Sunday Sermon for June 11, 2017, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year A

Readings: Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18

Today we celebrate the mystery that is central to what it means to be Christian: the Most Holy Trinity. One might reply that to be Christian is to believe in Jesus. This is true, but what do we believe about Jesus? We believe that from all eternity Jesus is God. Now, either there is only one God Who became man, or there are more gods than one, or there is more than one Person in God.

Let’s begin with the first possibility. In the first reading today we hear about God’s self-revelation to Moses. In both God’s revelation of self and in the revelation of His Name, He is singular. In other words there is only one God.

In the second reading St. Paul prays that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit would be with us. Perhaps someone could misunderstand this passage as referring to three separate people. For instance, we could talk about Joe’s strength, Betty’s gracefulness, and George’s mental acumen. These are three different people and three different abilities. Obviously, this means that if Joe, Betty, and George were gods, then they would be like the gods of mythology who are all imperfect, just like the seven billion human persons on the planet today. So, this would run contrary to the self-revelation of God we have already seen: there is only one God and only one Name.

The third, possibility, there is more than one Person in God, is the truth. In the Gospel reading, Jesus calls Himself God’s only Son. Of course, anyone could say this, but that does not make that person the only Son of God. We believe Jesus is God, not because He simply made the claim, but because it was revealed in the Old Testament that God would send His Son into the world. Secondly, Jesus fulfills everything written about the Messiah, the Son of God, in the Old Testament, including such improbabilities as being born of a virgin, being born in Bethlehem, being crucified, and rising on the third day. There are 300 specific prophecies to be fulfilled by the Messiah, but regarding the four mentioned above, many have been born in Bethlehem over the centuries and many people have been crucified. However, none of these was born of a virgin and none of them rose from the dead. So, the fulfillment of the prophecies and the works done by our Lord testify that He is Who He says He is: the Son of God.

Unlike other religions that believe God must have relations with a woman or a goddess in order to have a son, we believe that Jesus is God. If God had relations with another being, the son would necessarily be less than God since he would have a beginning in time. However, God is eternal, so He has no beginning and, if there is more than one Person in God, than each of the Persons must be eternal or they would not be God.

Jesus teaches us about the Holy Spirit, as do the Apostles in their writings, so we know that when St. Paul mentions the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, he is speaking of each of these three Persons as God. But, one might wonder, if there are three Persons, how can there only be one God?

In God there is only one substance, one mind, one will, one life. Only three Persons revealed in Scripture as divine, so the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit share the same divine substance, mind, will, and life. In God, each of the three divine Persons thinks and wills identically because there is only one mind and one will. The only distinction in the three Persons is the relations between the Persons in the Godhead. In other words, they are not like three human persons who are separate from one another and have their own substance, mind, will, and life.

Each of the three divine Persons is eternal, each is divine, and each is perfect. Since the perfection of the three Persons is absolute, each Person is identical which means they are one.

So, this brings us back to where we started: the Trinity is the central mystery for us as Christian people because Jesus is God. God revealed to the Hebrew people that He is one; the Muslims also believe there is only one God. It is absolutely true that there is only one God, but God also revealed that He is three Persons. We are Christians because we believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit are three divine Persons in one God.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit