The Church celebrates in May the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
By Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., Catholic Education Resource Center
This mystery of mysteries — “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” (CCC 234) — is especially difficult to understand. We gain a way in by calling to mind a revelation of Saint John: God is love (1 Jn 4:8).
The Church teaches that the Trinity is one of the divine mysteries that can never be known unless they are revealed by God. All the same, as the Catechism tells us, “God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation” (237). One of those traces is the phenomenon of our human expectation. When God acts to reveal truths of his Triune self to humanity, we respond with joy because of how the Trinity corresponds to the God-given longings of the human heart.
Look at it this way: When you think about true, authentic love, what do you expect from it?
“It is necessary that you exist”
One thing we expect of a love that is real and deep is for it to say to us: It is necessary that you exist. Any genuine act of fathering, before all else, is meant to affirm just this to the would-be child: I want you to exist. it is necessary that you exist.
How intriguing it is that, once the dissipated prodigal son, in his indigence, comes to his senses at last, he does not arise and return to his brother, his girlfriend, or his therapist. Rather, he arises and returns to his father. Why? On the verge of extinction, he needs to get into the presence of someone who wants him to exist and who has the desire to sustain him in his existence, even if it means assuming the manner of a slave (as the prodigal son mistakenly presumes it will).
Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us that “the word ‘Father’ makes me sure of one thing: I do not come from myself; I am a child. I am tempted at first to protest against this reminder as the prodigal son did. I want to be ‘of age,’ ’emancipated,’ my own master. But then I ask myself: What is the alternative for me — or for any person — if I no longer have a Father, if I have left my state as child definitively behind me? What have I gained thereby? Am I really free? No, I am free only when there is a principle of freedom, when there is someone who loves and whose love is strong. Ultimately, then, I have no alternative but to turn back again, to say ‘Father’, and in that way to gain access to freedom by acknowledging the truth about myself.”
And because we are fallen and succumb to sin, we require a love that loves us even when we deserve it the least.
What happens when we respond to that truth…to that trace of longing within us for the Father? We see him come running out to embrace us before we can even speak a single word.
“You are never going to die”
From the best of loves, the most ardent of loves, we expect to hear this assurance: You are never going to die. One of the most consoling lines in all of the funeral liturgy is from Preface for the Dead I: “For your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended.”
It is not until the night before he dies that we actually hear Jesus Christ utter words akin to “I love you.” But throughout the Lord’s ministry, those who encounter him are “dead sure” about Jesus’ love. Why? Because of the way God’s Son overturns death. When the people witness Christ raising from the dead the daughter of Jairus, and calling from the tomb the four-days-departed Lazarus, they know Jesus to be the incarnation of the love they have always awaited. The Son of God is the enfleshment and the bestower through friendship of the love that is indestructible. The ultimate gift of love is Jesus’ own Resurrection — a permanent and undying sign that true love outlasts death.
“I forgive you”
And because we are fallen and succumb to sin, we require a love that loves us even when we deserve it the least. We expect a love that mercifully, even eagerly says: I forgive you. We beg for a love that frustrates our ability to betray love and do wrong.
When the Risen Jesus appears to his disciples, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). The Holy Spirit is the remission of sin. Father Hans Urs von Balthasar notes that Jesus gave us his Spirit in order to “break through the limits set by creation between I and Thou, between man and man, and infuse something of his own ‘I’ into our own.” Love without this is love that is not enough. Which leads Saint Augustine to exclaim: “The love that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit is its very self the forgiveness of sins.”
Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. “The solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.” lead editorial from Magnificat (May, 2018).
Reprinted with permission of Magnificat.