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THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY (Cycle C)

Readings:
Proverbs 8:22-31
Psalm 8:4-9
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

This Sunday the Church returns to Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Calendar. This second part of Ordinary Time begins the day after Pentecost and runs to the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent. If the number of ordinary weeks is thirty-four, the week after Pentecost is the one that follows immediately the last week celebrated before Lent. The Masses of Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, and (in countries where the Body and Blood of Christ is not observed as a holy day of obligation and is therefore celebrated on the following Sunday) the Body and Blood of Christ replace the Sunday Masses in theses weeks. If the number of ordinary weeks is thirty-three, the first week that would otherwise follow Pentecost Sunday is omitted.

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: The Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity:
The mystery of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit was first revealed to us by Jesus Christ. It was a revelation that was not made known to the Old Covenant Church. In this week's readings we are taken on a journey through time from before the foundation of the earth or sky was established to when the Holy Spirit came to fill and indwell the new creation in Jesus' Kingdom of heaven on earth—the Church.

In the First Reading, divine Wisdom is presented as begotten by God and instrumental in the Creation event. The Psalm Reading was understood by the Church Fathers as referring to Jesus Christ as God's "only begotten Son" who is Himself God's "divine wisdom," instrumental in bringing forth the first Creation event. It was also St. Paul's understanding of Christ's role in the first Creation—for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible ... (Col 1:15-16a). This passage, quoted in the Letter to the Hebrews raises hope in the resurrected Jesus, who brings forth the glorious world to come where Christ victoriously rules over a new creation.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes that it is the redemptive work of Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Paul identifies Jesus' role as the sole mediator and reconciler of humanity to God's divine plan of salvation.

The Gospel Reading is from Jesus' final discourse to His disciples at the Last Supper before leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane. He has promised them that only in His departure will He be able to send them the Paraclete—the Advocate and Counselor, the Holy Spirit of God who is the "Spirit of Truth." The Holy Spirit will reveal the complete significance of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection as well as the mystery of Eucharist and the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. He will also reveal to the Magisterium of the New Covenant order the hidden depths of the mystery of Jesus Christ and the gift of grace that is our salvation. In other words, God the Holy Spirit will continue the teaching mission of Jesus to bear witness to the truth (John 8:31-32; 18:37; CCC# 687).

It is from Jesus' promise in this passage that the Great Councils of Vatican I and II pronounced the doctrine of magisterial infallibility that states the Pope alone and/or the Bishops united with the Pope, the successor of St. Peter and the Apostles, are divinely protected from teaching error when they define matters pertaining to faith and morals (Lumen Gentium, 25). The guidance and intervention of the Paraclete is Jesus' assurance that during her earthly pilgrimage the ministerial priesthood of the Church will not distort, corrupt, or misunderstand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The First Reading Proverbs 8:22-31 ~ The Eternal Wisdom of God is poured forth in the Delight of the Father
22 The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; 23 from of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no foundations or springs of water; 25 before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth; 26 while as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world. 27 When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; 28 when he made firm the skies above when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; 29 when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; 30 then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, 31 playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.

"Wisdom" is presented as a being of divine origin which existed before all things (verses 22-26). Divine wisdom, begotten by God, collaborated in the creation event and established its wondrous order (verses 27-30). The plurality of the One God is foreshadowed in this passage and was afterward revealed in the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, God the Son Incarnate (see Col 1:15-22).

Psalm 8:4-9 ~The Majesty of God and God's Gift of Human Dignity
When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place-what are humans [men] that you are mindful of them, mere mortals[the son of man] that you care for them [him]? Yet you have made them [him] little less than a god, crowned them [him] with glory and honor. You have given them [him] rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their [his] feet: all sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field ...
[...] =literal translation IBHE, vol. 2, page 1388.

