Monday, 13 June 2011

The Most Holy Trinity - Year A

Exodus 34:4-6.8-9; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18

Everywhere in our readings today we find the Trinitarian formula which we Christians accept and celebrate as the basis of our understanding of the one true and only God.
  • Even before the priest reaches the altar the congregation is saying (Entrance Antiphon): Blessed be God the Father and his only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit: for he has shown that he loves us.
  • Each of the two Opening Prayers expressly prays this formula ‘to our God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit’.
  • St Paul in the second reading prays: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
  • The Gospel Acclamation sings: Alleluia, alleluia! Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit … Alleluia!
  • The Preface, the Communion Antiphon and the Prayer after Communion also explicitly mention the Trinitarian being of God while the final blessing at every Mass is always given ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’
But knowing and repeating the Trinitarian formula is not our problem - nor is understanding it - because we all know it is mystery and that mystery can never be understood. Indeed, in the very statement of what we do know about the Trinity is contained our helpless incomprehension.

What we most struggle with is its relevance. What difference does it make to my life that God is three Persons in one God?

The mystery of the Trinity can seem not only baffling but lofty and remote. It concerns the nature of God - his essence, his inner being, his identity in himself - and most of us are happy to leave it at that. And this would be a quite satisfactory response if it were not for one little detail - we are made in the image and likeness of God.

God, the Blessed Trinity, is a communion of love - the love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father - in the unity and joy of the Holy Spirit. And this love is so great that it spills over, as it were, and seeks to give itself. This is why the angels were created; this is why we were created.

God's Trinitarian love is a love which seeks to give itself; or, in other words, God loves in order to give himself.

The key word here is give. So much does God love the world that the Father is ready to give his only Son who, in his turn, is ready to give himself to the Father('s will). The Holy Spirit of love overshadows the Virgin Mary who totally shares in God's self-giving love 'and the Word was made Flesh'.

Our Christian faith tells us that it is in the image and likeness of this love that we were created; it is built in to us, as it was built into the body of Jesus.

If you don't believe me, look at your own body. Is it not true that your body is made for 'giving itself'? Is not a man's body made so that he can give himself to his wife? Is not a woman's body made so that she can give herself to her husband? And in the divinely ordained giving of husband to wife and wife to husband, a new life, a new life! neither the life of the wife nor of the husband, an entirely new and unique life is 'given'.

SELF-GIVING is the fundamental nature of our being, of who we are and of what we were made for. The mystery of communion in the self-giving love of the Trinity is written into our very bodies so that we can never forget that 'giving ourselves in love' is the core meaning of our lives.

It is no digression from our theme to point out here that this is why Jesus gave his body for us. The crucifixion is a manifestation, the definitive manifestation, in human terms, of the nature of the inner Trinitarian life of God, because on the Cross Jesus first of all gives himself (in the body) to and for the Father, and only then to and for us.

In revealing himself, therefore, as the Son ready to die for the Father, he lays bare the nature of the love to which we are all called. And, given that we are human, it is only in the body that we are capable of this love.

Is it any wonder then that Satan has concentrated his greatest efforts on perverting the world's concept of the meaning of the human body? He has done everything he can to obscure our understanding of God's call inscribed in the very blueprint of our bodies. Satan knows that it is only to the extent that the communion of the Trinity is present in the communion of husband and wife, that there will be peace on earth.

Let me conclude by indicating some of the key intersections at which a husband and wife must pause, if they are to remain faithful to the truth of self-giving love written into their bodies.

The most obvious, and in some ways the most crucial, is the question of contraception. Here Satan offers what seems to be, at first glance, a solution to many human problems. However, at heart, contraception is not only a point of closure to God, it is a betrayal of both their love making and their integrity. Whilst the language of their love-making appears to be the language of self-giving and communion it is in reality, without the possibility of new life, a profound and corrupting lie.

Homosexual acts, likewise, can never express the love proclaimed by the complementarity of the human body which is made for the opposite sex. The love of a man or woman for a person of the same sex can therefore best be expressed, and even heroically expressed, by abstinence from any sort of sexual expression.

By now you will have recognised in what I have said the theology of the body of Blessed Pope John Paul II. He makes it abundantly clear that faithfulness to the Trinitarian love of God which gives form True joy and true life can only be found in the sincere gift of one person to another in accordance with the self-giving Trinitarian love in whose image we are all made. This is the way to personal happiness and fulfilment and also the way to peace on earth.

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