- St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Sermons for all the Sundays in the Year, Trinity Sunday.
- Fourth Lateran Council, Denzinger §800.
Sunday, 7 June 2020
Trinity Sunday: God's love for man
Who is God and does He care for us? The question that has been postulated by man throughout time and is asked ever more increasingly today; who is God? does He really love us? The great difference today is that many of those who ask the question, do so without expecting any answer, for they have already rejected the possibility of His existence. For modern man the concept of God is incongruous with the notion of suffering, hardship pain or trials of any sort: ‘If God exists, then why do we have war, injustice and civil unrest? Why is there so much pain?’
Yet this Trinity Sunday it is a perfect opportunity to briefly contemplate God and the love of God for man. For firstly, we do not worship a God as the muslims do, a god of anger, rage and death; a god who is outrightly not Tri-une. We adore the one God, three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We adore a God who has already become incarnate and died on the cross for us and we await His glorious second coming. We adore Him most perfectly by adhering to the commandments He gave us, by following the laws of the Church which He established and by worshipping Him in the rites and sacraments which She performs every day. There is only one Church which He has established and it is through Her that He most abundantly pours forth His life and love.
Secondly, though, we must examine the love for man which God has, as an answer to the many critics and disbelievers. In short, St. Alphonsus teaches that God has shown us the utmost love through our creation, redemption and sanctification. But since this is the feast of the Holy Trinity, we cannot leave the question so briefly answered and thus follow the saint’s exposition on the matter.
The love of God the Father.
We read in Sacred Scripture: “Yea I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee”. (Jer 31:3) Then again we find these words: “Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee” (Jer 1:5). God, in His infinite goodness and out of no necessity, has created us simply out of the boundlessness of His love. He has no need of our existence or of the love which we can render to Him, yet His nature of love wishes to enable us to share in the joy and sanctity of His divinity. The Bible teaches that God has loved us from eternity, knowing us individually and willing us into existence. He bestows upon us His likeness and imparts to us a vocation, completely unique and greater than all the riches of the earth. He has so ordered the natural world that we find ourselves surrounded by all manner of beauty and appointed over it to rule and govern. (Gen 1:28)
Time and again, when we have fallen away from the practice of the worship of God, He has forgiven us and made the greatest act of love in sending His only Son to suffer and die. Moreover says St. Alphonsus, “See also the special love which God has shown you in bringing you into life in a Christian country, and in the bosom of the Catholic or true Church”. (1) Amongst all men created throughout the world, God has seen fit to impart to us the gift of faith, of knowing and loving Him. Those who reject Him cannot understand the gift which this is, since they reject the author of very goodness Himself. Yet those who know God are aware of the wonderful gift of faith which He bestows; a gift which makes the trials of life seem but nothing compared to the glories which will come as a result of this gift of faith. Through no merit of our own, we have been given the great gift of faith by God, and it is a gift which He calls us to use in order to know and love Him.
The love of God the Son.
Yet this gift has been so oft rejected and scorned, both by our forefathers and by ourselves in daily life. Rather than recognising the gift we have chosen instead to follow our own desires and whims, preferring sin and consequent death to the promises of life found through love of God. In spite of this, God’s love remains unchanged and undeterred. “Christ came, that man might know how much God loves him” and Christ died out of love for us.(2) Truly, greater love than this has no man, because Christ freely chose to suffer and die the most ignominious torments and death at the hands of sinful men, in order to free us from the yoke of the devil which we accepted in sin. He was not content with merely becoming like us in our frail human state, but chose to die that we might have life in Him. Thus St. Paul states that “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross”. (Phil 2:8) What greater proof of love can be given by one to another? But further, what greater proof of Divine love can be given, than by this selfless death of the most Innocent, the Son of God made man? “In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16)
Again, how can we object that Christ does not love us when He established the Church, with Her sacraments and life of grace, in order that we might continually experience the life which He bought for us on the cross. He has given His own mother to us, that we might have the perfect helper and guide to come to know Him. He has given us His own body, in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, whereby we can receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of God Himself. Whilst the unbelievers cry out against the existence of God, we have the opportunity to receive the author of life and salvation in this Eucharistic manner each and every day! Christ takes delight in being so intimately united with each one of us and longs for us to approach the sacrificial altar and there receive Him. We have but to be in a state of grace, and there, kneeling at the altar rail, our Innocent Redeemer comes to us. When we are tempted to cry out in despair or anguish at God for the suffering which we are undergoing, we have only to look at the cross and the Eucharist; there lies proof of His immeasurable love for us.
The love of God the Holy Spirit.
But God was not content with leaving us His very self in the Eucharist species and in the Church; He could not abandon His flock, a flock for which He paid such a high price. Thus the third person of the Trinity came to us “that he may dwell in our souls, and that he may keep them always inflamed with holy love”.(3) This great advent of the Holy Spirit has been celebrated most recently in the great feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Through the Holy Spirit, we are bound together in the spirit of charity and consequently bound to God. The union of love, of charity, is a union which the world cannot imitate. Modern society cannot even comprehend the concept of such an intimate union of love, whereby man is united to God by a bond sustained and supported by God Himself. Death and destruction are the promises of the world and earthly life and satisfaction fade into insignificance when the light of the Holy Spirit calls us to the practice of charity and to reciprocate the love of God. “The chains of the world are chains of death, but the bonds of the Holy Ghost are bonds of eternal life, because they bind us to God, who is our true and only life” (4).
The Holy Spirit guides and supports the Church, ensuring that all Her faithful members are sanctified and nourished by the life of grace. He imparts to us His gifts and fruits in order that we might fruitfully live the life of faith imparted to us by God the Father and so exemplified by His Son.
Called to the union of the Trinity.
We are thus called to the union of the Trinity. The Fourth Lateran Council expresses this relation thus: “Without beginning, always, and without end, the Father begets, the Son is born, and the Holy Spirit proceeds”.(5) Through the Father we have life and faith, through the Son we have redemption and salvation, and through the Holy Spirit we have the gift of sanctification and grace. Into this union of infinite and perfect love the Trinity calls each of us, in order that we might share in the goodness of this love. To be able to do so, is the most perfect action which we can perform, for there is no greater act than to love and contemplate God as He calls us to do. We do not love God the Father without loving God the Son and Holy Spirit, for God is perfect unity. In His Trinity He is unity and in this bond of love is found the source of life, salvation and grace. There can be no better sign of God’s existence than the call to share in this most beautiful love - a call to share in the divine love.
Hence to answer the critics and unbelievers, denying that God loves us or that He even exists, we have the answer found in the Trinity. In this most complex truth of the faith, we have the source and answer of faith, of life and of perfection. Life cannot be full of joys and contentment unless we respond to the love proffered by the Holy Trinity. We cannot expect to experience trials or sufferings and respond properly to them, if we reject all that the Trinity offers to us. This love of the Trinity for man, for each one of us, is the call to the most perfect happiness and contentment. It is a call to a share in divine life, and nothing can be greater than that.
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