This extraordinarily poor translation of the Hebrew text in the New American Bible loses all of its significance as one of the Old Testament passages that is a foreshadow of our understanding of the active role of God the Son in salvation history. The significant wording "son of man", which is Jesus' favorite title for Himself and the second person "him" has been replaced with the third person "them" and the words "human beings"-none of this wording is in the Hebrew text or the Septuagint translation. The better translation in Hebrews 2:6-8 from the Septuagint quoted in the New Testament sheds light on the meaning of this passage which the inspired writer interprets as applying to Jesus Christ (the quote from Psalm 8 will be underlined: For it was not to angels that he subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. Instead, someone has testified somewhere: "What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, subjecting all things under his feet." In "subjecting" all things to him, he left nothing not subject to him." Yet at present we do not see "all things subject to him," but we do see Jesus "crowned with glory and honor" because he suffered death, he who "for a little while" was made "lower than the angels," that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb 2:5-9). The point the writer of Hebrews makes is that in His humanity God made Jesus, the divine Son of Man, "a little lower than the angels" but who, in His suffering and resurrection was "crowned with glory and honor" in His divinity, being raised above all creation and in whom all things were subjected to His authority.

Psalm 8:6-7 is also applied to Christ by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:27 and in Ephesians 1:22, and is also alluded to by Peter and applied to Jesus in 1 Peter 3:22. Paul uses Psalm 8:6 to teach that through His suffering, death, and resurrection Christ has achieved victory over death once and for all, and all creation is now made subject to God through the redemptive work of God the Son.

The Second Reading Romans 5:1-5 ~ Justification by Faith in God
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, in knowing that affliction produces endurance, 4 and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

St. Paul tells us that the first effect of justification through faith in Jesus Christ is that the believer experiences "peace." Paul is not using the word in the sense of "peace of mind" or in the sense of "peace" as a result of the absence of conflict. Instead he is using the Greek word eirene, pronounced, i-ray'-nay (see Strong's Greek Lexicon #1515) in the same sense as the Hebrew word shalom, the fullness of a right relationship-in this case with God and in the justification that establishes that right relationship with Yahweh through the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus the Messiah. Paul speaks of "peace" / "shalom" in the same sense as Yahweh's holy prophet Isaiah prophesized the outpouring of the Spirit of God in Isaiah 32:15-20 NJB. Keep in mind as you read this passage that the "dessert" is the spiritually parched souls of Old Covenant believers that God's Spirit will transform into "productive ground": until the spirit is poured out on us from above, and the desert becomes productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest. Fair judgment will fix its home in the desert, and uprightness live in the productive ground, and the product of uprightness will be peace, the effect of uprightness being quiet and security for ever (also see Isaiah 54:10; Psalm 85:10-11).

When human beings enter into a correct relationship with God through the covenant in the blood of Christ, they are no longer under the penalty of God's wrath as a child of Adam. Instead, as adopted sons and daughters through the Sacrament of Baptism we are at peace-reborn into God's family, where the perfect sacrifice of Christ has justified us before God and removed all wrath. This gift of reconciliation is a gift of God's grace and the result is the inner peace that comes from a unity in the life of the Trinity. St. Paul says it is Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Paul identifies Jesus' role as the sole mediator and reconciler of humanity to God's plan of salvation. The redemptive work of Jesus Christ is foremost on Paul's mind in Romans 5:1-21 and he will identify Jesus' role as redeemer and mediator 5 times in 5:2, 9, 11, 17, and 21.

To enter into God's glory is to be united to the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity for eternity. In this verse Paul is expanding the theme of the Christian's hope in receiving God's glory in the eschatological [last] gifts promised through the redemptive work of Christ:

But this promise of entering into God's "glory" would trigger in Paul's Jewish Christian audience the recollection of the Old Testament Biblical passages including the event in salvation history when man first became deprived of God's glory. Paul has referred to the hoped for future glory in Romans 1:23; 2:7, 10; & 3:23. He will also make this connection in 8:18-30; 9:4, and in 9:23. According to Genesis 1:26-28 and Psalm 8:5-8 in the Old Testament, "glory" denotes the Biblical tradition of "likeness of God" based on man being created to bear God's "image." The process of salvation history and the promises made to the covenant people through God's holy prophets will be complete when those justified by the saving work of Jesus Christ arrive at the fullness of "glory," fulfilling God's original intent for His relationship with man first established in Eden-bearing His image in righteousness and immortality.

Romans 5:3-4 Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, in knowing that affliction produces endurance, 4 and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope ...

