The Transforming Love of the Holy Trinity
June 15, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Trinity Sunday
Reading I (Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40) Reading II (Romans 8:14-17)
Gospel (St. Matthew 28:16-20)
In the first reading this morning from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses, after speaking to the people of Israel about all of the things that God had done for them, the signs and wonders He had shown, the things that He had done for them that He had not done for anyone else on the face of the earth, said to them, “Know and fix in your heart that the Lord is God, in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” At that time, of course, there were many false gods that were being worshiped throughout the world, gods of silver and wood and clay and whatever other form it might be, worship of the sun and the moon and the stars, worship of all kinds of spirits of the air. All of these little false gods have some elements that the devil tries to present as being true, and that is where the trick comes in. We look at some of the forms of false worship that people fall into even today, since we are living in a neopagan society, and we have all this false worship once again, with the media letting everybody know that the worship of what they call “the goddess” is big stuff once again. The worship of all kinds of false gods has become quite popular once again.
The difficulty with this stuff is it would be obvious if someone was bowing down before a statue and expecting that the statue would actually do something. That would be false worship. The problem is, however, that some of these people bow down before their statues and it appears that there is an answer to what they are asking. It actually will sometimes appear that there is something true to what they are doing, and that of course is the way the devil works. The best lie is always nine parts truth to one part falsehood. And so the devil himself tries to mock God. The devil does things in three’s because God is a trinity. He plays all of these little games to try to draw attention from God to himself.
God, as we have seen over and over, although He is all-powerful, He is also completely humble and He does not normally show Himself in extraordinary ways. But rather, what He expects from us is the worship of God in the ordinary events of our daily lives, to know that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below and that there is no other – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – whether we have any concrete objective evidence of it or not. This is something that strikes us as being very difficult, and yet it is so obvious. All one needs to do is think about a family and how things operate within a marriage. If, for instance, there needed to be some kind of objective proof every day in extraordinary manners that one of the spouses loved the other and you had to come up with something new and innovative day after day after day to try to prove that you loved this person, first of all, it would lose any sense of truth, but secondly, it does not prove the love. The love is demonstrated only in the day-to-day life when things in the ordinary ways of life continue to progress forth, and slowly it begins to filter deeper and deeper into the person that “this individual truly loves me”. Not because they did anything extraordinary, but because they do the ordinary things out of love.
God’s love is the most extraordinary of all, and what He is doing is inviting us into His love. We read, for instance, in the second reading today from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, that we have received a Spirit that allows us to cry out, “Abba, Father!” And then Saint Paul goes on to speak about how we have become children of God, coheirs with Christ, and then says, “If only we suffer with Him so as to be glorified with Him.” God has proven His love in the most perfect manner possible, and that is on the Cross. He continues to prove His love day after day and week after week in what is an absolutely extraordinary thing, but has become so ordinary for us. That is, He gives Himself to us in the form of bread and wine so that we can receive Him into ourselves.
If we think, for instance, of a person who is an adult convert as they look forward to the first time that they would receive Holy Communion, to recognize the love of God, their own unworthiness as they come before the Lord, the way their heart would be able to be open to receive the love that God wishes to pour into them. Then most of us, from the time we were seven years old, week after week and sometimes day after day, go through the exact same ritual. It is still to this day as extraordinary as it was the first time, but for most of us it has become quite ordinary and we begin to wonder. We become, in a way, like the apostles in the Gospel reading where it rather tragically says, “They all saw Him, they worshiped Him, but they doubted.” It that unlike us?
We have all the evidence of God’s love. We have the Scriptures which lay out for us the truth about the Lord, that there is only one God and there can only be one God if God is perfect because two perfect beings are impossible. If they were both perfect then they would be identical. And as I point out in the class for the adults, if God is not perfect there is no sense worshiping Him. You may as well worship yourself because you are imperfect. You may look at it and say, “Well, yeah, I’m imperfect, but God is far more intelligent than I am.” Then worship Einstein if that is the case, he is maybe more intelligent than most of us too, or maybe Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas Aquinas, because, after all, they were very religious and exceedingly intelligent. But they too are imperfect. They too recognize that there needed to be someone who is perfect, someone who is lacking in nothing.
So look at what Jesus says in the Gospel reading: “All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” All power. Just stop and think about that for a moment and couple that with the second reading which we have already seen: “You are a member of Jesus Christ.” All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, which means all power in Heaven and on earth is at your disposal. Now we obviously do not run around trying to grab for power for some selfish reason. But the reality of the matter, and we see it in the lives of the saints, is that extraordinary things happen when we love in an extraordinary way, when we trust the love of God and when we believe in that wholeheartedly and we allow the Lord to work in our lives. Then He is able to do extraordinary things in us and through us, as we read in the life of one saint after the next. The saints were ordinary people just like us who loved in extraordinary ways, who did not doubt God’s love, who did not doubt the reality of God. All power in Heaven and on earth is in Jesus Christ and you are in Jesus Christ.
