, a parent; a family member.  In turn we respond with love and build our personal relationship with God and His creation and we enter into the dynamic of the Trinity.

In his April 10th homily the Holy Father was commenting on the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus and stone him – he said: ‘the mistake of the doctors of the law who were not good, and wanted to stone Jesus…was to separate the commandments from the heart of God.’  The heart of God, the Trinitarian dynamic, is where all of our actions and words should radiate from and lead to.  We need to witness to the fullness of our God and that is love.  Those lists like the commandments and other ‘non-negotiables’ spring alive and become personally fulfilling.

And, in addition, this is the only way that we have any hope of evangelizing the people around us, where issues, words and rules are chaffed at as coercive. We need to open their eyes, minds and hearts up to the energy, the source of our life; the ‘what’ in our life that animates our self-giving; our total, joyful, offering of self to those around us – or rather we need to introduce them to who in our life makes this life worth living – the Holy Spirit who is total self-giving; reciprocal love incarnate. We open our lives up to those around us as a witness to the Holy Trinity.