Paul will use the word "boast" = kauchaomai [kow-khah'-om-ahee] 5 times in Romans 2:17, 23; 5:2, 3, and 11 (see Strong's Greek lexicon # 2744; kauchaomai = boast, glory, joy, rejoice). Prior to chapter 5 "to boast" is used in a negative sense but not in chapter 5. In the previous passages, "boasting" was baseless though the works of the Law, but when God's grace is at work in the life of the believer, we have every reason to boast.

Trial develops perseverance and perseverance develops a "proven character," something that gives us hope. Paul is evidently reflecting on his own experiences when persecution has served to strengthen his resolve (see 2 Cor 4:7-12 and 11:23-29). Paul's point is that affliction and suffering endured with the grace of God allows us to "image" Christ and His suffering in our bodies which are as frail and temporal as earthenware pots. Our suffering gives us hope because we receive evidence of God's grace working in our lives and we are strengthened by the experience with the knowledge that God's grace holds the promise of eternal life! See CCC# 618.

The Holy Spirit is the source of our hope.

Paul assures the Christians of Rome in Romans 5:4-5 that the hope we place in the promises of God-the hope which is a gift of the Spirit-does not let us down or disappoint us, nor will our "hope" put us to shame. This "hope" is not an illusion but is instead founded on an unshakable source because our hope is founded on God's love for us evidenced by the gift of God the Holy Spirit who is a pledge of His love. Human hope can disappoint or deceive but God cannot lie; He is always faithful and true. God the Holy Spirit is the love that binds the Father to the Son, and by His active presence in us we are not only bound to the Most Holy Trinity in the love of the Spirit but it is the same the love which He pours into our hearts that flows out to humanity. It is the same love with which the Father loves the Son and with which the Most Holy Trinity loves us. The Greek word agape meant "spiritual love associated with the Greek gods." But Christians transformed this pagan word to give it a distinctively Christ-like character; agape for the Christian is self-sacrificial love! It is the love with which Christ loved us and the love He commanded us to share with others (John 13:34-35; 15:7-13; etc. and read St. John's discourse on love in 1 John 4:7-5:4).

Romans 5:5 ... and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

This line evokes the powerful visual image of life-giving water being poured out upon humanity as prophesized in Isaiah 44:3 that was fulfilled at Pentecost in the Upper Room in 30 AD (Acts chapter 2) and Jesus' cry in the Temple in Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:38-39:

"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!" As Scripture says, "From his heart shall flow streams of living water." He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive; for there was no Spirit as yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

But this visual image also looks forward to the eschatological event of the outpouring of the Spirit prophesied in Ezekiel 47:1-12 and the vision given to St. John in Revelation 22:1-5-a vision that will be given to St. John years after St. Paul's letter to Rome is written. Paul's point is to remind the Romans that the pouring out of God the Holy Spirit was a manifestation which is distinctive to the New Covenant Church and not part of the Old. He is the Spirit who dwells in the circumcised heart of the New Covenant believer from the moment of our baptism and makes the believer a true child of God.

The Gospel Reading John 16:12-15 ~ The Spirit of Truth
Jesus said to his disciples: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. 13 But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."

This passage is part of Jesus' final discourse to His disciples at the Last Supper before leaving for the Garden of Gethsemane. He has promised them that in His departure He will be able to send them the Paraclete-the Advocate and Counselor who is the "Spirit of Truth." The title "the Spirit of Truth" is repeated three times in His discourse (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit will reveal the complete significance of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection as well as the mystery of Eucharist and the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. He will also reveal to the Magisterium of the New Covenant order the hidden depths of the mystery of Jesus Christ and the gift of grace that is our salvation. In other words, God the Holy Spirit will continue the teaching mission of Jesus to bear witness to the truth (John 8:31-32; 18:37; CCC# 687).

