We just celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity is at the essence of our faith in which we believe there is one God in three Persons. This is rightly referred to as a mystery. However, the mystery is not that of a puzzle that we cannot understand but of a reality before which we stand in awe. The liturgy for Trinity Sunday expresses how God is one substance but three persons. Perhaps the words that Pope Francis spoke on Trinity Sunday this year may help us to understand better this mystery in terms of the very existence of our daily lives.
In his Angelus message, the Pope said, “The very word ‘God’ suggests to us a singular, majestic and distant reality, whereas to talk about a Father and a Son brings us back home. Yes, we can think of God in this way, through the image of a family gathered around the table, where life is shared. Besides, the table, which is also an altar, is a symbol with which certain icons depict the Trinity. It is an image that speaks to us of a God of communion. Father, Son and Holy Spirit: communion.”
To understand God as a family is not merely to use an analogy. For all eternity, whether God created us or not, God is the perfect family, the communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is love because he exists in the love of the three Persons of the Trinity. It is not an exaggeration to understand the family of the Trinity as the substance of it. The three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct, but they are one in the communion of love which is the substance of the Trinity.
To understand the mystery of the Trinity is to understand who we are as created in the image and likeness of God. The human person is not an option of many in terms of the way God created us. He created us in the only manner that he could, and that was to be like Him in His image and likeness. Purely and simply, that is why we live in communion with each other, both in this world and in the world of God’s kingdom to come. We come into life through and in a family. Cooperating with God, it is parents who give life to a child, and the child exists with parents in imitation of the life of the Trinity. It is the love between the husband, the wife and the child which is the substance of the life of the family, just as it is the substance of the three Persons of the Trinity. That is why family life is the substance of being human from which all other relationships flow.
Pope Francis further expressed how the family gathers around the table to sustain life by their eating together. It is at this table where they share with each other, not only food, but their lives. The Pope also expressed how this table is the altar of the Church, and it is here that Christ feeds us with his Body and Blood to lead us into the life of the Trinity. The Church is centered around the altar, where the sacrifice of Christ is celebrated and joins us together as a family.
It is important to understand the centrality of the substance of the family in regard to the nature of personhood. It is precisely a misunderstanding of the very nature of human life and personhood from the substance of the family which is at the heart of so many of the difficulties and challenges we face today. Family life is not an option in the manner by which we live, nor can the political system recreate family life and the human person as different from God’s creation. It is frightening that this is occurring today and in a manner which is not drawing us together but tearing us apart. St. Pope John Paul II so frequently stated the truthful reality that, “As goes the family, so goes the world!”
It is life-giving to reflect upon the reality of the mystery of the Trinity before which we stand in awe. That leads us to stand in awe before the mystery of the persons which God has created us to be through the substance of His Trinity and our family life. The more we respect the God-given gift of the family, the more we will respect the gift of life and the gift of each other. Indeed, as Pope Francis so insightfully reflected on for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, God is not a distant reality but at the very core of our everyday life in the family, gathered around the table. It is only by living this more fully that we come to appreciate the majesty of God and the majesty of the human person created to live in a family in the image and likeness of God.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
June 9, 2023