Most Holy Trinity
[Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15]
I returned home last night from Rome. It is high tourist season there, so, as I walked around the city, I frequently came across tour groups. As they sought to see and learn as much as they could about this particular destination, they were dutifully following their guides, who often were holding high an identifying flag. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of participating in one such group in the course of your own travels. I beg your indulgence as I make use of this worldly analogy to speak of the entirely other-worldly mystery celebrated today by the Church: the Most Holy Trinity, the heart of our Christian faith.
Travel is oriented toward a destination. When we set out on a journey, we are going somewhere. Life itself is a journey; in Christian terms we speak of it as a pilgrimage. Our destination is the Most Holy Trinity. From the revelation brought to the world by Jesus, we have come to know that the one and only God is a communion of persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a wondrous and eternal exchange of love. From that same revelation we know that God wants us to participate in that communion of love for all eternity. This sharing in God’s own life is what we mean by heaven; it is the destination that awaits us at the completion of our earthly pilgrimage.
To arrive at the destination, we need to know the way. In unfamiliar territory, members of a tour group will keep a close eye on the guide so that they don’t end up on the wrong street and lose their way entirely. God Himself has provided the way that leads to our heavenly destination. Moved by ineffable love for the people He created, the Father sent from heaven to earth His Son, who assumed our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was given the name Jesus. As Jesus himself would later testify: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father” – no one reaches the destination – “except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the Way because he is both fully God and fully human. He is the Way because by his death and resurrection he has opened for all who believe in him the gates of heaven.
So, if Jesus is the way, who is the guide that leads us to him and keeps on this right path? That is the mission of the Holy Spirit. This is what we hear Jesus say when in the Gospel text he promises the Holy Spirit to his disciples. “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.” Jesus is the truth, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to lead us to him, unite us to him, keep us on the way that he is, and thus guide us to our destination.
As I watched the tour groups make their way through the city, I noticed that they kept watch for the flag that the guide held aloft. In the midst of crowds, they knew where to find their guide and thus keep from getting lost. All the more important is it for us to know where to connect with our guide, the Holy Spirit, so as not to wander from Christ. The “flags” indicating where to find the Holy Spirit are Sacred Scripture, the sacraments, and the communion of believers, what we otherwise call the Church.
When we open the Bible, the texts we read are inspired by the Holy Spirit such that they are truly the Word of God. When we celebrate the sacraments, the gifts of Jesus himself, the Holy Spirit is present and at work deepening our union with the Lord and securing us more firmly in his Way. When believers gather to celebrate and share their faith, the Spirit is present, prompting us to know how the Lord is speaking to his Church at any given moment in history. This, in fact, is what we have been experiencing as we participated in the synodal process called for by the Holy Father. Scripture, sacraments, communion in faith: the sure indicators of where we shall encounter and follow our guide, the Holy Spirit.
Members of a tour group will often be tempted to break away from the others and create their own itinerary. Side streets can look very interesting and excite curiosity, but following those paths on one’s own will take one away from the group and introduce the serious risk of not making it to the desired destination. This why the guide will work very hard at keeping the group together; they need to arrive collectively at the place they all desire. So, too, with the Holy Spirit. By the working of the Holy Spirit, beginning at Baptism, we have been fashioned as a group of fellow travellers – a communion of disciples setting out along the path the Lord has marked out for us. Many are the “side streets” that tempt us away from him. They look enticing but are ultimately very dangerous if they separate us from Christ. The Spirit is given to hold us together, to keep us united within the Church, so that, as members of God’s family, we can rejoice forever together in the communion of love that is the Most Holy Trinity.
Nowhere does this happen more beautifully and wondrously than in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Here the Holy Spirit works through the words and actions of the priest to transform simple gifts of bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is our Way, becomes present among us. In our reception of Holy Communion, the Spirit unites our lives with the very self-offering of Christ to the Father, such that we are given a taste, even now, of the communion in the Trinitarian life awaiting us in the world to come. From here we are sent forth in the Spirit, and under the Spirit’s lead, to continue along our pilgrim way toward that heavenly destiny. May we remain always attentive to our guide, and resist all temptation to stray from the direction he gives.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Saint Joseph’s Basilica
June 12th, 2022