Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Dogma of the Blessed Trinity: Highly Theoretical—and Very Practical!


(Trinity Sunday 2013: This homily was given on May 26, 2013 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Proverbs 8: 22-31; Romans 5: 1-5; John 16: 12-15.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Trinity Sunday 2013]


The dogma of the Blessed Trinity is part of the very foundation of our Catholic faith.  It is, as the Catechism says, “the central mystery of Christian faith and life.”  (CCC, 234)

The dogma says that there are three divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—in the one, true, and eternal God.  Now that may sound rather simple, but, as anybody who’s ever studied theology or read the Catechism will tell you, it isn’t: What does the word “Person” mean in that definition?  How can something be “one” and “three” at the same time?  If the three Persons form one God, how can they be distinct from one another?  If the Father “begets” the Son, how can the Son be said to be “eternal”?

And on and on the questions go!  That’s why volumes and volumes have been written about the Blessed Trinity in the last 2,000 years.

So, on the one hand, the dogma of the Trinity is highly theoretical.  And yet, from another perspective, it’s a very practical teaching.

And I would say that’s exactly the way we should expect it to be!  If the teaching of the Church about the Trinity is true (and I believe it is!)—and that same Triune God created us and everything that exists—then there should be many things about the Trinity that relate to the ordinary, everyday experiences we have as human beings.

And that’s precisely the way it is.

The dogma of the Trinity, for example, reminds us of the importance of family life, since it teaches us that God is (in a certain sense) a “family” of Persons united by an eternal bond of love. 

That’s a very important lesson for people in our day and age, when the traditional family is under direct and almost constant attack!

So obviously those who believe in the Trinity should make their family life a priority.  Hopefully everyone here does.

The Blessed Trinity also teaches us that we are made to live in loving relationships with other human beings (both within our families and outside of our families).  As the old saying goes, “No man is an island.”  We are made in the Triune God’s image, and within the inner life of the Triune God there are relationships—relationships of love:  the Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Spirit; the Spirit loves the Father, etc.

This means that those who believe in the Blessed Trinity should always be working to make their relationships with other people better and more loving.

Believers in the Trinity should also have no difficulty whatsoever in recognizing and avoiding sins like racism and abortion, because believers in the Trinity affirm a very important truth (whether they realize it or not).  The truth is this: Those who share the same nature enjoy the same dignity.  Now what do I mean by that?  Well, in the Blessed Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct divine Persons.  However the Father is not “more divine” than the Son; the Son is not “more divine” than the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not “more divine” than the Father or the Son.  Each Person of the Blessed Trinity shares the divine nature; consequently each is to be worshipped as God! 

Those who share the same nature enjoy the same dignity. 

In a similar way, every human person—regardless of their age or their skin color or their other personal characteristics—has a human nature, and so they deserve to be respected and treated with a certain dignity, from the moment of their conception in the womb to the moment of their natural death.  As the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity share the divine nature and are to be treated accordingly, so every human person has a human nature and is to be treated accordingly.

The dogma of the Trinity even has implications for our understanding of marriage.  (This is something Blessed John Paul II helped us to understand through his Theology of the Body.)  And one of those implications concerns this controversial issue of so-called “gay marriage”.  As we found out a few weeks ago here in Rhode Island, a state or society can choose to make this practice legal through a legislative act or through a judicial decision.  But that’s all it is—legal.  It’s not real.  And it’s not real—that is to say a gay marriage can never be a marriage in the true sense of the term—precisely because of who God is as a Trinity of Persons, and because of who we are as human beings made in his image and likeness. 

Let me explain . . .

In the Blessed Trinity, the Father loves the Son with an intense, perfect, eternal love.  That love is so intense that it’s actually another Person—the Holy Spirit—who, as the Nicene Creed tells us, “proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

So please notice, in the Blessed Trinity, love is fruitful: the Father loves the Son, and from that love the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally.

In a speech he gave in Africa in 1988, Pope John Paul II said this: “Christian family life is a reflection of the life of the Blessed Trinity, where there is mutual giving and receiving of love among the three Divine Persons.”  This, of course, shouldn’t surprise us, because we’re made in God’s image and likeness.  As I noted earlier, our family lives are to reflect the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, because we’ve been made in the image and likeness of the Blessed Trinity!

All this having been said, if a marriage here on earth is to reflect the life of the Trinity properly, that marriage obviously must be FRUITFUL (or at least it must have the natural potential to be fruitful).

It must be fruitful (or at least potentially so), because the Father’s love for the Son in the Blessed Trinity is fruitful!

But a so-called “gay marriage” can never be fruitful, can it?  You learn that in Biology 101.  Two men cannot have a natural child of their own; two women cannot have a natural child of their own.  It’s impossible.  Only the marriage of a man and a woman has the natural potential to be fruitful!

So of all the reasons that can be mentioned as to why gay marriage is wrong, perhaps the most important one is this: It’s “anti-Trinitarian.”  It’s anti-Trinitarian because the love of the Father and the Son in the Blessed Trinity is fruitful.  The love in a gay relationship is not.

And it never can be. 

In conclusion let me summarize my homily in this way: As I’ve hopefully made clear in the last several minutes, by revealing himself to us as a Trinity of Persons, Almighty God has not only taught us something very important about himself, he’s also taught us many important things about ourselves and about our lives here on this earth.  He’s taught us about the importance of family life; he’s taught us about the need to bring his love into our relationships; he’s taught us about the dignity we have as human beings created in his image and likeness; he’s even taught us about the nature of marriage and human sexuality.

The only question is: Are we, as individuals, learning these lessons that the Lord has taught?