A reflection on the readings for Sunday, May 30, 2021 — The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
Last Saturday, my infant son received the Sacrament of Baptism. When the celebrant poured holy water over my son’s head and used sacred Chrism oil to anoint his forehead, I became mindful of another Baptism: the one sought for me by my parents nearly 40 years ago. As he asked my wife and me to make the Sign of the Cross on our son’s forehead, I recalled that I too was baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Looking upon the smiling face of my newly baptized son, I realized that while the Church calls parents to be the primary models of faith, he also provides me with a model to emulate: he reminds me to approach God with the simplicity and trust of a child (cf. Mt 18:3) and to have a child’s faith that God is always with us (cf. Mt 28:20).
Today the Church commemorates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. We celebrate the gift of the Trinity that we received at Baptism. The Gospel reminds us that our Baptism stems from the Great Commission of Jesus to his disciples (cf. Mt 28:19-20). In this way, our Baptism is not an isolated act performed upon only one individual; rather, it is part of a communal public witness to which the Baptisms of all who have gone before us, including the martyrs and saints, attest. In fact, the Greek word for martyr, μάρτυς, means a “witness.” By Baptism, we testify that we are disciples of Jesus and participants in his mission to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples.
For many of us, it was our parents who brought us into the Church. However, the truth is – as the Responsorial Psalm attests – that the Lord chose us to be his own. God chose us first, and by God’s grace our elders brought us to the Church for initiation the Christian faith. God chose us, and our Baptism is both a response to that choice and a call for us to choose every day to follow God, who invites us to abide in the Most Holy Trinity.
Our Baptism therefore presents a seeming paradox. We are made to abide in Trinitarian love, and we are also made, as Jesus proclaimed at the Great Commission, to go forth and minister to God’s people. This twofold call, while ostensibly contradictory, imitates the activity of the Trinity. The immanent Trinity is the intimate relationship between God the Father and God the Son, whereby the Father gifts himself totally to the Son, as the Son does to the Father. The Holy Spirit, as the third person of the Trinity, is the manifestation of this eternal love.
Fr. George Maloney, SJ describes this self-emptying love of the Trinity:
The great revelation Jesus came to give us was to reveal to us that God is an ecstatic, intimate, loving community, a circle of inflaming love that knows no circumference, of a Father emptying himself into his Son through his Spirit of love. Such intimacy and self-emptying are returned by the Son gifting himself back to the Father through the same Spirit. In the Trinity, Jesus reveals to us the secret of life. Love is a call to receive one’s being in the intimate self-surrendering of the other. In the ecstasy of “standing outside” of oneself and becoming available through the gift of love to live for the other, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit all come into their unique being as distinct yet united persons.
This self-emptying love, an intimate expression of the immanent Trinity, becomes revealed to us through the Incarnation of Christ, who died and rose for us so that we might share in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pt 1:4). The death and resurrection of Christ thus comprise the economy of salvation. Coming from the Greek oikonomia (οἰκονομία), “economy” means the “management of the household.” The management of the household of God, i.e. the economic Trinity, is inextricably linked to God’s salvific mission. Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ, summarizes this twofold and seemingly paradoxical activity: “The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa.”
Therefore, abiding in the Trinity and sharing in the divine nature is inextricably linked to Christ’s Great Commission to go forth and make the disciples of all nations. As we have been baptized in the Trinity, so must we lead others to the Trinity.
While the doctrine of the Trinity is inherently a mystery, and while its supporting theology can be perplexing, the image of the Trinity that resonates with me is that of God’s community of love. In the Trinity we witness a self-giving love expressed eternally. What’s more, the Trinity invites us into this loving relationship. As we experience love from God as individuals, we also experience God’s love for all of humanity, a love so profound it suffered death on a cross to make salvation possible. Empowered by this love, we go forth to participate in God’s call to bring others into this eternal loving relationship. Going forth does not preclude us from abiding in this love; rather, it requires that we do so, as we are ineffective in bringing others to God unless we are intimately connected to the Trinity.
Ultimately, the decision to baptize my infant was inspired by my wife’s and my love for him. But our love for our child is predicated on the Trinity’s love for each one of us. Just as our child is a gift from God rooted in God’s love, so also is our decision to baptize him in the name of the Trinity rooted in this Trinitarian love.
As we celebrate this solemnity, therefore, let us focus on what matters most: God loves us and chose us, and the Trinity calls us to join this community of love, which expresses love both immanently and outwardly. Our adoption by God through Jesus Christ and our call to discipleship are inextricably linked. This twofold call, celebrated in the Sacrament of Baptism, is one we can renew daily – as we mindfully cross ourselves “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Image: Andrei Rublev’s icon showing the three Angels being hosted by Abraham at Mamre. Early 15th century. Public Domain, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.