What is the basic and ultimate signification of the Catholic Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity: three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sharing equal dignity and divinity in the otherwise absolutely one and undivided Godhead? It is that our faith is centred upon Personal relationships, divine Personal relationships of Truth and Love, and on our coming to share in them through being made -- in Mother Church which is the Body of Christ -- adopted children of God the Father, in Christ Jesus His only begotten Son, by the Holy Spirit.
On the basis of our Christian and Catholic faith in and commitment to such religious hope, all our earthly obedience, endeavours, and aspirations, are necessarily person-orientated, in the sense that our supreme calling to love God above all also requires that we love our neighbour as ourselves. Moreover, the fullness of the beauty and coherence of our Faith is clearly shown in Mother Church’s teaching that the Christian family … where we first experience and learn about the most basic and authentically human of personal relationships … is absolutely necessary for the social living of our Faith, and in the command to honour our father and mother which transcends all merely emotional responses or any possible psychological difficulties.
Today our readings show us a wonderful panoply of the glory and goodness of the Most Holy Trinity, and it all begins with the origins of Israel as referred to in our first reading:
Ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation … with strong hand and outstretched arm which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
One hears of scholars today who, confident of their own great wisdom, and with approval from like-minded social reformers cum agitators, want to deny the fact -- and deny Israel the glory -- of God originally choosing one people to be His own Chosen People. Uniqueness, according to such people, seems to assume and necessarily bring about exclusivity and superiority, nationalism and racism, and as such must be condemned for causing far too much human strife throughout history.
However, we know and our faith teaches that God chooses only those destined by Himself to be servants of His own good plans and purposes and ministers of mankind’s better-being and ultimate salvation. Israel was indeed chosen by God and remained uniquely honoured as His Chosen People for thousands of years until she was able to bring forth glorious fruit for the establishment of Jesus’ Church as the new and ultimate People of God by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. God does make choices – sometimes, indeed, with an outstretched arm -- and that means for us, as believers and disciples of Jesus our Lord and Saviour, that we too have, each of us individually and in Mother Church, been chosen by God (“no one can come to Me unless My Father draws him”) for His glory, our salvation, and the salvation of mankind. Moreover, our world, indeed our universe is not, as so many would like to believe, the result of the chance -- untraceable and infinitesimal -- coalescing out of original chaos of unimaginable powers and conflicting processes over many millions of years before ultimately heading for inevitable self-destruction into the void of oblivion … No! Our world itself, in its very physical reality has been deliberately willed and created by the God Who shows the fullness and beauty of His hand most clearly in His dealings and dialogue with us dwellers upon His earth, by willing to choose, and then by speaking with love – originally from the midst of the fire, then by His continuing words of the Mosaic Law and through the inspired Prophets – first to Israel for her formation and guidance, and now, ultimately and definitively, in and through Jesus His Word made flesh and proclaimed by His Church. For God unreservedly loves His creation, and it is His will -- abiding and true in His beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ -- to share His Personal Beatitude and Blessedness with those originally created in His own image and likeness and subsequently reformed to that likeness in Jesus by His Holy Spirit for an eternity of blessed fulfilment.
Let us move on to our second reading from St. Paul:
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
In those words St. Paul refers to a transcendent blessing won for us by Jesus Our Lord and Saviour: for, by dying in our flesh He destroyed our death, and by rising, glorified in the Spirit, He restored our Life. That is, by His transformation of His human horror of dying on the Cross into an act of sublime obedience and supreme love for His Father and His plans for us, He shattered the tyrannical hold of death over our human experience of life. Having risen from the dead glorified in His human flesh, He bestows, in fulfilment of the Father’s promise, His Spirit upon His Church to drive out our sin and set us free; and thereby He gives us the hope of sharing – in Him, as living members of His Body victorious over sin, and with Him, as divinely adopted children of God -- in the life of eternal beatitude which is His, in the Spirit, before the face of His heavenly Father.
