Most Holy Trinity
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
Jesus says to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” You mean, there's more?! Given everything that Jesus taught his disciples in the three short years he spent among them, I'm not surprised that the poor souls couldn't bear it. I'm not sure I can. What more can there be to tell? He's told us about the Law of Love; the necessity of forgiving one another; he gave us a commission to make disciples and baptize them; to remember him in the Eucharist; and he warned us that remaining in his word would lead to some nasty consequences for us in the world. All this he told his disciples back then, and we know it now b/c his apostles wrote it all down. The promises, the warnings, the teachings, the sermons, the miracles. . .all of it. All of it except that which the disciples could not bear right then. What couldn't the disciples bear? Jesus says, “. . .when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. . .and [he] will declare to you the things that are coming.” Apparently, the disciples could not – right then – bear the weight of all truth nor endure the news of the things to come.
Just last week we celebrated the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth. We celebrated the birth of the Church, the birth of our mission as witnesses to God's freely offered mercy to sinners. At the First Pentecost, the disciples were given the fullness of the Holy Spirit's power to preach and teach the Gospel to every nation. They were set on fire with a passion for giving testimony to God's goodness. The Holy Spirit swept through their anger and bitterness and disappointment and fear, burning away every trace of doubt, and set them all squarely on the path to becoming missionaries of Christ's peace. We could've come away from our Pentecost Sunday celebration last week believing that that was then and this is now, believing that the Holy Spirit blew through those people way back then, but now the Holy Spirit must surely rest in heaven with the Father and the Son. His work is done. No! In fact, Trinity Sunday is our celebration of the Holy Spirit's on-going work among us, his work in guiding us to all truth, his persistent enlightenment of the Church as we confront the things that are to come. Left without the enduring ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Church would fall into fundamentalism and fractious denominationalism. The Trinity abides among us in the mission of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
The Church long ago accepted that the Blessed Trinity is a mystery, the central mystery of the faith. Being a mystery means that fully understanding the truth of the Trinity will have to wait until we stand before God face-to-face. Being a mystery does not mean that we can know nothing about the truth of the Trinity, only that what we can know is always partial, imperfect. We know that the Trinity is not three different gods. Nor is He one god with three working modes. Nor is He one god with two minor gods working for Him. The Church teaches that God is three Divine Persons in a unity of Divine Substance. One God, three Persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. What this unity is absolutely is beyond the finite mind. How these Persons relate within the unity is beyond us. We could say that it is too much for us to bear. . .right now. What we need to know and believe is that at the moment of creation, God the Father breathed the Holy Spirit and spoke His Son the Word over the void and everything that is came to be. The Blessed Trinity is inextricably infused into the very fabric of creation – transcending creation, of course! – but still abiding in the stuff of the universe. The Holy Spirit's continuing mission to the Church is to guide us toward the truth and strengthen us for what is to come.
Where the Holy Spirit is so too is the Father and the Son. The Catechism teaches: “[God's plan of loving kindness] unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church”(257). Did you catch that? The missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit are continued in the mission of the Church. The Son's mission is to preach the Good News of the Father's mercy to sinners and to die for those sinners so that they could return to the Father made perfect. The Spirit's mission is to reveal all truth and strengthen the Church for the things to come. If their missions are continued in the Church, then the Church's missions are the same: preach the Good News; make sacrifices to bring sinners to the Father; reveal and teach the truth; and strengthen one another for the things to come. Inasmuch as our creation is trinitarian, and our re-creation from the Cross is trinitarian, so too is our mission as new men and women in the Church trinitarian. Can we bear this truth right now? Can we hear it and obey?
We can. . .if we will. Our celebration of Trinity Sunday is not simply a Mass to remind us that there's this really obscure dogma that theologians believe is really important. Trinity Sunday follows Pentecost because with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we have the full revelation of the Trinity to contemplate. And we have the missionary work of the Spirit to assist us in living out our trinitarian ministry. When we love and forgive and seek forgiveness and share the faith and live in hope, when we do all these things we so along with the Blessed Trinity as imperfect agents of Perfect Love. Our imperfect work with the Blessed Trinity sharpens our love for God, make His love in us more perfect, and brings us to more gratefully receive His gifts. Can we bear all the truth? We can. . .if we will. We can if we will give ourselves over to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in all things. We can if we will give ourselves over to the freedom bought and paid for by Christ on his Cross. We can if we will give ourselves over to the mercy that the Father Himself guarantees is ours for the asking. We can bear all truth and be strong for the things to come if we will make our own the sacrificial ministry of the Blessed Trinity.
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