Thursday, May 08, 2014

Homily for Trinity Sunday

It's still the Third Week of Easter (He is risen, alleluia!), but for my final paper in Trinitarian theology, our professor has asked us to write a homily for Trinity Sunday, based upon one of the lections from the Three-Year Lectionary for Mass.

I chose Year B.


There is one God in Three Persons: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The only-begotten Son of the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, Mary.

These two truths are the most fundamental tenets of Christianity. In fact, it's so important, so basic, and so indispensable, that the early Christians came up with a way to remember these two truths. Their mnemonic is as easy as the five fingers on your hand: any time the early Christians made the Sign of the Cross, any time a bishop or priest gave his blessing, or any time one of the Christian faithful blessed themselves with Holy Water, they made this sign: three fingers—the thumb, the pointing finger, and the middle finger—up and two fingers—the ring and little fingers—down. Like this [makes sign with hand]. The three fingers up? A reminder that reigning over us is the Triune God, the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The two fingers down? A recollection of two natures of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we confess to be true God and true man. Why are those pointing down? To remind us of what we celebrate at Christmas and on the Solemnity of the Annunciation and every time we recite the Creed: that this God-Man was made flesh and came down to dwell among us, in the Incarnation.

You might have had the instinctive reaction to make the Sign of the Cross, or at least say, “Amen,” during the proclamation of the Holy Gospel today. And that is a great reaction! After all, the familiar formula for invoking the Most Holy Trinity comes from today's Gospel passage from St Matthew: Jesus commanded us to baptize “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Mt. 28:16-20). When we think about this great feast-day and we recall, as we did just a moment ago, that the doctrine of the Three-in-Oneness of our God is one of the two most important truths of our Faith, it can be a little scary to realize that the word “Trinity” is not even found in the Sacred Scriptures. But then we encounter our Lord's command just before He ascended into heaven to be seated, as we shall confess in the Creed in a few moments, “ad dexteram Patris,” at the right hand of the Father (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (hereinafter “Nicene Creed”)), we can take a deep breath and realize that while the vocabulary word “Trinity” may have been first coined by either the Greek theologian Theophilus of Antioch in AD 1701 or the Latin theologian Tertullian in the early 200s,2 the truth about who God is comes from the lips of our Lord Jesus himself.

St Paul, too, gives us a glimpse of his extremely early Trinitarian theology in today's reading from his Epistle to the Romans. He speaks of being led by “the Spirit of God” to cry “Abba, Father!” to be a joint-heir with God's true heir, the Christ (cf. Rm. 8:14-17). Naysayers of Christianity and even some of our unitarian friends who call themselves Christians argue that the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity—that God is one God in three Persons—was developed by sycophantic hangers-on of Emperor Constantine in Byzantium to give some classical philosophical heft to what was otherwise conceived of as a minor Jewish mysticism. But here we have St Paul, writing in the mid-50s, only twenty years after our Lord's death and resurrection, already making a full-blown Trinitarian prayer! And just wait for two years from now, when our Lectionary—the cycle of readings we hear at Mass each Sunday—revolves back around to Year A, and we hear St Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians: the famous line we often hear at Mass: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (cf. 2 Cor. 13:11-13).

Indeed, brothers and sisters, our faith teaches us that the Trinity is a most Biblical doctrine. The Church's faith has had a Trinitarian character from the very beginning. But what is the point of that Faith? Why does it matter that God is a three-in-one loving communion of persons? Besides being important for us to know the God in whom we claim to believe by faith, we must also have hope for our own lives because of what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us about who God is. As I just said, God is not some monolithic old man in the sky with a beard. He is not Zeus on Olympus. He is not an abstract force of nature that got the Big Bang going and then checked out. No: God, our God, the true and living God, is a loving communion of persons. In other words, the Creative Power, Source, and Origin, that brought forth all of reality, everything “visible and invisible,” and who holds it in being even at this very moment, is, in his most essential nature, love! This is what St John means when he writes, in his famous, first epistle: “Deus caritas est,” God is love (1 Jn. 1:8). What kind of love? The Greek that St John gives us is crystal-clear: “ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν.” Did you catch that? St John tells us that the God who is love is agape love: self-giving, sacrificial, undying love. That kind of love [point to crucifix].

This is the love that brought you here this morning. This is the love into which those of you who have been baptized have been adopted by the power of God's grace “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” But are we living it? Does my life reflect that love? Both for God and for my family, my friends, my co-workers, my classmates? What about those closest to me? What about you? If we believe that God is a loving communion of persons, and if we believe that this same God poured forth the fullness of the Godhead (cf. Col. 2:9) into the man Christ Jesus, who is true Son of God and true Son of Mary, does the way we live our lives reflect that? Can it reflect it more closely? After all, if this is all true—if this God who is love, who is Three-in-One, has come to dwell among us, does that not change everything? He is the one to whom I turn with my problems, with my frustrations, with my doubts, with my anger, with my lust, greed, envy, and all the rest. He is the one to whom I must turn again and again to adore, to confess my sins, to thank and to petition with trust. He is the one to whom my whole life must be dedicated. And it is for him, for the sake of this loving, holy, powerful, merciful Three-in-One God that I must lay down everything, as he did.

In a moment, this God-man Jesus will come among us once more. Again, here, on this altar, the reality to which this day—this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity—is dedicated will be made truly present here and now. Brothers and sisters, we will not need to look to an ancient hand-sign for a reminder, for here in the midst of his Holy Faithful the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord and Master and King and God will mystically offer himself once for all on the hard wood of the Cross to his eternal and righteous Father in the loving unity of the Holy Spirit. We will fall down in adoration as the Mystery of the Word made flesh is accomplished for us once more and we are made present to both Calvary and to the Eternity of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. And it will all come to a head once more, as you will be faced with a point of decision, of crisis: before you will come the King of Glory, the Trinity in Unity, the Unity in Trinity, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and you will have a choice: Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth? And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life?

With countless myriads of angels and the souls of all the faithful departed holding their collective breath, when the moment is ours, let us say: “There is one God in Three Persons: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The only-begotten Son of the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, Mary.” I believe. I believe. I believe. Amen.

1 Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. 8 May 2014. Accessed online at>.

2 "Trinity in Christian Holidays." ReligionFacts. 8 February 2007. Accessed 8 May 2014 com/christianity/holidays.htm>.