Holy Trinity

The Father is God for us, the Son is God with us and the Holy Ghost is God in us

Today’s feast invites us to live in the awareness of the presence of the Triune God within us: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity, a doctrine enunciated by the ecumenical councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, is one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, and the greatest mystery of our Faith, namely, that there are three divine persons, sharing the same divine nature in one God. The doctrine of the Trinity underlies all major Christian feasts, including Christmas, the Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost. All the official prayers of the Church, including the Holy Mass and the sacraments, begin with an address to the Holy Trinity: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized, absolved of our sins and anointed in the name of the Blessed Trinity. We bless ourselves with the sign of the cross invoking the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we conclude our prayers glorifying the Holy Trinity, saying “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”

The Triune God as seen in the Old Testament: Since Yahweh was careful to protect His Chosen People from the pagan practice of worshipping several gods, the Old Testament books make only indirect and passing reference to the Trinity.  Gen. 1:26 presents God speaking to Himself:  “Let Us make man in Ourimage, according to Our likeness.”  Genesis 18:2, describes how Yahweh visited Abraham under the appearance of three men, an event that the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates as the Trinitarian Experience of Abraham.  In Genesis 11:7, before punishing the proud builders of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let Us go down among them and confuse their language.”  These passages imply, rather than state, the doctrine of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity as seen in the New Testament: (a)The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38) describes how God the Father sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, to announce to her that God, the Holy Spirit, would “overshadow” her, and that God, the Son, would be made flesh in her womb. (b)During the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:  16-17), the Holy Spirit is shown descending on Jesus in the form of a dove, while the voice of God the Father is heard from the clouds. (c) John (Chapters 15 through 18) presents the detailed teaching of Jesus on the Persons of the Holy Trinity.  (d)In the preaching mission given by the risen Lord to the disciples, Jesus commands them to baptize people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Confer also Matthew 28:19; John 10:30, 14:26; 2 Corinthians 13:14.). St Paul mentions the Trinity 30 times in his letters.

The development of the Trinitarian doctrine in the Church: The early Church arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity when she developed the revelation, which she had received from Jesus in faith. The oldest doctrinal formulation of the Church’s belief in the Trinity is found in the Apostles’ Creed,which has served as the basis of catechetical instruction and as the baptismal confession of faith since the second century.  Later, the Nicene Creed, originating at the Council of Nicaea(325 CE), stated the doctrine more explicitly.  This Creed; was introduced into the western liturgy by the regional council of Toledo in 589 CE. It was Jesus who revealed to us the three separate functions that are carried out by the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.  He has told us that it is proper to attribute to God the Father the work of creation; to God the Son, the work of Redemption, and to God the Holy Spirit the work of sanctification.

The Trinity in our Life:The entire Christian life is accompanied by the presence of the Trinity and it is the “fabric” of our life. In fact, we are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and “we are called to participate in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here in the darkness of faith, and beyond death in the eternal light” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 263). All the other Sacraments of the Church are conferred with the sign of the Cross and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In fact, we have been confirmed with the anointing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In the Sacrament of Penance, we are forgiven for our sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Again, in this name the bride and groom are united in marriage and their love is lifted up to that of God, who is the guarantor of their mutual loyalty. In the Eucharist, it is though the action of the Holy Spirit bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ.

Immersed into the life of the Blessed Trinity, we the baptized Christian believers experience the ineffable goodness of God and are called to mirror in our lives the divine benevolence. By our efforts to awaken and cherish new life, we participate in the Father’s work of creation, generation, and maintenance. By our human works of healing, reconciling, serving, promoting the cause of justice and right, we reflect the divine Son’s own work of reconciliation and redemption. By pursuing the wisdom of heart and good inspiration, by responding to the call of holiness, by promoting community-communion, we give witness to the animating movement of the Holy Spirit. The functions of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity intertwine, influence and complement each other.

