Monday, May 25, 2015

The Most Holy Trinity - May 31, 2015

Saint Thomas Aquinas concluded [from the original Latin]: “Quod impossibile est per rationem naturalem ad cognitionem Trinitatis divinarum Personarum pervenire” - “It is impossible by natural reason to attain to the knowledge of the Divine Persons of the Trinity” (Summa Theologicæ).  Interesting, though, is that Saint Thomas Aquinas believed that the existence of God can be reasoned.  Arguably the greatest theologian the Church has ever had, Saint Thomas had a most peculiar but incredibly fair way of presenting his arguments: He would state his case, answer all objections and even produce opposing arguments no one ever thought of and respond to those as well. 

As far as the Trinity being “three Persons” Saint Thomas said that this doesn’t mean three separate individuals in the subject of God.  In other words, the Trinity is not as sometimes portrayed in artwork with the Father as the older, white-haired Man with the patriarchal beard, while the Son is the younger, brown-haired Man, and the Holy Spirit is the Dove.  Saint Thomas thinks of the Trinity as relationships within one God.  These relationships within God depict His knowledge of Himself and His Love.  This means that the Paternity of God is God.  God’s superior knowledge of Himself is the Filialness or Son of God and the relationship of Love between God and His Self-knowledge is the Holy Spirit.  The Angelic Doctor explains it this way: “Quicumque enim intelligit, ex hoc ipso quod intelligit, procedit aliquid intra ipsum, quod est conceptio rei intellectæ, ex vi intellectiva proveniens, et ex eius notitia procedens. Quam quidem conceptionem vox significat; et dicitur verbum cordis significatum verbo vocis” - “Whenever we understand, by the very fact of understanding, there proceeds something within us, which is a conception of the object understood, issuing from our intellectual power, and proceeding from our knowledge.  This conception is signified by the spoken word; and it is called the word of the heart signified by the word of the voice” (ibid.). 

Granted, that explanation from the gifted mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas is not an easy read but the truth is that no one possesses the intellectual capacity to fully comprehend and thus define the Most Holy Trinity.  The Trinity is a great, sacred mystery.

First Reading Commentary
Never before the time of this Reading were the signs and wonders of Almighty God ever witnessed by such a multitude of people beginning with their captivity in Egypt.  One can almost interiorly hear how awestruck Moses is in this speech to the people as well as how adamant he is when he says: “You must keep His statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today . . .” 

“Did a people ever hear the Voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?”  It was generally thought that if anyone witnessed any outward sign from God, such as an angel or hear God’s Voice in the midst of fire, you would immediately die. 

“The Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” This verse is saying that God is everywhere, even in places we don’t know exist; and there is no person, place or thing that is more powerful than Him. 

“Long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever” in the literal sense is the land that the Lord promised to Israel; but in the prophetic sense it is referring to heaven; and “long life” is translated into eternal life. 

On this coming weekend’s celebration of the Most Holy Trinity we see Father, Son and Holy Spirit prefigured in this Reading.  God is Father by the love and care He gives to His sons and daughters of Israel.  God is Son in the person of Moses who was called upon to be God’s instrument and proclaim the wonders of the Almighty.  God is Spirit in the signs and wonders that are witnessed by the people of Israel.

Second Reading Commentary
We are sons and daughters of God by the grace of adoption; and it is this grace which we have received from the Spirit of God that enables us to call God “Father.”  As children of the Father, we are heirs with the Son; but as heirs with the Son we must act in accordance with the way that the Son has taught us, bearing our sufferings with patience and with the hope and trust that, like the Son, we also shall be glorified. 

Let us not forget the words “Spirit of adoption,” and the love that these words suggest.  If we are adopted, then we are chosen.  We did not choose God but He chose us.  We were sought out by God because He loves us; and how much does He love us?  So much that He would sacrifice His only Son to have us.     

Gospel Commentary
“When they all saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted.”  There are several possibilities to the meaning of the word “doubted.”  It’s possible that it is referring to those other than the apostles who see Jesus on this mountain in Galilee.  It may also be a statement about the disciples who first doubted, namely Thomas.  It may also be suggesting that the doubt is not in the Resurrection or in the Divinity of Jesus, but is the Person who appeared to them really their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

We have those doubts: Does Jesus really hear my prayers?  Is that really Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?  Are my sins really absolved in Confession by Jesus through a priest?  The list goes on.  There is doubt in this Reading based on what is seen.  How much more can doubt creep into our faith because of what is unseen or invisible?  “I do believe Lord; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).    

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”  This verse can be confusing for if Jesus is God, how could the power He possesses be given to Him?  Jesus is God and Man and in this verse He is speaking as a Man.  There is also a lesson of humility to be learned here.  We must always remember that all we have or possess is given to us by God.  He trusts us with His goods. 

At this point Jesus has taught His disciples all they need to know for salvation and He has given them the assignment to go and do the same, beginning with baptism “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” - the Most Holy Trinity. 

“I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  With all the struggles in this life, these are words of great comfort and they are words that are very real to us, even in times of struggling with our faith. The Holy Spirit is present everywhere in the world; but also, Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament waits for us in the Tabernacles of the Catholic Church throughout the world.  Jesus is always with us, but we need to stay familiar with what our faith teaches.  In other words, we need to constantly grow in the spiritual life; for if we make no attempt to grow spiritually, then the burdens of this life will continually rest on our shoulders alone.  Even with Jesus, as with a total stranger, pure desperation excepted, we would not ask Him to help us with our crosses because the relationship isn’t close enough.  That’s just human nature whether we’re dealing with another human being or with the divine.  In all close relationships there is some level of trust, but without a daily conversation with our Lord, there’s little faith, little trust, and really, without growing in the spiritual life, we’re not even sure how to approach Him.

One of the aides of Saint John Paul II walked into a washroom and found the Holy Father kneeling at a sink in prayer.  In the pope’s summer residence someone on staff opened the door of a utility closet and found His Holiness deeply immersed in prayer (Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves)  For those, however, who see God as their most important relationship would likely applaud that kind of determination and faith.  Question is: Which of those opinions do we adhere to?