When we put that together with the next part of what Saint Paul says, he tells us that we are heirs of God and coheirs with Christ. When we think about the love of God for each one of us, we can look through the Gospels and see so many places: Jesus telling us that we did not choose Him, that He chose us; Our Lord telling us in His high priestly prayer as He prayed to His Father and said, “They,” meaning you and me and all of the others who would follow Him, “are Your gift to Me”; He tells us that where He is, He desires that we would be there also and that He is going before us to prepare a place for us; that He and the Father with the Holy Spirit would come to us and tabernacle within us. We could go on and on and on about all of the references, but think about what Saint Paul said to the Romans: “We are heirs of God.” Now the Psalmist said of the Messiah that God would bequeath Him the nations as His inheritance. If there is any question about whether or not God loves you, just look at the exchange that happens here. You are the inheritance that God gave to Jesus, and God is the inheritance that Jesus gives to you. It does not seem like a particularly fair exchange, does it? Indeed, it is not. But all that God wants is to love us, and He wants our love in return. And since He created us to be loved, he has chosen us for Himself. The Lord has given us as an inheritance, and then He simply asks us to accept the love and the dignity He has given to us and to be able to enter into the inheritance which is ours – which will be union with God.
Now these are things that on the natural level are kind of mind-boggling. We tend, typically, to shake our heads and say, “This can’t be. It doesn’t make any sense.” Love does not make any sense; that is the nature of it. If you reason it out, it is not love, because then it is just being portioned out as you choose. Love, when it is true, is complete; it is giving totally of the self. Not giving a little bit and testing the waters and seeing how it goes. It is giving it all. All you need to do is look at your spouse if you are married, look at your parents if you are not, at your friends, and then look at yourself and just ask yourself, “Why? Why does this other person love me?” And you will make no sense of that question either because it is not about reasoning it out.
So we cannot question why the Lord loves us. We cannot question why He chooses us for His inheritance while giving Himself to us as an inheritance. All we can do is look at the reality that we have received the Holy Spirit, that we are members of Jesus Christ, that we do call God our Father. And so we recognize the truth of what Our Lord tells us in the Gospel when He says, “Go out and teach all nations and baptize them in the Name,” – singular, the Name – “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Not three names – one Name – because He is one God Who is three Persons. This is the very essence of Christianity and it is the very essence of who we are, invited into the very intimacy of the love of God.
And as we know, if we are in the state of grace, the Holy Trinity dwells within us, which means that the three Persons of the Trinity are loving one another right in your soul. You are invited to enter into your soul and be caught up into the love of God, even now. If we marvel that God would be allowing us to enter into Heaven where we can worship Him and experience His love, think what is going to happen when you receive Jesus in Holy Communion in a few moments. Where one Person of the Trinity is, all Three are present. So it is the Body, the Blood, the Soul, and the Divinity of Christ that you will receive, and the divinity is shared equally by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so you will receive all three Persons of the Holy Trinity when you receive Communion and your soul will become Heaven. You are the inheritance of God! He makes your soul Heaven and that is where He chooses to dwell and invites you into that divine intimacy, to enter into that heavenly place and to be caught up in the love of the three Persons of the Trinity. That will be our glory for all eternity but it has begun now if only, as Saint Paul says, we are willing to suffer with Christ in order to be glorified with Him.
That is what we are celebrating today, the reality that there is only one God and that all these false gods that are present within our society and in our world are just that – they are false. They are gold or silver or wood or figments of the imagination or celestial bodies; they are created things. And nothing created is God. Nothing created is worthy of worship. Only God, Who is uncreated in Himself and has created everything else that exists, is worthy of our worship. There is only one God, and we must know and fix in our hearts that He is God in heaven above and on earth below and that there is no other, and that the one and only God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the God in Whose image you are created, and the God Whose inheritance you are. That is the One we worship, and the only One.
We need to be very careful when we read that Gospel passage because we see the human frailty: “They worshiped Him but they doubted.” We must banish all doubts from our minds and recognize that there is and can only be one God. Everything else is of the devil, plain and simple. So as we celebrate today this Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, we celebrate the glory which is ours, to know the truth of Who God is, to be drawn into the worship and the love of God, and to be united with Him, with the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ and through Him to the glory and honor of the Father. That is what we celebrate over and over again at the Mass, as we keep hearing references to the Trinity. It is what we celebrate in our daily lives. It is what we pray at the beginning and end of every one of our prayers in the Sign of the Cross. It is who we are as Christian people, and to deny this truth is to reject every single thing that it means to be Christian because above all else it is to recognize the truth of God and to enter into that truth and to worship Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.