Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Homily by Archbishop Vigneron (VIDEO)
Brothers and sisters, at the conclusion of the Easter season, the Church in her wisdom gives us a sequence of three great solemnities. Last Sunday, Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and equipped to build up the Church. This Sunday, the great mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Next Sunday we’ll celebrate Corpus Christi, when we will give God thanks and praise for the great gift of the Holy Eucharist.
Our Holy Mother Church is wise in establishing this particular sequence, and in considering it, we can get hold of a great grace. The Holy Spirit poured out on Pentecost is the principle of life for the Church. He is her breath. That life is a participation in the very life of the Most Holy Trinity, and that shared life is expressed and built up in the Holy Eucharist.
A good place to begin in order to have a better understanding of the connection between the life of the Church and the life of the Most Holy Trinity is the sacrament of baptism. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read, “Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And before receiving the sacrament, they respond to a three-part question. When asked to confess the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they respond, I do.
They profess that they believe in God the Father, believe in Jesus, God the Son, and in God the Holy Spirit, but not in three gods. We believe in one God. That is, we believe in one God in three divine persons.
The divine persons do not share — or, we might say, parcel out — the one divinity among themselves, but each of them is God, whole and entire. The Father is that which the Son is, the Son is that which the Father is. The Father and the Son, that which the Holy Spirit is. That is, by nature, one God.
The distinction among the three persons is not just a matter of mere names designating three different ways to think about God. What distinguishes each of the divine persons is his relationship to the other two. The Father is God, generating the Son. The Son is God, begotten by the Father. The Holy Spirit is related to them both as their bond of love. God, as Jesus Christ, Our Lord has revealed him to us, is a communion. Three persons in one life.
St. Augustine put it this way: “God the Father is he that loves, God the Son is he that is loved, and God the Holy Spirit is love itself.”
The perfect communion of the persons of the Trinity exemplifies for us what a relationship is at its very core. It is self-giving. It is sacrificial. It is infinite love.
The family is perhaps the closest natural analog that we have on earth to reflect what the Trinity is about. The family is a sort of natural icon of the Holy Trinity, because a family lives in communion with one another, and in a family the children are the living manifestation, the fruit of the love of husband and life.
We see, then, the Church manifested on Pentecost as a community sharing the life of the Holy Trinity. The Church is God’s flesh and blood family in the world. At baptism, because sacramentally we die and rise with Christ in his great act of living and giving himself as God the Son, we are adopted by his Father and become members of their community.
We remember that being a family in the world is always a challenge. In my own experience as a priest, as I’ve considered marriage, I’m always struck by the fact that the couple being married commits to one another and to God that they will love one another for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. They are realistic about what it will cost them to make the gift of self. They’re realistic about what it costs to live in communion.
We need to keep such realism in mind when we consider today’s Gospel in which we hear the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. “Go and make disciples of all nations.” When Jesus gave the Great Commission to build up his family in the world, did he promise that everything would be smooth? Did he promise that he would make it easy? No. In essence, he simply said, “You have a mission, and I’m calling on you to carry it out for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”
The apostles were called upon to carry it out, despite their own eventual martyrdom. When he commissioned them on that day, with those instructions before his Ascension, he didn’t dwell upon the problems they would face, the persecutions that would come to them on their mission. He simply gave them the mission. And he trusted that, just as the love of husband and wife leads the way amidst the trials and tribulations of a marriage, their mission to go and make disciples would lead the way amidst the trials and tribulations that they would face.
And so, they went out, emboldened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and they evangelized. And the Church grew in numbers and strength, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles.
This is not just a lesson in Church history. It is lived out in reality today. It’s lived out here, in our Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit. For several years now, our local Church in the Archdiocese has taken up with renewed intensity the work of carrying out the Great Commission we heard in today’s Gospel.
In the years leading up to our Synod in 2016, we asked the Holy Spirit to guide us in how it is that he wishes us to go and make disciples. When the Holy Spirit gave us our marching orders at Synod 16, did he promise that everything would be smooth? Did he promise to make it easy? No. He simply sent us on mission. He didn’t tell us about the pandemic that would come and make the myriad challenges that we, all of us, would face as a result.
Just as Christ gave his apostles a mission to guide them through whatever may come, he gives us a mission and promises us to be with us, whatever may come.
And so it is that we now move into this structure that we are calling Families of Parishes. Families of Parishes are not an end in themselves, they’re a means to an end. We’re grouping parishes together in the Family so that we can better utilize the resources entrusted to us. Primarily, we’re doing this so that we can move forward in response to our mission, our call to be a more missionary diocese.
In this new structure, our Families of Parishes will share resources across multiple parishes, quickly identify and deploy best practices, create new roles for lay ministers and volunteers that will support our priests in new and creative ways. Once the Families are established, we will provide them with tools and resources that they can use to create a Family Missionary Strategic Plan, in order to organize their efforts to be on mission.
Our journey to Families of Parishes begins officially in July of this year, when 26 Families will be launched. It continues in July of 2022, when the remaining 25 Families will be launched.
The road we follow on this journey will not always be smooth. We know that. And undoubtedly, we will experience some bumps along the way. But like the apostles who were given the Great Commission by Jesus Christ just before his Ascension, we, too, have a share in this mission. A mission to unleash the Gospel in the Archdiocese of Detroit, no matter what obstacles or challenges we face.
On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, I’m asking for your help as we make our move to Families of Parishes. Please, engage in the process by learning about it and doing what you can to make your Family a success. Please, pray for the priests, deacons, and staffs, and the other parishioners of your Family. Please, always remember, and remind others to remember, that this change is not an end, but a means to an end. A change that is worth the cost since it advances the mission.
The Holy Spirit has called us to be a missionary diocese, and this is how we will fulfill that call. Grouping our parishes into Families is the way at this time in our history for us to respond to the call to be God’s family, and to invite others to join our communion. This is an urgent task, because it is in the family of God that we find life. And the life is Christ’s life for the world.
In the words of Blessed Solanus Casey, then, let us thank God ahead of time for all that he will do for us on this journey as we fulfill the Great Commission.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.