May 22, 2016: The Most Holy Trinity C
Click to hear Audio Homily
Earlier this week on May 18, we celebrated the birthday of St. John Paul II. On one of my retreats, I had the privilege of spending some time in Wadowice, Poland, the hometown of this beloved saint. The roots of John Paul’s witness to marriage and the family, and the roots of his teachings about the beauty of human love, can be found in Wadowice where he spent his early years. His boyhood home was next to the Basilica of the Presentation where he was baptized. He was no stranger to sorrows and sufferings of life. His older sister, his parent’s second child, died shortly after birth. His mother died before John Paul turned nine. When he was twelve, his older brother, Edmund, a physician, died of the scarlet fever he had contracted from a patient for whom he was caring. Shortly after his mother’s death, while his dad was was still mourning over the loss of his wife, John Paul’s dad took him to see the outdoor passion play by the shrine called Kalwaria--Calvary. There his dad hoped to teach his son a lesson--that our lives are best understood, and our sorrows are best sustained when they are understood within a drama of love story that God himself entered--in the passion, death, and resurrection of God’s Son. Throughout his life, his dad witnessed to his son a rich prayer life. On many occasions when John Paul woke in the middle of the night, he saw his dad deep on a kneeler in the corner of the bedroom deep in prayer before the painting of St. Joseph with his son Jesus.
When John Paul was 20 years old, his father died. With all of his family members deceased, John Paul felt orphaned. A friend remembered John Paul saying, “I never felt so alone…” Yet, John Paul never stopped praying. It was in prayer that John Paul gained insight about how his own life was intertwined in Jesus’ passionate love for his Father and his children on earth. His faith gave him conviction that he was not orphaned or alone; he was enveloped in inexplicable love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. John Paul later beautifully summarized this mystery: "Only in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ. When you wonder about the mystery of yourself, look to Christ who gives you the meaning of life.”
As we celebrate today’s feast of the Most Holy Trinity, we look to Christ to peer into the mystery of who we are and who God is. When we look to Christ, what does he desire for us? His wants us all to participate in the communion of love of the Most Holy Trinity. Jesus prayed earnestly for this, “Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” The Catechism describes the Trinity as God’s “innermost secret,” which is that “God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … .” The Catechism then goes on to say something amazing, “… and he has destined us to share in that exchange.”
As incredible as it sounds, our whole life is meant to be lived in communion with God. This whole Mass, for example, is an intense communion with the Trinity. We began this Mass in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We will end it by receiving the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the climax of the mass, we receive Holy Communion, the most tangible sign for us entering into a flesh and spirit union in the life of the Holy Trinity. Everything we do and say during this Mass is nothing other than being in this love relationship with the Holy Trinity.
Like the Mass, our whole life is meant to begin and end in the name of the Blessed Trinity and be a profession of that faith. Our spiritual life begins when we are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” At the end of our life, in the prayers after the anointing, a priest will say, “Depart from this life, Christian soul, in the name of God the Almighty Father who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who descended over you.” Between birth and death, our life is meant to be lived explicitly within the life of the Blessed Trinity: in the name of the Trinity spouses are united in holy matrimony; in the name of the Trinity, priests are ordained and consecrated for God’s service; in the name of the Trinity, our sins are forgiven. Our whole Christian life unfolds in the company of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the three Persons are with us, the walk each step of life with us.
We all know that there are times we are not aware of this amazing truth. How can we plug our selves into the Trinitarian communion of life and love? In scripture, Jesus gave two very concrete commands. Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (John 15:10). Jesus lives in us through divine grace, but to remain in the state of grace, we have to keep his commandments of love. Second, Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:56). In this great sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, we receive the whole Christ — body, blood, soul and divinity — and therefore, we receive God’s own divine life within. Jesus’ divinity is inseparably united to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and hence we enter into communion with the Trinity through receiving Holy Communion. To experience this joy of communion though, our lives must be a life of love. And if we fall short of loving because of our sins or selfishness, we need to prepare our body and soul through confession. Then we will experience the indwelling of the Spirit again within us.
God, who is love, loved us so much that he wanted us to share in this love, not just in the next life but in this one. Today we thank God for the privilege to live in union with Him through the gift of His Son. May our whole life be a grateful response, saying, by words and deeds, “Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.”