The Most Holy Trinity
Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Last week we celebrated Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit and that brought our Easter season to a close. That means we are now in Ordinary Time but for this Sunday and next we celebrate two feasts that our Church considers important enough as to celebrate on Sunday so that many people experience the meaning of these feasts.
Next week we will celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ and begin the Year of the Eucharist in our diocese but that’s for next week. Today we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity.
The Trinity is in one sense basic to our faith. We invoke the Trinity every time we make the Sign of the Cross, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How much more basic can you get than that?
While the Trinity is basic to our faith, it is also difficult to understand. That’s why we call it a “mystery”.
What is a mystery? Probably most times when we hear the word “mystery” it is in the context of solving a crime. In this sense of mystery, it is a problem to be solved or an answer to be found.
If we look at the mystery of the Trinity as something to solved or answered, we might begin by turning to the Bible, the very Word of God. However, I will let you know that if you go looking for the word “trinity” in the Bible you will not find this exact word.
Does that mean the Trinity isn’t real? Absolutely not! I said you can’t find the exact word “trinity” in the Bible but the concept of trinity is very much there, three persons but one God.
Think of the story of Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus is baptized, we hear the voice of God our Father say, “This is my beloved Son.” Then the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus at his baptism in the form of a dove.
Looking elsewhere in the Bible, we can read Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in chapters 14-17 of John’s Gospel. Here Jesus talks about how he and the Father are one. He talks about how the Holy Spirit will come after him, sent by the Father. This discourse speaks of the unity of the Trinity. Such a perfect unity is hard for us to imagine because our human faults make that level of unity a huge challenge for us.
Jesus himself uses a Trinitarian formula when he tells the disciples to go out and baptize all nations in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
Paul invocates the Trinity in our second reading today, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (This is the basis for the greeting I use at the beginning of Mass.)
What about our other readings today? To be honest, they do not include all three persons of the Trinity. What they do include is something about God’s identity.
Today’s gospel tells us of God’s love, so great “that he gave his only Son” not to condemn us but to save us. There is nothing God won’t do to save us. That is his perfect love for us.
The first reading tells us God’s name. The text uses the word “LORD” in all capital letters to tell us it is not simply the word “lord” but that is God’s name, God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
It is difficult for us to put in human words an adequate description of God and the three persons of the Trinity. It is a mystery. The first reading has God coming down upon the mountain “in a cloud.” Think of the cloud as mysterious and hidden. Hidden not because God doesn’t want us to see him but hidden in the sense that we can’t fully comprehend God.
It is a mystery but God gives us the gift of faith. We can’t solve the mystery of the Trinity. We don’t have too. God gives us the gift to believe.