Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – June 15th, 2014 – Preached at the 5pm Vigil Mass, Cathedral of Christ the KingReading 1 – EX 34:4B-6, 8-9 Reading 2 – 2 COR 13:11-13 Gospel – JN 3:16-18
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Did you ever wonder why the Church places Holy Trinity Sunday right after Pentecost, which we celebrated last Sunday? I did. So I turned to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In paragraph 234, the Catechism teaches us that “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life.”
I had to think about that. For much of my adult life I treated this mystery of the Holy Trinity as something detached. Important? Yes!! Essential element of our faith? Absolutely!! But connected to my life as a Catholic living in the real world? Hmm. Not so much. I hadn’t connected this dogma of our faith with God’s vision for how we are to live our lives as Jesus disciples. Recently, Fr. Alan spoke to our Catholics Returning Home participants. During his presentation, he built upon this statement from the Catechism, that the Holy Trinity is the central mystery and foundation of Christian faith and Christian life. Everything God hopes for us, wants for us and expects from us flows directly from this doctrine of our faith. It’s all wonderfully connected together.
St. John Paul II captured this so beautifully in his Theology of the Body – a decades long reflection that has become a new expression of the ancient teachings of the Church. As St. John Paul reflected on God as Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he observed what is neatly summarized in another paragraph in the Catechism (221) which reads, “By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.”
Think about that, “God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.” St. John Paul reflected on the nature of the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As he did so, he observed that there were four essential elements of that love; that it is Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful.
Trinitarian Godly love is free. It’s love that is given without reservation; it’s not controlled or manipulated by another person or by a disordered desire. In our first reading today we heard an intimate exchange between God and Moses. God had no need of the people’s worship, but nonetheless he presents himself to Moses; almost courting Moses as the representative of his people. God freely seeks to share himself with his people because authentic love seeks to share itself with another. Love that is free!
Trinitarian Godly love is total. It’s a love that’s “all in” – with nothing held back. It’s a love that gives all for the good of the other; TOTAL self-donation. We hear in today’s Gospel that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” The Father gave us his Son, an act of total self-donation. The Son gave us his life, an act of total self-donation; nothing held back in his love for you and me. Love that is total!
Trinitarian Godly love is faithful. It’s a love that is committed and permanent. The Trinity is an eternal exchange of love; love always present to the other; love always committed to the good of the other. Love that is faithful!
Finally, Trinitarian Godly love is fruitful. It’s not only open to life, but it actually produces life. The Father, from all eternity is making a gift of himself in love to the Son. And the Son, eternally is receiving the gift of the Father, makes a gift of himself back to the Father. The love between them is so real, so profound, that this love is another eternal person – the Holy Spirit. Love that is fruitful!
This dogma of our faith is not just some interesting theological belief. It expresses who God is and it leads directly to our understanding of who we are as men and women created in his image. Marriage is a living sign that images the union of Christ and the Church. St. John Paul has said that, except for Christ himself, that marriage, consummated and expressed through sexual union, is the fullest revelation of God’s love for the world. Why? Because marital love, in its essence, shares the same characteristics as the love of the Trinity – it is free, total, faithful and fruitful.
Why has the Church held from the beginning that marriage is the permanent relationship of one man and one woman? Not because the Church seeks to exclude anyone. It’s because only a man and woman can image Godly love that is fruitful; the one flesh union capable of creating new life. Whatever else same sex relationships might be, they simply don’t share in this essential element of Trinitarian love.
Why has the Church held from the beginning that artificial contraception contradicts God’s vision for marriage? It’s because in the exchange of marital vows, husband and wife make a covenantal gift of themselves, one to the other, with nothing held back, including their fertility. When couples sterilize their sexual union, they change the language of the marital embrace. They reduce what is meant to be an expression of their total self-gift of love to a partial and conditional gift that no longer images the love of the Holy Trinity.
I know many of you struggle with some of the moral teachings of the Church. I too struggled with some of them for a good portion of my adult life. I encourage you to keep struggling, keep searching, keep praying for guidance. I can recommend an excellent book that may be helpful to you called Good News about Sex & Marriage by Christopher West. It’s very readable but at the same time very thorough. It will give you a wonderful explanation of St. John Paul’s rich and beautiful Theology of the Body and show how this mystery of the Holy Trinity undergirds the Church’s moral teachings.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love of himself and his love for us is free, total, faithful and fruitful. This doctrine of the Holy Trinity extends far beyond just a mere theological curiosity. It leads us towards God’s vision of life itself and our place as man and woman created in his image and likeness. O Most Holy Trinity, teach us and guide us. St. John Paul II, pray for us!