Gospel reflection for June 12, 2022 -- Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity

There are many difficult theological statements that form the basis of our Catholic faith.Some of these are expressed in the creed that we recite at Mass on Sundays, while most of them are contained in other formulae of Magisterial teaching.

Among the more challenging dogmas of the Church is that of the Trinity. The Nicene Creed is built upon a trinitarian outline as it begins with profession in the belief of One God, moving to the Incarnation of the Son, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. From there it continues with the presence of God active in the Church as we await the resurrection of the dead and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

The Council of Nicaea (325 AD) addressed confusion among believers about the nature of God and specifically of the relationship between the Father and the Son. When the relationship between the Father and the Son becomes muddled then understanding the Holy Spirit becomes even more difficult. It makes sense that the interaction between radical monotheism of the Jews and the plentitude of deities and demigods of the Roman world, would make the efforts to define God as revealed through the New Testament, contentious.

To say that God is one yet three distinct persons required a great leap of faith for both Jew and Gentile alike. God has to be one, and the three persons have to be co-equal and co-eternal with each other. It did indeed take centuries to define, and even today there are Christians who either reject the dogma of the Trinity as defined at Nicaea, or at least reject the use of the word Trinity. While the word, “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, the text of the readings assigned for this solemnity point us to an understanding of the Trinity present from eternity. 

The very nature of God seems to be generative and communicative. God, who is love, expresses that love through the act of creation and then enjoying that creation. Because of the nature of God, he does not ignore creation but rather desires to communicate to that which he has created. At the same time, though, God does stand apart from creation, enabling the created order to follow the laws and processes of his design and will for creation. 

God desires to communicate with us and he does so first through the very act of creation itself. The Psalmist notes that “all creation proclaims the greatness of God.” God then further reveals himself in more particular ways. First, he is known through the covenants sealed with Abraham and then to the entire Israelite nation through Moses. The prophets, beginning with Elijah, announce the plan of God for his people. The flow of history through the ages shows the unfolding nature of God’s plan. Most specifically, God then becomes incarnate in the person of Jesus, now creating a relational distinction of Father and Son. It is through the Son that the Father is most clearly revealed. The Son, as the face of God present in the world, emphasizes our relationship with God and God’s desire to exercise judgment and mercy upon us. 

Most importantly, though, it is the Paschal Events -- the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Son -- that God enters most fully into the world he created. By living an “ordinary” human life, the Son enters into the full gambit of human emotions and experiences. The subsequent rejection of Jesus by his people mirrors the historical reality of the Old Testament as the Israelites struggled in their relationship with God, often turning away from the covenant. The new covenant, sealed through the blood of the Son on the Cross, opened not just the gates of heaven, but the means of salvation to all the world.

After the paschal events have unfolded, the apostles and the Church experience the on-going presence of God through the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Realized in multiple charisms and wonders, an understanding of the true trinitarian nature of God is realized and expressed.

As disciples of Jesus, we live this trinitarian faith, not only theologically and liturgically, but in the dynamics of our relationship and communication with God. Each prayer is made to the Father, in the name of the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is this Trinitarian Faith that sustains and enriches the Church on the path to salvation.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.