The Trinity: Heart, Soul and Source of Our Christian Life
User's Guide to Sunday, May 31
Sunday, May 31, is the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity (Year B).
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the Trinity in Christian life. The Compendium of the Catechism is very direct about it.
“What is the central mystery of Christian faith and life?” it asks (44) and answers: “the Most Blessed Trinity.”
Later (428), it teaches that we are all called to holiness and says it comes from “intimate union with Christ and, in him, with the most Holy Trinity” (428).
The Trinity is the heart, soul and source of our Christian life.
But this can seem a bit strange. Following Jesus, we get: He is the God-man whose actions and reactions we can see in the Gospels. Imitating the saints we get: They show us how to live Christ’s life in new contexts.
Life in the Trinity is another matter. The Trinity is a mystery defined for us by its inability to be grasped. God is both three and one. The Son is truly a son to the Father, but they are co-eternal. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Son and is the love between the Father and Spirit, but he is also a separate Person and is also co-eternal.
We accept Trinitarian life but do not understand it, so how can we be a part of it?
Today’s readings have the answer.
From the first reading, we learn that life in the Trinity means relying on God precisely because we don’t understand.
Says Deuteronomy: “Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? 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, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?”
We may not understand how God works in himself, but we know how God works in our lives, just like, as children, we cannot fathom our parents’ relationship, but can see what it does for us. We know that God calls us, strengthens us, encourages us, protects us and ennobles us.
In the second reading, we learn that Christ is our “in” into the Trinity.
“You received a Spirit of adoption,” Paul writes, “through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ 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.”
We have been adopted by the Father through Christ. The way we talk about this relationship is not just talk: We are one body in Christ, and that means we are united with the Son of God. The Father is no longer a distant, aloof figure — he is Abba, our “dad.”
The Gospel then gives the consequences. In a startling passage, if we only stop to think about it, Jesus says: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”
If your boss called you into his office and said, “I have total power at Disneyland. Go, therefore, and get Mickey Mouse to come to our company picnic,” you would understand a number of things. For starters, his power truly is total at Disneyland — and that he considers you an extension of himself, able to wield power in his place.
That’s the relationship we have with the Trinity. We are heirs through Christ and the Spirit to an intimate relationship with the Father, which allows us to act in his place in the world.
But there are caveats. We can only sustain this if we act as God instructs.
The first reading gives this caveat: “You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today.”
The second says we are heirs with Christ “if only we suffer with him.”
And in the Gospel, Christ gives us power not to triumph over others but to share the power, baptizing them into the Trinity and “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
But each gives a promise if we do as God wants us to do.
You keep the commandments, says Deuteronomy, so “that you and your children after you may prosper.”
We suffer with him, says Paul, “so that we may also be glorified with him.”
And if we spread his Church, says Jesus, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Not a bad trade-off.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
Where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.