It is from this promise that the Great Councils of Vatican I and II pronounced the doctrine of magisterial infallibility. This doctrine states that the Pope alone and/or the Bishops united with the Pope, the successor of St. Peter, are divinely protected from teaching error when they define matters pertaining to faith and morals (Lumen Gentium, 25). The guidance and intervention of the Paraclete is Jesus' assurance that Gospel will not be distorted, corrupted, or misunderstood by the ministerial priesthood of the Church during her earthly pilgrimage. See CCC# 768, 889-892

John 16:14-15 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."
In this passage Jesus is revealing some of the aspects of the mystery of the Holy Trinity: the unity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He is teaching that the three divine Persons have one and the same nature when He says that everything that the Father has belongs to the Son, and everything the Son has belongs to the Father, and that the Spirit also has what is common to both God the Father and God the Son. See CCC 253-55.

What the 3 Divine Persons of the Trinity have in common is the Divine essence of the Godhead: It is the same concept expressed to the covenant people over a thousand years earlier in the Shema, the first profession of faith found in Deuteronomy 6:4: ...the Lord [Adonai] your God [Elohim], the Lord [Adonai] is ONE! When the Paraclete fills and indwells believers at Pentecost He will give each generation of baptized believers a share in the divine life and authority of Jesus Christ. As St. Peter wrote to the Church: By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we need for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion (1 Peter 1:3-4). Also see John 6:63, 16:13-14, Romans 8:14 and CCC#690.

The Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity

Jesus' revelation of the mystery of God as Trinitarian posed a serious problem for Jews. The century's old tradition of monotheism had to be explained in the context of One God in three Persons and seemed to Old Covenant Jews to be the blasphemous return to polytheism. Jesus' claim that "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) and "before Abraham was I AM"-using an allusion to the Divine Name (John 8:58) led to charges of blasphemy and attempts to stone Jesus because He "called God His father, making Himself equal to God" (John 5:16-18).

Christians accepted Jesus relationship to God and His command to baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19), and prayed that "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14). But it became necessary for the Church to define the mystery more fully to dispel certain heresies like the belief in three gods (tritheism) or the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit referred not to real distinction within the Godhead but to different ways in which God relates to us (the heresies of Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Atripassianism and Modalism).(1) The most serious heresy that threatened the Church was Arianism-the view that only the Father is God while Jesus is a created creature, and although superior to other humans in a relationship with the Father, the Son was inferior to the Father. The 4th century Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381) were called to combat the Arian heresy and to produce creeds that defined the nature and relationship of the Trinity. We profess our belief in the Trinity in the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople that the congregation recites in the liturgy of the Mass.

The dogma of the Trinity as defined by the Catholic Church is composed of three crucial elements:

  1. God is one substance or being and three Persons. There is only one God because there is only one divine substance. Three Persons constitute one God because each is consubstantial with the other two-each possessing one and the same divine substance (a rejection of the tritheism heresy).
  2. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons within the Godhead. Since all three possess the fullness of the divine substance, all three are co-equal and co-eternal. They are distinct from one another because each possesses the fullness of divinity in a way different from the other two, and yet they are inseparable from one another since they share the same divine substance or being (a rejection of modalism and Arianism).
  3. With regard to the Trinity, the word "Person" is a technical term that designates the three distinct subsistent relations within the Trinity: the Father (paternity), the Son (filiation), and the Holy Spirit (passive spiriation). These three relations are routed in the two "processions" that makes the inner life of the Trinity:

The conclusion is that the three Persons of the Trinity are therefore differentiated from one another by virtue of the different relations they have to one another. See CCC 232, 234, 244, 237-38, 251, 261, 684, 732 and the www.agapebiblestudy.com document "Monotheism and the Mystery of the Triune God"

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013, revised 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Endnote:
1. Definitions of these heresies concerning the nature of the Most Holy Trinity:

From the standpoint of the doctrine of the Trinity that professes one divine being existing in three persons (Nicene Creed)—these beliefs are considered heretical since they simply do not take into consideration and cannot make sense of the New Testament's many teaching on the interpersonal relationship of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Catechism References:
Proverbs 8:22-31 (CCC 288)
Psalm 8:6 (CCC 2566, 2809)
Romans 5:3-5 (CCC 2734, 2847); 5:5 (CCC 368, 733, 1820, 1964, 2658)
John 16:13-15 (CCC 2615); 16:13 (CCC 91, 243, 687, 692, 1117, 2466, 2671) 16:14-15 (CCC 485); 16:14 (CCC 244, 690)