“The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes the hearts of the believers with Christ’s heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them“(Letter Enc. Deus Caritas Est, n. 19). The Spirit immerses us in the rhythm of divine life, which is a life of love, making us personally in relations between the Father and the Son. It is not without significance that when Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit, puts love in the first place: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc…”(Gal 5:22). And since by definition love unites, this means first of all that the Spirit is the creator of communion within the Christian community, as we say at the beginning of Mass “… the communion of the Holy Spirit [i.e. the one that is made by him] be with you all “(2 Cor 13:13). On the other hand, it is also true that the Spirit stimulates us to engage in relationships of charity with all men. Therefore, when we love we make room for the Spirit, we allow him to be fully manifested.

Pentecost Sunday

On the day of Pentecost 1) The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary as fiery tongues. 2) The frightened apostles were transformed into fiery preachers and evangelizers and were given the gift of tongues by a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. 3) The listeners experienced the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit through the apostles’ gift of tongues: they heard Peter speaking in their native languages. 4) The early Christians became powerful witnesses and brave martyrs for their Faith in Jesus.

On 26thMay 2014 Pope Francis was in the Upper Room, Jerusalem, to celebrate the Eucharist as a part of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During the homily he shared that it is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.

In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with this power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps104:30). To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.

The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast.
The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows…offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.

The Upper Room reminds us of friendship. “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn.15:15). The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.

The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal. We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.

The role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life: 1) As an indwelling God: Saint Paul reminds the Corinthian community of this fact when he asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16).  It is the Holy Spirit who develops our intimacy with God.  “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba! (Father!’)” (Gal 4:6).  “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3).2) As a strengthening God, He strengthens us in our fight against temptations and in our mission of bearing witness to Christ by transparent Christian lives. 3) As a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the Sacraments: a) Through Baptism He makes us children of God and heirs of Heaven. b) Through Confirmation, He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of the Faith. c) Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, He enables us to be reconciled with God by pardoning our sins d) Through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, He gives us spiritual nourishment by converting bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood through Epiclesis. e) Through the Sacraments of the priesthood and matrimony, He makes the Church community holy. 4) As a teaching and guiding God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christ’s teachings and guides the Magisterium of the Church to present Christ’s teachings correctly.  5) As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray, and He speaks to us mainly through the Bible. 6) As a Giver of gifts, He pours out on us His gifts, fruits and charisms, thus enriching the Church.They may take different forms like prophecy, teaching, administration, acts of charity, healing and speaking in tongues, and they may reside in different persons like apostles, prophets, teachers, healers and so on.  Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit in his Letter to the Galatians “What the Spirit brings is … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5:22-23a).  He continues, “Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit” (5:25). 

7th Sunday of Easter.B

It was during the Passover meal that he instituted the Holy Eucharist, he washed the feet of the Apostles, and finally He began to prepare the disciples for his departure.  He foretells his betrayal, gives them the great commandment of love and foretells Peter’s denial.  He then tells them that he is going to the Father’s house where he will prepare a place for them and that he will come again to take them with him.  He promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit and assures them that the Holy Spirit will teach them everything.  He warns of the world’s hatred and explains that the Spirit cannot come unless Jesus goes.  Finally, he promises them joy and peace.  Jesus then prays his “High Priestly Prayer,” of which our Gospel lesson is part.

The prayer of Jesus distinguishes three parts: 1) Jesus Prays for His Glorification (17:1-8).  2). Jesus Prays for the Faith Community (17:9-23).  3). Jesus Prays for the Eschatological Union of Father, Son, and Believers (17:24-26).  The main elements of the prayer are a) the founding of the community (17:6-8), b) the petition for the preservation and sanctification of the community (17:9-19), c) the petition for the oneness of the community (17:20-23), and d) the petition for the perfecting of the believers (17:24-26).

