Homily of Archbishop Dermot Farrell for Trinity Sunday 2021
RTE Televised Mass
Church of Our Mother of Divine Grace, Ballygall
“And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” A person’s last words hold special importance for us. It is that way with those close to us: we often say things like, “The last thing your Father said to me was …” “The last thing she said was …”
It is no different with Jesus. The last words of the Risen Lord to his disciples are as memorable, as they are important: “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”
His final word is not a command but a reassurance. Not something we are to do for him, but something he does for us: “I am with you” and more, “I am with you always.” Christ is faithful to his disciples. Like Father, like Son: as it says in today’s Responsorial Psalm, “The word of the Lord is faithful, and all [God’s] works to be trusted…”(Psalm 32:4).
Today’s feast celebrates the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a celebration of how God is, and a call for how we are to be.
When it comes to describing how God is, God’s “inner” life, as it were, many turn to the use of verbal images and metaphors. For example, Saint Patrick used the shamrock. Nature provides us with other metaphors. One comes from the early Church: the early bishop Tertullian imagines the Trinity as a plant, with the Father as the root, the Son as the shoot breaking forth into the world, and the Spirit as that which fills the earth with flower and fruit.
Even with such helpful images, our God remains a mystery, and that is as it should be. Any description is trying to express though a limited means of imagery, what can only be grasped by faith. Saint Paul would not have been able to define the Trinity, yet from his experience of God he was able with ease to describe the activity and presence of the three persons of the Trinity. For Paul, love characterises the intimate life of God.
Although Paul never met the earthly Jesus, through his encounter with the risen Lord he had experienced God as grace and communion; in short, as love. Paul was speaking of something he had come to know first-hand: listen to him in today’s second reading: “the Spirit we received is not the spirit of slaves, bringing fear into our lives again.” The spirit that is in every person’s heart—whether we recognize it or not—is God’s very self, Lord and Giver of Life as we pray in the Creed, present in our hearts, and in our lives, making us “heirs of God and coheirs with Christ” bringing us into a living relationship that is both with God as Father and with Christ who is now our brother.
The root of our faith lies in the response of our father Abraham and in Moses who experienced the mystery and call of God in the burning bush. In the First Reading Moses expresses the reality of the God we call the Trinity: there is one God, who is both beyond words and definitions and deeply involved in the life of the people.
In Jesus, God—the same God who called Abraham and Moses—gives himself to us in new ways. In Jesus—the mystery of God’s inner life is made known to us: “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). God remains a mystery: but we have been given a glimpse—and more than a glimpse of God. Jesus is the true image of the Father. He came to show us by word and action what God is like: that God’s life is not confined to the eternal self-giving of the Father to Son, but that God’s very gift of Godself is given to us. God gives himself to us in love, so that we may be, so that we may have life, that so our life would be God’s life. In other words, that we would become divine. God’s divine life is not confined to God, and it is not confined to us. By the power of God’s Holy Spirit we participate in divine life through communion with others. God’s Holy Spirit rules through justice, peace, charity, love, joy, moderation, kindness, generosity, freedom, compassion, reconciliation, holiness, humility, wisdom, and truthfulness. It is because of the doctrine of the Trinity, that we can point to the love between people and say quite literally, “There is God.” “Where there is charity and love, there is God.”
Our faith in the Trinity is about a God who is for us, who lived as a blessing for the ‘little ones’ and mourners, confronted the power of evil, entered with compassion into the world of human suffering, broke down the barriers between human weakness and divine holiness and reconciled enemies. If Jesus—the very face of God, and the fullness of God’s presence— is “with us” what should we be doing? One way to recognize God’s presence among us is live in harmony and communion with every creature in our common home, eat with modern-day lepers and other outcasts, pray constantly, respond to God in faith, hope and love, eventually becoming unrestrictedly united with God. How much more is this necessary in these difficult pandemic days?
The apostles and Paul and the earliest Christians bore witness to the truth of God, who came to dwell among them, who gave his life for them, who remained in their midst as the Holy Spirit. This was who God was, not because they could subtly define the trinitarian nature of God, but because they had experienced “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” May we too experience the grace, love and communion of God … and put flesh on it for those around us, especially those isolated and those in need. May the God who is with us—Spirit, Son, and Father—show us how to be with each other. “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”