Three Candles, One Light: Homily for June 16, 2019, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Three Candles, One Light: Homily for June 16, 2019, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity June 15, 2019

This weekend, we mark “Trinity Sunday,” the celebration of one God in three persons.

Theologians have spent centuries writing about this, trying to explain the unexplainable, trying to solve this unsolvable mystery. I’m not going to try that here today. Smarter people than I have tried and failed. And if you try too hard, you can end up making the Trinity far more complex and convoluted. It becomes little more than an abstraction.

I’d like to propose another way of considering God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit on this solemnity. More than the celebration of a complicated theological idea, this feast is really a celebration of something profoundly simple: love.

It is a reminder of God’s love for the world, for all his creation — a love, we realize, that is expressed in three persons.

The readings today marvel again and again at the wonders of God’s creation — and we even hear Wisdom, the ancient depiction of the Holy Spirit, exclaim, “I found delight in the human race.”

How easily we forget that!  It has been this way since the very beginning. God’s love is timeless and endless.

And so is the mission and meaning of the Trinity.

In fact, I suggest that if you want to understand the Trinity, go back to the very beginnings of time.

It is there in the first words that God speaks in all of scripture.

“Let there be light.”

With those four words, our creator began the great work of creation that goes on even now. In fact, it is light that is the trademark, the signature, of the three persons of the Trinity.

After God the Father launched his great creation with light, he sent his son into the world — announcing his arrival with light, the light of a star.

And his son Jesus Christ set about literally bringing light to those in darkness — restoring sight to the blind, direction to the lost, mercy to those who were condemned, life to those who were dead.

For any who didn’t get the message, Jesus even declared, “I am the light of the world.”

And at Pentecost, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, arrived in a blaze of fire — tongues of flame settling over the apostles to ignite their hearts and light the way.

It is light that continues to burn. We see it in every baby baptized, every soul forgiven, every new Christian who takes a candle in hand and hears the words, “Receive the light of Christ.” We see it every day in priests, religious, lay people — every believing Christian who carries the light of Christ, the light of our baptism, to others.

Again and again, we are reminded:

The Holy Trinity is a never-ending, never-extinguished beacon of light.

I always loved John Wesley’s description of the Trinity: “In this room,” Wesley said, “there are three candles — and only one light.”

Make no mistake: the light is with us here in this “room,” this sacred space, today.

And the question before us is, when we leave here, are we making that light visible to others?

Are we scattering the darkness?

Are we showing the way to salvation and hope?

Are we expressing God’s love for his creation, Christ’s love for a broken world, Wisdom’s “delight in the human race”?

Are we being light?

Fifteen years ago, St. John Paul preached a homily on Trinity Sunday. He reminded us of something beautiful:

“We can exclaim with the Psalmist,” he said: ‘How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!’ How great it is in every human being! This is the true source of the greatness of man, this is the root of his indestructible dignity. The image of God is mirrored in every human being.”

In the 1950s, Thomas Merton stood on a corner in downtown Louisville and saw something similar:

“I have the immense joy of being man,” he wrote, “a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Know this: We are all walking around “shining like the sun.” We all carry within us the light of the Trinity.

Know this, as well: The world will do all it can to extinguish the light. With violence. With bigotry. With persecution. With cruelty and hate. With terror of all kinds. With every effort to make anyone feel worthless.

With every attempt to grow hate and destroy love, the light flickers and dims.

We can’t let it go out.

If you want to know how to make the mystery of the Trinity alive in the world — how to make it more than a theological abstraction — I would suggest this simple advice:

Remember God’s love for the human race, his love for every one of us—a love so vast, it stretches across eternity and gave us his son, the Light of the World and then gave us the Spirit, the light that never goes out.

Let that light shine.

Let’s Christ’s light shine.

Give hope to the hopeless.

Offer respect to the marginalized.

Welcome those who are shunned.

Defend the defenseless.

Comfort those who mourn.

Uplift those who are being stepped on.

Listen to those who feel they have no voice.

Treasure the most vulnerable.

Honor the dignity of every human soul made in the image and likeness of God.

Remember, as St. John Paul put it, “The image of God is mirrored in every human being.”

We need to hold fast to that beautiful truth — and make that known.

And that will make the Trinity known.

Let this be our mission, our takeaway from this Trinity Sunday — the very words that began creation and that call us to continue that creation:

Let there be light.

Let us be that light.


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