Jesus’ relationship: This prayer tells us something about Jesus’ relationship with his disciples.  (i) The disciples are chosen by Him, but given to Jesus by God.  It is the Holy Spirit, God, Who prompts us to become Jesus’ disciples.   (ii) Through the disciples, glory has come to Jesus because the men whom Jesus has redeemed bring honor to him.  (iii) A disciple is a man who is commissioned to a task.  As the Father has sent Jesus to redeem the world, Jesus sends out his disciples into the world, to continue the reconciliation of everyone to God. He prays for his men in order that they may be effective to win the world for him.

Jesus’ warning and promise:Further, this passage tells us that Jesus offered his men two things.  (i) He offered them a warning.  He told them that they were different from the world, and that they could not expect anything but hatred from it because their values and standards were different from those of the world.  ii) He offered them his joy.  All Jesus was saying to them was designed to bring them joy.  It is by facing the hostility of the world that they will enter into the Christian joy.

Jesus’ prayer for his disciples:Jesus prayed for the victory, unity, protection and consecration of his disciples.  (i) Jesus prayed that they might find victory by living out their Christianityin the rough-and-tumble of life. Of course, there is a need for prayer, meditation and quiet times for this equipping process.  The disciples must win the world for Christ by living out their Christianity within the world. They must bear witness to Christ through their transparent Christian lives, reflecting Christ’s love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service.  (ii) Jesus prayed for the unity of his disciples. The world cannot be evangelized by competing Churches, and that is why Jesus prayed that his disciples might be as fully one as he and the Father are one. But Christian unity is not determined by whether we agree with each other about every interpretation of Scripture or doctrine or form of Church government. Rather, Christian unity is determined by whether and how well we love one another, and whether we reflect the love of God in Christ for the world.(Eph­esians 4:4–6:one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all).(iii) Jesus prayed for His Father’s protection for his disciples from the attacks of the Evil One. If the Disciples of Christ fall, it is because they try to meet life on their own strength and do not remember the presence of their protecting God and seek His help.  (iv). Jesus prayed that his disciples might be consecrated by the truth. (a) ‘Consecrate’ means to set apart for a special task (Jer. 1:5; Ex 28:41).  (b) It also means to equip a man with the qualities of mind, heart and character, which are necessary for that task.  God has chosen us and dedicated us for His special service of loving and obeying Him and bringing others to do the same.  He has not left us to carry out that great task with only our own strength, but by his grace He fits us for our task, if we place our lives in His hands.

The first letter of Johnwas addressed to the early Christian community beset with many problems.  Some members were advocating false doctrines.  Some of them refused to accept the full Divinity and full humanity of Jesus.  Others disregarded the commandment of love of neighbor.  Still others   denied the redemptive value of Jesus’ death and refused to accept Faith in Christ as the source of sanctification. These errors are here recognized and rejected. The letter is reaffirmation that God loves usand it isGod who first loved us.  God doesn’t love us because weare good.  God loves us because Heis good.  So what should we do?  Love one another. How are we to love each other? We show our love for God by loving one another in action.  What happens when we love one another?  God remains in us.  How do we know God remains in us?  He has given us the Spirit so we can experience His presence within us.  What happens to those who acknowledge Jesus as Son of God?  They remain in God and God remains in them.  Who is God?  God is Love.  What happens to those who remain in Love?  God remains in them and they remain in God.

6th Sunday of Easter.B

“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love”

We have one of the most beautiful passages from the Gospel of John for our reflection today.The Gospel and the second readings are well connected with the theme of love.  Jesus gives us his commandment of love. “This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you”.

What is love?Bishop Fulton Sheen says that it is the most used and misused four letters word in English language. However John uses the Greek word agapein his gospel and in the three letters attributed to him. Pope Benedict the XVI in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Estspeaks about “three aspects of love”The first of these is eros , which is applied to romantic love, often considered to be selfish than genuine. The second is philia,which in a way is the love of friendship, is essentially mutual and shared, and touches every aspect of a person’s being expressing itself in a total transparency through intimacy. Finally, agape describes a love, which reaches out to others without expecting anything in return. Such is the love of God for his creation. God’s loves is poured out in abundance on every single creature and it continues to flow out whether there is a response or not. This is the love, which the father in the story of the Prodigal Son shows to the wayward son who has gone far away and wasted all his father’s gifts on a debauched life. It is that love of agape, which we too, are supposed to have. It is this love that enables us to love our enemies and want to be reconciled with them. To love them with agape is to want the very best for them, to want them to reform, to be changed and healed of hate and negativity.

