Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
June 3, 2007
Readings: Proverbs 8:22-31 / Rom 5:1-5 / Jn 16:12-15
The Solemnity of Pentecost we celebrated last week put the great Easter season to a close. We are now back to the so-called “ordinary time.” But the series of “solemnities of the Lord” that we will have in these two Sundays speak to us of anything but ordinary. They have, in fact, to do with some important and extraordinary truths of our faith.
There is nothing “ordinary” about today’s Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Neither is there anything that could be seen as trite and commonplace in the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord slated for next Sunday. And if we include the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart trailing closely behind, we see, indeed, a series of feasts that speaks of truths that go beyond the category of “ordinary.”
The celebration of the Blessed Trinity, extraordinary though it is, owing to its nature as a mystery, is all about God’s desire to be “ordinary” in relation to us. It is all about His desire to be near us, to be close to us, to be on intimate footing with us, His people. The Book of Proverbs could not be clearer in this regard. God, personified as Wisdom, declares: “I found delight in the human race” (1st Reading). This God, transcendent and mysterious, is shown to be one who “poured forth” Himself, in and through the world which was His own handiwork.
Paul, speaking of pretty much the same extraordinary reality of God pouring Himself forth, becomes very direct in his declaration about the same God who shows Himself close to His people. That efficacious desire of God for closeness and intimacy with us assumed distinct faces – the face of God-Father, first and foremost, the face of the Son, Jesus Christ, God made man, and the face of the Holy Spirit being poured forth in love. In the face of such an extraordinary reality becoming ordinary, Paul waxes hopeful and optimistic despite the reality of “afflictions.” “Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (2nd Reading). Afflictions become bearable, not because they become lighter, but because of the presence of this Trinitarian God in the life of the believer.
In the Gospel passage from John, Jesus refers to something that is difficult to bear. He speaks of an extraordinary truth becoming ordinary and bearable on account of the gift of the “spirit of truth” who, he says, “will guide [us] to all truth.” “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
All three readings refer to the difficult truth about God who reveals Himself in action as Trinitarian – as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three readings speak of this extraordinary reality – a mystery no more and no less – but one which is softened and tailored for our needs, one that is made to pass off as an ordinary truth that has far-ranging consequences to our personal lives as believers.
The simple truth that may prove a little difficult to bear is simply this … God wants to be close to us. God reveals Himself, and works for deep intimacy with us. The Solemnity of the Trinity is all about our extraordinary God becoming ordinary and reachable for us and by us. The Trinity is all about God reaching out to us His creatures, making Himself within reach, within arm’s length, as it were.
He is a God in action … revealing Himself in and through history, in and through the created world. He is a God of passion … showing His great love in and through the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, His Son who declared: (Jn 16). He is a God of presence … “I and the Father are one.” “Everything that the Father has is mine”“Behold, I will be with you all days until the end of time” (Mt 28). He is a God whose overweening desire is to make the extraordinary ordinary for us.
The Feast of the Holy Trinity is extraordinary by any standard. First of all, it remains a mystery. Even if God chose – as He did – to reveal Himself in action as Trinitarian, the extraordinary reality remains a mystery that we cannot fully understand.
But this God of extraordinary feats gave clues to help us fathom the mystery and make what is extraordinary ordinary. Paul, in his letter to the Romans we just heard, speaks of one such clue. The great Karl Rahner also refers to that same clue whereof Paul speaks. And it is the clue of afflictions, of suffering, of pain. Paul goes so far as to say: “We even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (2nd Reading). Rahner echoes these stirring words of Paul. In his famous five questions, he basically offers us clues to the presence of God in our lives … questions like: “Have you ever felt the need to keep silent despite being unfairly treated?” … “Have you ever felt working for God even when no warmth sustained you?” … etc. He basically suggests wisely and insightfully that in these experiences of passion, of affliction, and pain, one stands to meet God for who He is, a God of action (God the Father), a God of passion (God the Son), and a God of presence (the Holy Spirit).
On a personal note, I am one still reeling from a painful personal experience of affliction. From a purely subjective point of view, I might be justified to call it an extraordinary experience of undeserved pain. There were options that ran through my mind at the height of that extraordinary affliction. But for the most part, such options led me away, not nearer, to a God who showed Himself extraordinarily passionate about us all, even those who make life difficult for others, including those individuals who made life temporarily miserable for me. “For He makes his sun to shine on both the good and the bad alike.”
The thought of Paul and his afflictions, the memory of (Saint) Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who suffered indescribable suffering owing to the envy of certain powerful and well-connected ecclesiastics who just didn’t like him … the glowing examples of St. Benedict Menni, betrayed and stabbed at the back by his own confreres, reminded me, and still continue to remind me, of an extraordinary God who wants to make Himself ordinary in relation to each and everyone of us.
Yes, the solemnity of the Trinity is an extraordinary mystery non pareil. No, the solemnity of the Trinity does not intend to keep God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit distant, detached, and disconnected from us His beloved people. He is a God who draws near to us. He is a God who suffers with us. He is a God who journeys with us in this unfolding mystery that is life. He is a God in action. He is a God of passion. He is a God of presence. As Father, He is Giving. As Son, He is the Gifted One. As Holy Spirit, He is still Gifting, still forming us all in His image.
The greatest of these gifts is His presence, which appears in a multiplicity of forms, all of which are multi-layered graces from above. At times, this presence comes in and through affliction and pain. In whatever form, through whatever way, the one who sees beyond the extraordinary, and sees the ordinary can only mutter, as did the psalmist: “O Lord our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!” (Responsorial Psalm).
“One God, Three Persons, be near to the people formed in your image, close to the world your love brings to life. We ask this Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, true and living, for ever and ever. Amen” (Alternative Opening Prayer).
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