Trinity – June 3, 2012 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
“How is it, we ask, that Scripture and the Church’s creed affirm a pluralism within God, namely that in God there is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” (Catholicism, McBrien, 1994, p. 276). The Christian confession of the Lordship of Jesus is solidly joined to our belief in the Trinity.
Thomas Aquinas writes that “It is impossible to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ, without faith in the trinity, for the mystery of Christ includes that the Son of God took flesh, that He renewed the world through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and, again, that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q 2, a 8). We thus affirm that one God is tri-personal.
Today we speak of the Holy Spirit, and we emphasize the Spirit’s relation to our Church. The marks of the Church are that it is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic.
The Holy Spirit distinguishes our Church with these marks; these features are appropriate, are fitting, and are actually present in our community of faith. In our creed, we speak of our Church as “ One.” Baptized people feel a union with other anointed folk, for the Holy Spirit has sanctified all the members in baptism. Baptism is the common denominator for all Christians. In baptism, the priest says as he pours water, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All baptized persons share their Trinitarian faith, and these all share in a relation to Jesus. For example, a grandparent embraces many children.
To each boy or girl, the grandmother or grandfather finds a tie, a relation; the grandparent loves all of these children who find in herself or himself a common progenitor. In a similar fashion, each of us relates to God the Father and to His Son, Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit, active in the baptism, links us to the Father and to the Son.
St. Paul presents us with an image of the Church. Paul says that we, though many, are one because the Spirit unites us. True, we members appear quite differently, for some speak another language, and some are young and others old, some of one race and others of a different cast of thought. Paul speaks positively, for he says that the Spirit gives these gifts. We receive from God the Spirit these diverse outlooks and abilities.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. And now Paul adds that wonderful list of goods that befall the baptized so that the whole Church may be enriched.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. (I Cor. 12:8-11)
At Corinth in Paul’s time, there were philosophers professing wisdom, healing physicians, weight lifters or able folk performing strong deeds, people prophesizing, and speakers of foreigner languages. And then Paul lists faith: all the Corinthians—all of us—have received from the Spirit the gift of faith; accordingly, no one can think of self as bereft of a gift bestowed by the Spirit.
Thus the Spirit through baptism unites us in our diversity. We are one in the Spirit. And holiness, the next mark that characterizes the Church, holiness flows from the same Spirit. Paul employs exciting language:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (I Cor. 3:16-17).
We currently hear on the local news that an insane person deliberately murdered several adults in downtown Seattle. Later, that person shot and killed himself. Both in the murdered people and also in the suicide person, such an insane act controverts the presence of God. The prophet uses the voice of God: “My dwelling place will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Ezekiel 37:27).
God’s temple, which all baptized are, which you are, is holy, and that temple ought not be defiled. Besides being one and holy , the Church—and each of its members—further defines itself as catholic.
While attending the Gregorian University in Rome, I conversed with seminarians wearing colorful cassocks that distinguished their national residences. Those seminarians, I imagine, came from seven continents and a hundred countries! The catholicity of the church feels no threat from the particular liturgy or language of any one community. The Holy Spirit is the divine presence that links all of us into a church that is catholic. The fourth characteristic of the Church, its apostolic mode, reminds that, like the apostles, we, too, announce God’s reign here among us.
We share the task of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit pushes us to manifest the kingdom of God, “to make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I, [the Lord], have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Holy Spirit bonds us to the Church of the Apostles. As the Holy Spirit marks the Church, so He joins us to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Come Holy Spirit, we pray, come, and in our hearts take up thy rest. Amen!