The Holy Trinity

As part of our diocesan initiative this year to help us better understand the Mass, here is the homily I gave today on the Holy Trinity.  All three persons of the Trinity are at work in the Mass and they do it all together.

Trinity Sunday, Year A
Exodus 34:4-6b, 8-9
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
John 3:16-18
June 19, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity.  You know, despite the fact that the trinity is a central mystery of our faith, we don’t talk about it a lot.  When was the last time you used the word “trinity”?

I don’t think it’s because we don’t believe in the Trinity.  I think there are two main reasons we don’t talk about the Trinity much.  First, we don’t understand it.  We try to come up with analogies like a shamrock.  You can’t find the name “Holy Trinity” in the Bible.  The Holy Trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that we describe as three persons yet one God.  How do you explain that?

The second reason is that we take it granted.  We are probably “invoking” the Trinity much more than we realize.  Trinitarian language is used several times in our celebration of the Mass.

How does the priest begin?  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  As the priest says these words, we all make the Sign of the Cross on ourselves.  As we do so we should be reflecting on the Cross as a central symbol of our faith but we should be doing so thinking also about the Trinity.

What happens next?  There is a greeting by the priest.  Now, there are a couple of options but the one I always use is “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”  Where does this come from?  Today’s second reading.  It is phrase found in various forms in Paul’s letters.  Note, it does not use the word Trinity but it does invoke all three persons of the Trinity.  And note the order, it is Jesus who is first mentioned because Jesus is the person of the Trinity that is most “tangible” to us because he is the one that became human.  But he didn’t do it alone.  He did it in relationship with his Father as we read in today’s Gospel, “God sent his only Son.”  Why?  Because he loved us.  So this greeting calls us upon the love of God.  The invocation also includes the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  They work in total unity as we are called to in our baptism and granted through the Holy Spirit.  It is the Trinity that is the perfect model of community.

So we continue at Mass.  We don’t have to wait long to hear Trinitarian language for the opening prayer normally ends with a similar invocation, “We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.”

The Creed is written as a statement of the most basic beliefs of our faith.  The Creed talks about the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was begotten by the Father, one in being (in the new translations we will say consubstantial).  The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Then comes the Eucharistic Prayer.  The Eucharistic Prayers are addressed to the Father.  Depending on which Eucharistic Prayer the priest chooses, all three persons of the Trinity are spoken of in it.  Eucharistic Prayer 3 is the prime example of this.

The very opening lines so that the Eucharistic Prayer is clearly addressed to the Father but also immediately recognizes Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise.  All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit.    

The three work together. 

Then we ask the Father to make the gifts holy by the power of the Holy Spirit that they become for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ as whose command we celebrate this Eucharist.

Again, all three working together.

Our Eucharistic Prayer ends with

Through him, in him, and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours almighty Father, forever and ever. 

 The “him” is Jesus, the prayer is addressed to the Father, both working together in unity with the Holy Spirit.

Again all three working together.

Then, of course, our Mass ends with our blessing invoking the Trinity with the Sign of the Cross.

When we talk about the Trinity we are talking about perfect unity, the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Can we explain how they are one?  If we could, we won’t call it a mystery and it won’t be faith.

But we can believe.  I said before that the Bible never uses the word trinity.  It isn’t because the early church didn’t believe in the Trinity.  They were just beginning to learn about it.  God was one God.  Then, here comes Jesus, who in turn sends the Holy Spirit.

While we don’t find the word trinity in Bible we can find all three persons of the Trinity in the Bible.  There are Paul’s et al invocation of the three persons.  The New Testament is clear that Jesus is sent to do the will of the Father.  John’s Gospel speaks frequently about the relationship of the Father and the Son.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he send the Holy Spirit.

The relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a perfect community.  They are three different persons but one God. 

We are each different people but we are called to work together as members of the Body of Christ.  Do you look out for yourself or do you seek a greater good for our Christian Community?

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