May 30, 2015

Homily for Trinity Sunday, May 31, 2015, Year B

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, Raphael, 1509-1510

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

(Click here for today’s readings)

Do you like jigsaw puzzles? Do friends and family give you “the world’s most difficult” puzzles? Amazon.com has one called “Dalmatians,” with dozens of virtually identical black-and-white dogs filling the entire picture. It’s also two-sided, by the way.

Now imagine a futuristic puzzle in which the pieces keep changing shape, and the picture on the box is never the same twice. And let’s make the pieces slippery while we’re at it.

We might think the Trinity is like that. If our goal is to understand how one God can exist in three “persons,” when even the word “person” in this context is not at all what we usually think of when we say it, we are doomed to failure. We will never get the pieces to fit.

Yet here we are, as always on the Sunday after Pentecost, celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. It’s so different from, say, Christmas, which has many layers of personal meaning for us. Honestly, do you ever look forward with excitement to Trinity Sunday? I know only one person who does, and that is because relating to the Trinity is at the very heart of his personal spirituality.

This is not to say people don’t believe in the Trinity. Catholics make the Sign of the Cross in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, without entertaining any particular doubts about what they are saying.

From that point of view, this feast is actually an excellent illustration of a theological principle that says, “As we pray, so we believe.” For example, in the Hail Mary, we call the Blessed Virgin “Mother of God.” This would not be the case if the Church did not actually believe this of her. In fact, that Marian title was confirmed by a Council after it had already entered into the prayer of the Church.

We pray, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.” Here, too, the Trinity is almost taken for granted. That’s not a bad thing. It means that the Trinity is always there, sometimes in the background of our faith, but at least once a year in the foreground, on this feast.

Something else is more or less taken for granted in that short prayer, namely that we can give glory to God! How can the puny creatures we call I and we, and you and he and she and they, even wish glory to the Trinity, much less give it? And yet we sing a long praise of the Trinity in the Gloria at Mass, and a brief acclamation of glory again just before the Our Father.

Who are we to think our praise can matter? In the fourth “Common Preface” (recited by the celebrant before the Holy, Holy, Holy), God is addressed in these words: “You have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation.”

We were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That’s when we received the right and duty to give glory to God. It is part of the “priestly” role of all the baptized.

In revealing to us his inner life as one God in three Persons, God has given us not a puzzle to be put together, but another opportunity for giving glory and praise and thanks.

Think of that the next time you make the Sign of the Cross.

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