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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Trinity Sunday (Homily by Deacon Pat Kearns)

Pope Leo XIII, who led the church 100 years ago, once wrote: “the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is the greatest of all mysteries, since it is the foundation and origin of them all. In order to know and contemplate this mystery, the angels were created in heaven and men upon the earth.”

This is truly an incredible thought – that the reason for our very existence is to contemplate the Blessed Trinity.

This is the mystery we contemplate today – one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 2 weeks from today we will observe “Father’s Day,” when we honor our earthly fathers.
Often these two celebrations, a religious holy day and a civil holiday – fall on the same Sunday, or at least during the same month of June. When we think of these two celebrations, it’s natural to focus upon the first person of the Blessed Trinity as God the Father.

Have you even wondered why we don’t have a special feast day in the Catholic Church honoring God the Father? After all, we have a number of feast days of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God the Son. And just a week ago we celebrated the great solemnity of Pentecost, on which we especially remember God the Holy Spirit.

So why not a “Holy Day” dedicated to God the Father?

Well, if you have ever had that thought, you’re in good company. About 300 years ago, some bishops approached Pope Innocent XII with a petition to create just such a feast.

The Holy Father absolutely refused. Why? Because by doing so, the church would be too sharply distinguishing the persons of the Blessed Trinity one from the other. He feared that this might lead the faithful into thinking of the Trinity as three gods rather that as “One God” in three Divine Persons.

You see, on those days when we honor God the Son – such as: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and the Ascension – we are recognizing specific mysteries in connection with the Incarnate Word – events in salvation history. None of these feasts is focused upon the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in his Divine essence.

Similarly, Pentecost Sunday is not so much a day celebrating the person of the Holy Spirit, as it is a memorial of an historical event: the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the gift of the Spirit to the Church throughout the ages. In the same way, we could not have a festival in honor of God the Father, because this would set him apart from the Son and Holy Spirit, and all three Persons are to be equally honored and adored.

And this is why we celebrate today’s feast of the Blessed Trinity. God progressively revealed this mystery to his people. Throughout the Old Testament, the unity of God is strongly emphasized and firmly established, just as we heard in today’s first reading: “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens and on the earth below, and that there is no other.”

When Jesus came into the world, He revealed himself as the only begotten Son of God, and promised the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him. The Blessed Trinity was made manifest at Christ’s baptism in the Jordan; and when he instructed his disciples to baptize new members of the church, he gave them the formula which we use to this day: “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” as we heard in today’s Gospel.

At Holy Baptism, original sin is washed away and we are restored to God’s grace, we are reborn through the power of the Holy Spirit and incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ. For this reason, our baptismal formula is not “in the name of God” or “ in the name of Jesus.” Instead, the Minster of the Sacrament says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

At that moment, the Holy Trinity comes to dwell in our souls, and our hearts are filled with the love which binds the Trinity together. You see, the relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity is a relationship of love: it is the love of the Father which begets the Son from all eternity, it is the love between the Father and Son which proceeds forth as the Holy Spirit.

And this Spirit of love is the Spirit of adoption of which St. Paul speaks in today’s second reading: “you receive a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’”

Parents, who adopt a child, love that child with a very special love. I won’t say it is greater than the love they have for their own children, but it is a deeply profound love – a love which has chosen to make that child their own. This is the love God has for us, his adopted sons and daughters.

Throughout our lives, should we ever lose that love by falling into sin, it is restored to us through the sacrament of Penance as the priest gives his absolution “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

This is just one more example of how all our prayers begin and end with the same invocation as we make the sign of the Cross.

Whenever persons, places or things are blessed or consecrated to God, they are blessed in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Even when the Church prays the Psalms and Canticles of the Old Testament in the Liturgy of the Hours - the official prayer of the church, she closes each one with the familiar words, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

This is one of the first prayers learned by every Catholic child. May it never be far from our lips, may it be the last prayer we breath as our life comes to an end. Because in the light of so great a mystery, understanding fails and all we can do is praise.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.


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