Today the Church celebrates Holy Trinity Sunday.
Whenever we start digging into the theology of the Most Holy Trinity, I think it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed by all the technical terms that the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit) has developed over the past two thousand years in order to systematically speak about this most profound, transcendent Mystery of our faith.
Words like Divine Substance, Persons, Processions, Real Relations, Spiration, Generation — these are all highly specialized, hugely important technical terms that help us meditate on the beauty and grandeur of the inner life of God in both His Unity and Trinity.
This theology is beautiful, and it is a gift from God. Jesus promised in our Gospel today that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, and we’ve been blessed by so many theologians and Ecumenical Councils that have handed down this language to us.
But today, rather than unpacking all of that theological terminology, I’d like to instead try bringing things much closer to home.
Because if the Most Holy Trinity really is the “the central mystery of Christian faith and life” as the Catechism says it is, then it cannot remain something abstract and distant from us. It has to become absolutely central to who we are as Catholics… A daily, lived reality.
Thankfully, God Himself agrees.
And He has created and designed something so obvious, so fundamental… so simple… so universally experienced by all of us… to help bring the Holy Trinity down to earth for us:
He created the Human Family.
That’s right: the Human Family teaches us about who God is, and what it means for Him to be the Holy Trinity.
After all, the Son of God Himself took flesh and came to us through what else… but a human family?!?! This is massive! It’s fundamental! Jesus came to us in a family. With a mother and a father.
We can therefore only know God as Trinity because of the Human Family.
The last three popes have all made this very clear.
Pope St. John Paul II, as part of his famous ‘Theology of the Body,’ once said that: “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family.”
Pope Benedict XVI declared that: “The human family, in a certain sense, is an icon of the Trinity because of its interpersonal love and the fruitfulness of this love.”
Pope Francis reiterated this when he wrote that “the triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection.”
What do we mean exactly when we say something like “the family is the living reflection of the triune God?”
Well, let’s start at the very beginning!
In the Book of Genesis, we are taught that human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God:
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
That last line is key — Our existence as male or female is intrinsically connected to the way we live out this image and likeness of God, this image of the Holy Trinity.
Something is built into us — into the very fabric of our human nature as men and women — and it communicates the eternal truth that God is a Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The fact of the matter is that God created us either male or female. I know this is very controversial to say today…
I just recently watched Matt Walsh’s new documentary, “What is a Woman?” and suffice to say — this homily would not go over very well with some of the people he interviewed, however well-intentioned they might be.
But this objective truth cannot and should not be avoided. It is a question of Reality. And it strikes right at the center of why we are here…
Maleness and Femaleness is not something we get to decide or produce for ourselves. It is not a social construct that is arbitrarily assigned at birth. It is who we actually are, both physically and spiritually.
You are a man or a woman, and this is not the result of personal choice or a feeling. It’s inscribed in your biology — In your body! It’s what God created you to be.
And this is actually VERY GOOD NEWS!
Because the fact that you are a man, or that you are a woman tells you something very crucial:
It tells you that you are made for relationship. It tells you that you were made for love — to communicate yourself with another.
You don’t explain yourself! Your biology doesn’t explain itself. You don’t make sense apart from another… another person! And not just any other person — but a person who is complimentary to you. A person who is distinct and different from you.
Simply put: Men and women are MADE for each other. They need each other to make sense of themselves!
And what’s more, God has so designed male and female that when they come together in an act of self-giving love, they become a kind of created version — by analogy — of what’s been going on in the Holy Trinity for all eternity.
Think about it for just a moment:
From all eternity, the Father gives Himself away in love to the Son. And in return, the Son, from all eternity, gives Himself away to the Father. And from this perfect union, there comes forth… there proceeds a Third Person — the Love that they share is Himself the Holy Spirit.
This sounds a lot like a family, doesn’t it? The husband gives himself to his bride, and the bride gives herself to her husband, and from that beautiful and good and natural union of love — a child comes forth!
In a deep and profound way, this is why the Catholic Church only affirms marriage as being between one man and one woman. There is something deeply sacred — deeply Trinitarian — about the union of spouses which is open to and able to bear children.
We’re now obviously in the thick of Pride month. It’s all around us… And I know that many of us are confused about how to best love our neighbors, our friends, our family members who experience same-sex attraction or some form of gender dysphoria. I know I struggle with how best to welcome everyone unconditionally, while also holding to what I know that God has revealed out of love for each and every one of us.
But here’s the important thing to remember:
As Catholics, our defense of natural marriage, of the traditional family — should NEVER be rooted in hatred or fear, but in love and reverence for the Most Holy Trinity. It must always be born out of a deep and profound respect for God’s Creation of male and female. All our efforts to uphold the dignity of marriage needs to be founded on the conviction that the family is a living icon of the Trinity.
Now… at this point, maybe you’re thinking: “I don’t know about this. My family is pretty messed up. How can it be a “living icon” of the Trinity…
And that is a fair question. Because if all of this is true… if God designed the family to image the eternal love and communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit — then we can then see how terribly damaging it is when families aren’t what God intended them to be.
…When a father abandons his wife and kids. When spouses cheat on one another and betray one another. When bitter fights erupt and grudges smolder for decades. When family members are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or porn. When there is unforgiveness, greed, resentment, and envy… When there is fierce competition and comparison going on… When family members use one another for their own selfish ends… When there’s verbal or even physical abuse happening.
These are all TERRIBLE distortions of God’s plan for our families. And unfortunately, those realities do damage our understanding of who God is. We can so easily forget that God our Father is Goodness and Love, and we can begin to see Him as a harsh, or destructive presence in our life.
So what a great responsibility, we have, therefore, to strive to grow in holiness as families! It is our privilege and our task to cooperate with God’s grace in order to better reflect, each and every day, the love and communion of God.
But if you’re still sitting there thinking: “But Father, you really don’t know my family. We are hopeless. We are so screwed up…you wouldn’t even believe it” — if that’s you. If you’re feeling guilty or ashamed right now, then I just want to encourage you:
Be not afraid!
We’ve all been wounded in some way, in this regard — NOBODY’S FAMILY IS PERFECT… If you’re looking across the church right now thinking… “Man that family over there is perfect” …TRUST ME… They’re not.
None of our families are perfect. We all have baggage to work through. We all have memories that need to be healed, and we all ave relationships to be reconciled either in this life or in the next.
And so I encourage you: Be at peace, and trust that God is working through your family in ways we might not be able to understand fully right now… He’s even working through our faults and failings.
But we still have to be honest about those failings. We ought to confess them regularly in the Sacrament of Penance. We owe it to our families to keep growing, to keep striving, to keep going deeper in our journey of healing.
Mother Theresa famous said once: “If you want to bring peace to the whole world, go home and love your family.”
That is so true, and I believe if we turn to the Lord of all love — that Trinitarian, total self-giving love — He will help us to do just that: To go home, and love our families.
He will help you and your family become more and more a clear and tangible icon of the Most Holy Trinity.