The tough question facing homilists for this Feast is “What can we say about the Trinity that will be meaningful for hearers today?” Part of the difficulty for homilists lies in choosing what approach to take. Should we approach the Trinity as a theological problem to be solved – three persons, one God? Or would it be better to see the Trinity as a living mystery that shapes how we are to live – a mystery that gives meaning and purpose to our lives? If we take seriously that this mystery is the keystone of our Christian faith, the central mystery that binds together everything else we are to believe and do, surely the second approach is what we ought to take.
What is the mystery this feast is calling us to live out? The reading from Deuteronomy (4:32) gives us a place to start. God created humankind and everything else. God acted in perfect freedom, out of love; God was not forced to create anything. With a word God simply said “let there be . . .” God let everything come into being, God loved it into being. It does not stop there. Everything continues in existence only because God’s love holds it there. God’s love is utterly faithful; it does not falter or fail. The first reading illustrates that fidelity in God’s care for the Israelites, gathering them from among the nations, speaking to them in the burning bush, freeing them from slavery in Egypt, making a covenant with them. John’s first letter says it simply: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).
Further, it was in God’s own image that God created humans (Gen 1:26-27). If God is love, then is that power to love not the greatest gift God gave us, what we do best, what makes us God-like? Is that not what God seeks from us? Both testaments tell us that we are called to love God with our whole being, with all that we are (Dt 6:5; Mt 22:37). But it doesn’t stop there. Christ goes on to say “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). And should our loving others not strive to be as faithful and constant as God’s?
But how can our love even begin to match a love as creative and universe-wide, as lavish and faithful as God’s? We do not operate on that scale. God, however, gave us a way to envision how to live out the mystery of love in our more humble circumstances. Isn’t that why the Word became flesh? To show us by word and action how to behave in the reign of God? Think of what he taught and how he acted. Write down a list of his attitudes and values – empathetic listening, attention to those in need, to those who lost a child, compassion, respect, inclusion, forgiveness – there are many more you can add to the list. Jesus is the face of God among us, a perfect likeness of the God in whom the three Persons are fully one, bound together in mutually giving and receiving themselves in love. There is nothing in God that is not Jesus-like. Jesus enfleshed the mystery of God’s love and models for us a God-like way of living.
Think about how many people react to major catastrophes like the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s almost as though there’s a ‘good samaritan gene’ implanted in us – impelling us to help and care for those in need. We’re made in the likeness of a God who is love. John says it well: “Beloved if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:11). A simple way of loving that that puts others in need ahead of ourselves, at the small cost of a word of encouragement, a helping hand, a little kindness to someone who’s hurting. Isn’t that living out the mystery of God’s love offered to us, implanted in us? Isn’t living and spreading the mystery of God’s love to all nations the life task to which Christ co-missioned his followers (Mt 28:19-20)? Is there a better way to celebrate the Feast of the Trinity than by living out that mystery of love? “That’s what our world needs now.”
Rev. Gilbert Ostdiek, OFM
Professor of Liturgy