Such forgiveness of sins is a most wonderful blessing indeed. After all, what good is money, power, or pleasure, if, in all that you hope or do, you are weighed down by the awareness of your sins and of the inexorably approaching time when you will have to give an account of your life and pay for the wrong you have done. Poverty, suffering, even loneliness, can be borne by one who has peace of soul; on the other hand, no matter how far and wide, however diligently, we may search, there is no refuge to be found that can still the nagging qualms and soothe the haunting anxieties of a guilty conscience:
What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For, the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:26f.)
Of course there are some who like to think that they can distract themselves from the awareness of right and wrong characteristic of humanity, and learn to forget God and, with Him, all traces of any sensitivity to sin or awareness of personal responsibility. Of them the psalmist says:
Sin lurks deep in the hearts of the wicked, forever urging them on to evil deeds. They have no fear of God to hold them back. Instead, in their conceit, they think they can hide their evil deeds and not get caught. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful; they are no longer wise and good. They lie awake at night to hatch their evil plots instead of planning how to keep away from wrong. (TLB. Psalm 36:1-4)
However, though they may to some extent hide their sins from themselves, and though their eyes may refuse to recognize and their minds to admit the truth about themselves, nevertheless, God is the One Who sees all and knows all, and He hates wickedness; above all, He hates the wickedness of those who claim to be innocent of wrong-doing, holy – that is, to be divine -- without Him:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
For all who, on the other hand, live humbly in Jesus by the Spirit for the Father, the gift of forgiveness of sins and freedom from their enslavement can bring into our lives truly sublime, though as yet transient, experiences of peace and hope, as we find clearly outlined in the next blessing of which St. Paul tells us:
We are children of God and, if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may be glorified with Him.
St. Paul is indeed able to speak of the:
Freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21);
for the present time, however, the joy of such fullness of glory is something we cannot possibly conceive, for it is heavenly and transcends all earthly categories or human imagining. Nevertheless, we can begin to experience something of that heavenly glory because it is given us – even here and now -- to enter into communion with the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the explicit prayer of Jesus (John 17:5, 24):
Father, I desire that they also, whom You gave Me, may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me.
That means we are able, even now, to have some share in the Son’s loving relationship with His Father by the Holy Spirit: in Jesus, we can commune with the Father, speak personally with Him as His children, and experience His Fatherly love, as the Spirit of Jesus -- gently working in our spirit and guiding us along His ways – forms us ever more and more in Jesus’ likeness. In that way, in Jesus and with Him, we can come to know that we are not left to ourselves and that, whatever our weakness, whatever our need, we will never be left alone:
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23)
(Father) I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
And so, dear People of God, there is every right reason for our whole-hearted celebration of the Most Holy Trinity today: for, thanks to Jesus, we know by faith, and can appreciate in our spiritual experience, something of the love of the Father: that love from all ages, which upholds our world and embraces us; that intimate and abiding love which is ever at hand to comfort, guide, and protect us; that inviting love, to which we can give whole-hearted response in the wisdom of Jesus’ words and the power of Jesus’ Spirit.
For such incomparable blessings we are undyingly grateful to Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, because it is He alone Who both reveals the Father and bequeaths to us His Most Holy Spirit:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through Me. (John 14:6)
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)
And Jesus does all this for us through His faithful Spouse, Mother Church, which continues to do as He originally commanded her:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.
Therefore, dear People of God, our gratitude to the Father, to His Son -- our Lord and Saviour -- and to the Holy Spirit, necessarily holds also Mother Church in its embrace. And although Mother Church is not yet become the ‘spotless Bride of Christ’ of which we hear in the letter to the Ephesians (5:25-27):
A glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and without blemish;
nevertheless, gleaming through the stains of our weakness and wilfulness, her love for Her Lord and Spouse is unfailing; and, being blessed as His chosen instrument for the salvation He has won for us and as the channel for the grace He bestows on us, we recognize her as our Mother and see in her the likeness of Mary, the Mother of Jesus to whose tender care and prayers Jesus committed us by His dying wish and command.
When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then, to His disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27)