When the Gospel was proclaimed at Pentecost, the Church entered a new phase in history. Likewise, with our celebration of Pentecost, while a new liturgical year is not restarted, we do enter a new liturgical season. As with all new things, the first thing we should do is acknowledge God, and this Sunday’s liturgy is no different. Throughout the week (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) traditionally Latin Catholics entered this new season with what were known as Ember Days, days set aside specifically for prayer and fasting. Once those days ended, the Church celebrated Trinity Sunday.
What does it mean to acknowledge the Trinity? To say we are just acknowledging God is true, but what does that mean? The Collect states that we are able to acknowledge the Trinity “in confessing the true faith”, and that is the first lesson we should learn here. To know the fullness of God is a gift, something we are incapable on our own merits. We can understand God exists from our reason alone. Yet knowing he exists is different from knowing the extent of who he is.
Why does God wish to reveal this to us? The Gospel gives us a hint, where Christ commands us to baptize all in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Christ is engaging in a play on words here. He isn’t giving the Apostles three names, rather, he is giving them one name. The name of God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are together, and you cannot mention one without the other two. That is why in our liturgies, prayers are never addressed solely to the Father, but to all three persons of the Trinity. All three play a role. In the Extraordinary Form, prayers ar concluded with (or with something similar to) “through Our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with You (The Father), in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
In the Hebrew culture of Christ’s time, sharing one’s name implies an intimate friendship. So when Jesus is revealing the name of God, He is revealing the desire of God to be close to His Church. That closeness is demonstrated in the way we address God. He is not simply “God”, but rather Abba, father. (Romans 8:15) God wishes himself to be understood in familial terms with us.
In addition to knowing God, Christ commands that we share Him. The first impulse of the Father is to share love with the Son, and that sharing is the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we who have had God made known to us likewise have an impulse to share our faith, our love with others, to make God known. This is the basic impulse of Christianity, to share it with others, both inside and outside the Church. One can even measure the Church by that impulse to share. While we should always be leery of measuring Christianity by the amount of converts we have, we should be measuring Christianity by our willingness to share that faith.
If we are looking for something to say “this is the cause of the Crisis”, I would argue it is that reluctance to share our faith. Due to our divided and factional nature, we do not share our faith with each other. Almost a decade after Summorum Pontificum, traditionalists in prominent dioceses are forbidden from advertising their Latin Masses, from sharing the faith as they understand it with their fellow Catholics. In a desire to go along to get along, how often do we avoid sharing our faith with others? As the Gospel reminds us, we aren’t just failing to share with them an abstraction known as “God”, but we are failing to bring them their family. Is withholding the identity of one’s father a kindness? Is it not cruel? Yet when we scare away from evangelizing, that is what we are doing.
If we aren’t sharing the faith, what’s the point? I want you to reflect on that a bit before answering. What’s the point of having a relationship with God, a relationship that can transform the entire world, just to sit on it and not let anyone know? When you do that, the Gospel loses its power to transform lives, at which point it becomes just another pointless self-help manual, and not a very good one at that. I don’t think any author would say the key to fulfillment is to annoy the world, invite its persecution, and then get killed in the Colliseum or at the hands of fanatics. Yet if we are sharing the message that can transform humanity and all the cosmos, such things are minor in comparison.
Another thing worth remembering in sharing the Trinity with others is that you are sharing something that is not of your own creation. This is the great temptation today. God wishes to reveal himself to humanity, and to be revealed in a certain way. When we change or water down his doctrine and truth, we are trying to show the world something that is not the Trinity. This is why all these debates about tradition and doctrine, frustrating as they can be, matter. We aren’t bitter Pharisees because of it; at least I hope we aren’t! We’ve been given a great gift, and we want everyone else to have it to, but when we change it, it is no longer God’s gift, but rather ours. Our gift can be nice. Our gift can even make people feel better. What it cannot do is change people’s lives. What it cannot do is offer them salvation. Only God can give that to someone, and all we can do is give that message to others in love, and try to create an environment where God’s grace can flourish.
That last sentence gives us our third and final truth about sharing the Trinity. In Catholicism today a large emphasis is placed on conversions. Conversions are great. They are wonderful. Many of us are either converts, or those who rediscovered the faith. Yet beautiful as they are, we cannot base our “success” on the amount of people we convert. We cannot do this because it is not us who converts. St. Paul made this point clear in his epistle to the Corinthians. He planted seeds, others watered, and God made it grow. If we limit our evangelization to simply announcing the word of God, what good is it? The most fertile plant in the world still doesn’t grow without some sort of nutrients. The best way to reveal God’s love is to love. What better way to show a life transformed by love than to show that great love unconditionally? How are we building up a culture of the Gospel so the grace of the Spirit can be fruitful? When we share the faith with others, are we still there the next day helping them out? Or did we do our good deed and go home? Are we sharing the faith in our actions as well as our words? While St. Francis of Assisi almost certainly never said “preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words”, it must be remember we are revealing to others a new way of living, not just a new way of thinking. The Gospel is meant to transform every aspect of our lives. Unless we live out that transformation, why should anyone believe what we say?
I think all of these reasons are why Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost. We are called to take up the mission of spreading the Gospel just as the Apostles were. Their first task was to receive the truth about God, and then share it with others. When we go to Mass this Sunday, we are given the truth about the Trinity, and immediately expected to share it with others, in both our words, and our deeds.