By Father James Rodriguez
For all of their expressive ability and power to convey truth, goodness and beauty, there are times when words fall desperately short. This is one of those times.
In the face of a mystery as incomprehensible and confounding as the unity of the three divine Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the believer is reduced to silence: adoring, deferential and spellbound silence.
We sit or kneel before the very sign of our unity in the Eucharist, and see in the Son the Fatherly love by which we were saved. We feel the light and warmth of the Holy Spirit like tongues of fire over our heads. We open or close our eyes – it doesn’t matter – and we are drawn into this mystery once more, as we were for the first time in the waters of baptism.
Perhaps this is why so many babies cry, and so many others remain silent, at the moment the water touches their heads. Surely they are shocked by the experience, but perhaps they are trying to convey something beyond their expressive power, a reaction to the penetrating and ineffable encounter with God, who deigns to make us part of His very life, expressed and revealed through family imagery.
Renewed and Radiant
Like words, the image pales before the reality, but in this case, the reality shines a light back on the words, filling them with vibrancy that renews and radiates through them. Instead of God being “like” a Father, He reveals himself as the model by which all fathers are to be measured. So too the Son, showing children their high dignity regardless of earthly parentage. All of this has been shown us by the Spirit of the selfsame God, poured out for us in the inspired Word we reflect on, week after week.
In today’s first reading, Moses asks the question: Did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself? Until that moment, the people could easily respond in the negative. There is something different about the God of Israel, and Moses could not have known that He would not stop there – merely choosing a people, but that He would literally take their flesh and live among them.
This is no domineering, conquering or mythological force of nature. No, this is the very Author of nature. Out of love for His creation, which was created out of love, He wraps Himself in it so that it could wrap itself in Him. This is what we mean by holy communion.
When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are literally becoming one with Him and each other, united spiritually to fellow believers around the world, and substantially to the Trinity present at every Mass. The Father sends down His Spirit onto our gifts, offered in memory of the Son who speaks: “This is my body, given up for you.”
Separating Ourselves from God
This is precisely why mortal sin keeps us from communion. It is not a punishment inflicted by the Church but by ourselves, who have removed ourselves from this relationship. By not trusting in God, we have turned away. Why, then, would we suddenly want to eat with Him, without first seeking reconciliation?
Perhaps this is why many people feel they do not “get anything out of Mass.” The problem is not the Mass, but our disposition. It is not the quality of the preaching or music, but of our hearts and inconsistent love. We are all guilty of this. The Trinity – a living communion of love – calls out to us from before time began to enter anew the only relationship that can define us and bring us joy, that of divine adoption.
This is the theme that unites the readings today, made plain in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Through his preaching, they were called by God to join the nascent family of faith. They were witnesses of God’s predilection for the Jewish people, now extended to them and the world at large. They were the direct beneficiaries of the Apostles’ obedience to Jesus, who commanded them to go out to all the nations. He makes the same command at the end of every Mass, through the voice of your priest or deacon, delegating every listener with the apostolic mandate.
At the end of this month, traditionally dedicated to our Blessed Mother, let us once more take for our guide she who heard the voice of the angel and immediately visited someone in need. We don’t have to go as far as she did to find people who need the Word; they may be sitting next to you even as you read this.
May we see in Mary the first Apostle: a faithful daughter of the Father and mother of the Son, aflame with the Holy Spirit.
Readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33: 4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22
Romans 8: 14-17
Matthew 28: 16-20
Father Rodriguez ministers full-time with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, and lives in residence at Blessed Sacrament parish in Jackson Heights.