Where there is God, there is love:  John says today, “Wherever there is love, there is God”. He does not say, “Wherever there are Christians, there is God” or “Wherever there is a Christian church, there is God”. But, wherever there is a person filled with real agape-love for others, God is there. That is the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan. He was called “good” not because he was a religious person but because he reached out in compassionate love for someone who was supposed to be his enemy. Wherever in the world there is truth, compassion, justice, true freedom and peace, God is certainly there.

What gives value to my life?Perhaps I have been baptized, perhaps my family is Catholic for a long time, perhaps I fervently go to Mass every Sunday, perhaps I carefully keep all the Ten Commandments, yet if I do not really love and reach out in solidarity to brothers and sisters, whoever they are and wherever they are, I do not have God’s life in me. Paul put it well when writing to the Christians of Corinth: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). God loves me unconditionally but that love is not in me if I am not passing it on to others.

One commandment: In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us just one commandment. He does not say, “Love Jesus or love God as I have loved you”. No, he says, “If you want to be my disciple, then you must love one another, as I have loved you.” If we really love our brothers and sisters, including strangers and even enemies, we do not have to worry if we love God. But, if we do not love everyone unconditionally, then there is no other way I can claim to love Jesus. I need to love those God loves (with agape) and God loves every single person without exception, even the most wicked.  In practice, of course, it is not always so easy. We need to learn slowly how to love people unconditionally. Our lower instincts and the prevailing culture around us think differently. Yet, we need to learn that the way of Jesus is in fact more in tune with our deeper nature. To love and to be loved is an innate desire in every human being. We do not like to hate people and hating does terrible things to our minds and our bodies. We like people to be our friends and do not like them to be our enemies.

Love and commandments:Love is not to be understood in terms of keeping rules and commandments. Love is a way of life. It is an internal attitude, which influences every single thing we do and say and think. The love of a Christian needs to be unconditional. Sometimes people will love us back; sometimes they will not. Sometimes, even though we want to love people, they may reject us. If they do reject us, we need not necessarily think that we have done wrong. When people cannot return genuine love, it is they who have the problem. Sad to say, not everyone is capable of loving. Then there is all the more reason why we need to reach out to them. People often learn to love by being loved.

The most important thing is not that I am very clever, very successful, very rich, and very famous. The most important thing is that I am someone who really loves. When I genuinely love others, there will always be some who cannot love me back but there will be others who will really respond in love.

True love is sacrificial. The model of this ultimate self-giving love is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn. 10:11). In this Easter season, it is good to focus our attention on the great act of love that the Good Shepherd carried out for us by his saving sacrifice on the cross. For, as he himself says: A greater love no one has than to give his life for his friends. This is indeed the greatest love that ever anyone had. But yet had our Savior a greater, for he gave his for both friend and foe.” Indeed, God is the love that appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. He brought this sacrificial love to perfection in his death on the cross and his rising to new life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us the various aspects of this love. Christian love is, first of all, a participation in the love of the Father and the Son. It springs forth from the love of the Father and the Son.

Love is forgiving: The ability to forgive shows the quality of love. Jesus taught us and showed us in His life. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” The other examples are the forgiving of woman caught in adultery, sitting with tax collectors Mathew and Zacchaeus and forgiving the Peter even after he denied him.

Love expressed in serving: Jesus said I have come not to be served, but serve and give my life as a ransom for many. He washed the feet of his disciples and asked them to follow His example. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, taught the ignorant and accepted the rejected.