Holy trinity

Love is the key to understanding the mystery of the Holy Trinity – Catholic Philly

Mgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, May 30)

Like most priests, I have had the great privilege of seeing many couples take their marriage vows. The normal course of preparation is for the couple to help prepare for the liturgy by praying over the different scripture readings that the Church offers as a choice for Mass.

Almost inevitably, the second reading chosen is that of the first Corinthians which begins with the beloved words of Saint Paul: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but have no love, I am a resounding gong or a colliding cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and understand all the mysteries and all the knowledge; if I have all the faith to move mountains but I have no love, I am nothing. If I give all that I have, and if I give my body to brag but without love, I gain nothing. “

The words of this reading capture the importance of love in the relationship that is about to be sanctified, sanctified, through the commitment of the spouses. It clearly resonates with couples because it is chosen so often.

Marriage, however, is not the only context to understand this reading. Many people would include this passage as one of their scriptural favorites or one that had deep meaning in their lives. The reason probably has something to do with the importance of love in life.

Several weeks ago, on the Sundays before Pentecost, we heard passages from 1 John and the Gospel according to John. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of his love for the Father and for his flock. He demonstrates this love by giving his life for his friends. He commands us “to love one another as I have loved you”. In the letter, John describes God in this short but powerful sentence: “God is love.

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We celebrate the mystery of who God is – the Holy Trinity. It is one of the only two dogmas which really has a feast day in the liturgical calendar. The term “mystery” is appropriate for the celebration. God is so above us that we can never fully understand him.

Part of the phrase “mystery” implies an encounter. We meet God and enter into a relationship with him. Through this relationship, we get to know him. This knowledge is not exhaustive but engaging. It brings us closer to the One who can never be fully known. It is a relationship of love.

Belief in the Holy Trinity stems from the self-revelation of God to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals that the God of creation and of the covenant is his Father. He often speaks of this relationship in the Gospels. The relationship is a relationship of love. The Father loves him and he the Father. Likewise, we hear Jesus speaking of the Spirit. Last week we celebrated Pentecost. The promised Spirit is the permanent presence of God among us. Through the Spirit, God, who created and redeemed us, dwells in us and among us to sanctify our life in love.

The Gospel passage from the Sunday liturgy contains Jesus’ last speech to his disciples in the Gospel according to Matthew. The words are offered just before Jesus ascends to the Father. When we think of final addresses or words spoken in a formal setting, we normally attach great importance to them. Such is the case here with these words. Jesus speaks like the Lord of life. He rose from the dead and, indeed, through this victory over sin and death, he can claim “all power in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

Then he proclaims, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The baptism that takes place must be in the name of the Holy Trinity. Baptism binds us to Christ and draws us into the divine life of God. In this way, God who is love draws us into the eternal life of love.

Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans (second reading) reminds us that it is in our union with Christ (through baptism) that we can confidently and rightly call God “Abba”. The term expresses a childish love for the Father. It captures the innocence, simplicity, complete confidence and trust that a small child has in their parents. The expression would most likely be translated into everyday language as “Papa”. Paul reminds us that through this union with Christ we are now considered adopted children of God – and his heirs as well, “joint heirs with Christ.” He concludes with these words: “If only we would suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him”.

They may seem strange to us today. We normally associate suffering with something that needs to be eliminated, not embraced. However, he is talking here about the will of Jesus and, in fact, the actual renunciation of his own interests, desires, even comfort for the good of another. His gift of self knows no constraints. It’s part of love. So when Saint Paul associates this with being children of God and heirs as well, he reminds us to love.

God loves us so much that he not only created us but made himself known to us. His revelation as Father, Son and Holy Spirit draws us into this relationship of love. Celebrating the Holy Trinity is a celebration of love. The God who is love shares this love with us and calls us to live this love in our relationships with one another.

I mentioned the first passage from Saint Paul’s Corinthians at the beginning. His conclusion to this passage helps us to embrace this mystery and this relationship: “Currently, we see indiscriminately, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I partially know; then I will know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of them is love.


Mgr. Joseph Prior is Pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and former Professor of Sacred Scripture and Rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.