June 16; Most Holy Trinity Sunday; Year C

Holy TrinityMission of the Trinity, Mission of the Church

Today on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, it is logical and expected of priests to attempt to explain the central and yet, most inexplicable doctrine of faith, that is to try to reconcile our Christian belief that there is only One God with the correlative belief that God exists as Three distinctive persons. If any doctrine makes Christianity Christian, then surely it is the doctrine of the Trinity. St Augustine once commented about the Trinity that “in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.”

If this doctrine is of such great import, then surely it must be the one most familiar to every Christian. But here lies the paradox: when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, most Christians are poor in their understanding, poorer in their articulation, and poorest of all in seeing any way in which the doctrine matters in real life. Someone once said, “The trinity is a matter of five notions or properties, four relations, three persons, two processions, one substance or nature, and no understanding.” After hearing our explanations for years, I guess you either understand or you don’t. So, I’m going to take a different approach this year, an approach that is inspired by this year’s special focus – the Extraordinary Mission Year. Instead of talking about the nature of the Trinity, I will speak of its mission, what theologians call the economical Trinity. In fact, it would not be too bold on my part to argue that the Trinity, Mission and the Church can never be fully understood apart from one another. The Church is the icon of the Most Holy Trinity and the mission of God is the origin of the Church’s mission.

If they are so interconnected, then we must first understand the mission of the Most Holy Trinity, before we can understand the mission of the Church. The Trinitarian mission is succinctly summarised in four paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The first paragraph spells out the plan or the point of the mission - The Father “destined us in love to be his sons” through "the spirit of sonship" (Eph 1:4-5, 9). Love is the source and the motivation. (CCC 257)
The second paragraph then speaks of this divine plan as the common work of all three divine persons. However, each person does the work according to his unique personal qualities. “One God and Father from whom all things are and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are” (The Second Council of Constantinople). But the qualities of the three divine persons are revealed in the missions of Jesus and the Spirit, who both proceed from the Father. (CCC 258)
What then is the content of this mission? Well, it is simply to reveal each Person of the Most Holy Trinity. The Christian life is a communion with all three persons. And we certainly cannot enter into any relationship without first knowing the person whom we wish to relate to. Knowledge precedes love. (CCC 259)
Finally, who is meant to be the beneficiary of this divine plan? The Catechism affirms that this invitation is not just limited to a few elite individuals but is extended to all. God wants every creature to enter into the unity of the Trinity. (CCC 260)

So the mission of the Church, the mission of every Christian, is derived from the very nature of the Godhead. “The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father” (Ad Gentes, 2). The Father sends the Son, the Word, who becomes one with us in Incarnation, and they both send the Holy Spirit to us, thus enabling us already to be spiritually connected to the Trinity as the Spirit makes us members of the Body of Christ. But the picture does not finish here: just as the Word and the Spirit are sent, so are we. Pope Francis reminds us that “this “divine family” (the Most Holy Trinity) is not closed in on itself, but is open. It communicates itself in creation and in history and has entered into the world of men to call everyone to form part of it. The trinitarian horizon of communion surrounds all of us and stimulates us to live in love and fraternal sharing, certain that where there is love, there is God.” That is why the Church, and we the members, are sent out into the world to be the salt of the earth and the yeast through which the whole of humanity will grow and respond to the calling that we all share.

Christ Himself has prepared us for that mission when He says that everything that the Father has belongs to the Son and what the Son has belongs to the Father, and He prays for us, that our unity may also be mirrored in that perfect unity. We are to grow into that unity through the Spirit who will lead us to the fullness of truth. This is not a call for a forced egalitarianism or blind conformity, but a call to love one another in freedom, for there can be no true love if there is no real freedom. Love is at the heart of the life of the community, the life “in communion,” a mirror of the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity. And that is why love is God’s greatest gift to us. As St Paul assures the Romans that in the midst of their human suffering, “the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.” This love can be nothing other than His own Triune love. In other words, we have confirmation that suffering in this world does not lead us away from God but toward God.

Perhaps, then, it is time for us to renew our mission once more: to share and to reach out to others in this fragmented and divided world who are in need of healing and reunification. Only God can destroy the division, the hatred, the hostility and the separation rooted in man, with this gift of love. God takes the first step in reunifying us with Himself and with each other. It is He who approaches and walks in communion with those who were far from Him. He eradicates the hatred buried deep inside humanity. He makes brothers and sisters of those who were once separated and reunites them in Him. He makes them a community, which is the Church. The Church was born from the overcoming of all hatred, sin and every barrier, all sources of division. This is the mission of God, the Most Holy Trinity. But it is also the mission of the Church. The Church finds its origins in the Most Holy Trinity, and cannot and must not be separated from its source. The Church’s horizon is God’s horizon, the Church’s mission is God’s mission. As we were forgiven, reconciled and made one, so now are we sent with a similar mission to forgive, to reconcile and make one with all whom we meet.

It’s good to always remember that mission, rather than it being simply something the Church does, is first and foremost an action of God, the Most Holy Trinity. The Father sends the Son, and both send the Holy Spirit to us, and the Spirit makes us members of the Body of Christ. And now, we too are sent out into the world to draw all others into this communion of grace and love. The Church in her mission never replaces God or God’s work. Rather, the Church through participation in and witness to God’s mission, makes the invisible work of God visible.

We recall the words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, “The feast of the Holy Trinity invites us to commit ourselves in daily events to being leaven of communion, consolation and mercy. In this mission, we are sustained by the strength that the Holy Spirit gives us: he takes care of the flesh of humanity, wounded by injustice, oppression, hate and avarice.”