Sunday, June 16, 2019
The Most Holy Trinity – Solemnity
Liturgical Color: White.
First reading: Proverbs 8:22–31
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 8:4–5, 6–7, 8–9
Second reading: Romans 5:1–5
Gospel Acclamation: see Revelation 1:8
Gospel: John 16:12–15
Why is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity important? Because our salvation is totally dependent on this interior relationship of the divine Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, and the Incarnation of the Son. If Jesus Christ were merely human, his death would accomplish nothing in us, and his resurrection would be simply impossible. Only God himself can save us from our sins by becoming one of us. And only then would he have the power to lay down his life, and the power to take it up again (see John 10:18) — thus redeeming us by his death and justifying us by his resurrection.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:20
This passage by the Apostle Paul is the proper Christian response to the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Wisdom resides with God and comes to us through God incarnate, Jesus Christ, who was with God in the beginning — that is, in eternity, apart from creation — and in fact was himself God, distinct from the Father. But this Word of Wisdom entered creation as a man for the benefit of mankind. And this is what our First Reading refers to in its initial words:
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth. – Proverbs 8:22–23
The Fathers of the Church unanimously opposed the Arian heresy, whose adherents pointed to this verse of Scripture as proof that the Messiah was not God incarnate, but a mere man, part of the created universe. I have read through a lengthy litany of the Fathers’ references to this first verse of the passage (16 different Fathers in 28 separate passages), and to a man they state that the word “created” refers only to Christ’s incarnate human nature, while his eternal and divine nature remains uncreated. One Person, two natures.
What this poem from Proverbs represents by speaking of “before the beginning of the earth” and many other references to “before” God’s act of creation is what we today call eternity, and God’s existence outside of time. “Wisdom” is then the Word of God, of whom the Apostle John has said (John 1:1–5), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Later, in time and creation, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father” (ibid., verse 14). Why? Because…
[In God’s act of creation] I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the sons of men. – Proverbs 8:30–31
For this reason, we sons of men can also rejoice, singing the psalm of human delight in God’s creation:
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!…
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you have established;
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than the angels,
and you have crowned him with glory and honor. – Psalm 8:1, 3–5
The three theological virtues — faith, hope and love — are mentioned in this passage as the result of the action of the Holy Spirit, bringing us divine grace to endure suffering for the faith and providing spiritual growth unto life eternal. How is the Holy Spirit, as Paul asserts, “given to us”? Through the Sacraments of the Church. This is their purpose and their goal: to provide the grace that produces the virtues and brings about the indwelling of the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Faith leads us to know and be sure of the things we hope for (cf. Hebrews 11:1); hope ensures that we shall attain them, and enlivens our love of God; charity, for its part, gives us energy to practise the other two theological virtues. The definitive outcome of this growth in love, faith and hope is the everlasting peace that is of the essence of eternal life.
As long as we are in this present life, we do have peace to some degree — but with tribulation. Therefore, the peace attainable in this life does not consist in the contentment of someone who wants to have no problems, but rather in the resoluteness full of hope (“character”) of someone who manages to rise above suffering and stays faithful through endurance. Suffering is necessary for us, because it is the normal way to grow in virtue (cf. James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:5–7); that is why it is providential (cf. Philippians 1:19; Colossians 1:24) and leads to joy and happiness (1 Thessalonians 1:6). – Navarre Bible Commentary
Peace, even in the midst of tribulation, is the hallmark of the action of the Holy Spirit. It comes about because God’s love for us, as exemplified by the outpouring of the Spirit “into our hearts,” is the cause of our own ability to love God in return.
Paul affirms elsewhere that a new capacity to love God is produced in believers by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 1:8). In fact, Romans 5:1–5 seems to reference the triad of signature Christian virtues: faith (verse 1), hope (verses 2 and 4), and love (verse 5), all of which are produced in believers by the Lord’s grace (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3). – Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
I mentioned the efficacy of the Sacraments to bring about this transformation in the human soul. Here is what Saints Peter and Paul have to say about the action of the Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism:
The normative context for the outpouring of the Spirit in the life of the Church is baptism. No sooner did Peter preach on the Spirit’s descent at Pentecost (Acts 2:17) than he urged the crowds in Jerusalem to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ… and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Paul’s doctrine is no different: baptism is the occasion when justification takes place (1 Corinthians 6:11) and the Spirit of the Lord streams into the lives of believers in a powerful way (1 Corinthians 12:13). We see this clearly in Titus 3:5–7: “He [God] saved us through the bath of rebirth / and renewal by the holy Spirit, / whom he richly poured out on us / through Jesus Christ our savior, / so that we might be justified by his grace / and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” The waters of baptism render the cleansing work of the Spirit visible, fulfilling prophetic expectations of the Spirit being “poured out” on the Lord’s people. – Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
In the First Reading, we considered the relationship between the Father and the Son. In the Second Reading, we were given an overview of the entire Trinity and how the Persons related to us humans, instilling in us the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Now, in the Gospel, the focus shifts to the Holy Spirit and His action in the Church and the individual Christian soul. Let us look more closely at the Gospel text.…
First, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and that he guides the Church into all truth. Like the Son, He does not speak on his own authority, but receives the divine message from the Father to pass on to us. The Father then gives the Spirit two tasks: to declare the things that are to come, and to glorify the Son by communicating the Son’s message to the Church. The Son’s message is, of course, the one that He has received from the Father, and the same message that the Holy Spirit has received. All three Persons thus work in harmony, providing us creatures what we need for salvation from sin. Nevertheless, the message has different effects, according to the different Persons from whom it is received. For this reason, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen states in the revised edition of Divine Intimacy, vol. 3, in his refection for Trinity Sunday is the following: “The Holy Spirit will not teach things that are not already contained in Christ’s message, but will rather make us penetrate their profound meaning and give us an exact understanding of them, thus preserving them from error.” Same message, different result.
John 16:14–15. Jesus Christ here reveals some aspects of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. He teaches that the three divine Persons have the same nature when he says that everything that the Father has belongs to the Son, and everything the Son has belongs to the Father (cf. John 17:10) and that the Spirit also has what is common to the Father and the Son, that is, the divine essence. The activity specific to the Holy Spirit is that of glorifying Christ, reminding and clarifying for the disciples everything the Master taught them (John 16:13). On being inspired by the Holy Spirit to recognize the Father through the Son, men render glory to Christ; and glorifying Christ is the same as giving glory to God (cf. John 17:1, 3–5, 10). – Navarre Bible Commentary
I will close with this reflection from the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture:
The Catechism (§221) states, “God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.” This sharing is heaven. The Father sent his only Son to suffer, die, and rise, so that humanity could be restored to his friendship and enter into the divine communion. The Spirit has been sent to teach us, strengthen us, and help us replicate in our lives the same pattern of self-giving love that exists in God. Our task is to yield to the Holy Spirit, who makes the reality of God powerfully alive for us and draws us into communion with him through Jesus. In order to do this, we have to give up our sins and open ourselves up to God. The more attuned we become to the Holy Spirit by renouncing our sins and living a graced life of prayer and the sacraments, the more we will come to know the mystery of love that is the Blessed Trinity.