May 27, 2018 — The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Today we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday. Note that the proper name for this day is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Throughout our Church year we celebrate the entire mystery of Christ, from His incarnation and birth to His ascension, to Pentecost (the establishment of the Church), and finally to His Second Coming in judgment. Technically we divide our celebrations into Solemnities, Feasts, and Memorials.
Solemnities are the celebrations of greatest importance. Solemnities always begin the evening before with first vespers (evening prayer) and many solemnities have their own Vigil Mass. Although all Solemnities are important, they are not all Holy Days of Obligation
Today’s Solemnity of the Holy Trinity honors the Trinity. The Church has celebrated this for well more than 1,000 years, and it was made official in 1334.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#234) we are taught, “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’.”
Yet, the Trinity is one of the most fascinating, and controversial, of our teachings. When the Trinity is described as a “mystery,” that does not mean it is a total enigma, but it is a reality we can only grasp through worship and faith. A noted scholar once said that a mystery is not like a wall that we may run into, but an ocean in which we can swim.
Today’s readings thus relate in some way to our acceptance of this truth. Jesus understood that this was not an easy concept for people to grasp. That is why He responded to a question from St. Philip by saying, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” One of the more famous stories in our Church lore has to do with how St. Patrick taught about the Trinity to the pagans of Ireland. St. Patrick taught the Irish people about the Trinity using a shamrock with three separate leaves on the same stem. That is a good visual aid to help people understand the basic concept of the Trinity, but there is so much more that we can learn about the Holy Trinity than this.
The First Reading is drawn from the Book of Deuteronomy and Moses is speaking to the people. He explains to them the importance of faith, of understanding, of gratitude, and why it is necessary to follow God implicitly. When we think of the alternatives to serving God we should come to an awareness that serving God is really the only option, It is not always easy being a disciple of the Lord and serving Him, but it is the best choice we have. One of the founders of our United States republic said, “Democracy is the worst form of government ever created, except for all the others.” We could paraphrase that by saying “Serving God is the hardest, except for all the other ways.”
In the Second Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Paul addresses the Holy Trinity from another perspective. Paul speaks of all of us as being “children of God.” However, in order to be a child of God, Paul says that it is key that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit Who leads and guides us — He leads us to repentance; He leads us to think little of self and much of Jesus; He leads us into truth; He leads us into love; He leads us into holiness.
Just as the Lord reminded Philip of His relationship to His Father, we need to be reminded as well. St. Paul says in today’s reading, “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.” We have an inheritance from the Lord. Recall in the Gospel of Luke when the rich young ruler asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” That ruler misses the point. Inheritance is not a matter of doing; it is a matter of being. It is a matter of us embracing the Holy Trinity and what it means to us. That way we are truly children of God.
The Gospel Reading from St. Matthew is not lengthy, but is important to the concept of the Holy Trinity and to each of us as believers. This reading represents the end of Matthew’s Gospel and is often called The Great Commission. When they (we) are told to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it means that they are to make disciples. Note that the action word there is “make.” Also notice what the Lord says “in the name of,” not in the names of, the implication being, of course, that the three are one — our Holy Trinity. These were imperfect individuals that Jesus commissioned. We, too, are imperfect, but we, too, are commissioned and called.