This past Pentecost weekend, as I was working in the parish office at Bathurst and Bloor, just before celebrating the Vigil Mass for Pentecost, I could not help wandering about the humming sound of helicopters that were hovering over the area. It struck me as strange that these helicopters seemed so close and seemed for such a long period of time to remain in one spot. As they remained in one place, I also noticed the approach of what seemed like a huge roaring crowd. As I went outside to investigate what was taking place, I was astonished to see thousands of men and women of every race, colour and nationality passing by on Bloor Street to protest against racism. The helicopters were following the crowds that had gathered at Christie Park and were following them as they marched along Bloor Street. I couldn’t help but think, what a beautiful sight on Pentecost—people of all nations marching to speak of the value of every human being, created in the image and likeness of God. I have often felt that Pentecost was a solemnity of special value for us here in Toronto as it marks that solemnity on which the Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples so that they could go out to bring the Good News of salvation to people of every colour and nationality. Here in Toronto, we see the Church, as all of God’s people, from every land and nation, of every colour and nationality. In fact, the very word “catholic” means “universal” and refers to the love that God has for all His people. As one bumper sticker I recently saw expressed so beautifully, “Racism is about sin, not the colour of skin.”
The Gospel for this week’s Solemnity of the Holy Trinity also made me think of the love that God has for all people as it reminds us that God’s salvation is for everyone who believes in His Son and accepts Him as Lord. I remember seeing this passage from John 3:16 at many baseball games as it was held up by a man standing behind home plate. The passage proclaims: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” God loves everyone so much, because He has created all of us in His image and likeness, that He invites all of us to recognize our dignity by loving one another and enjoying eternity with Him. This Sunday, as we celebrate the love that God has within God’s self as a Holy Trinity of Persons, we might also reflect upon the love that we are to have towards God and one another. From the love that is expressed within the Holy Trinity, we are called to learn how to love God and one another. This is a love that must stand against all forms of racism and discrimination.
As Catholics, every time that we pray, we begin by invoking the names of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, whose solemnity we celebrate this Sunday (“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”). This custom can be so habitual that at times we may do it without realizing how profound the words are that we are saying. Each time we name the three persons of the Holy Trinity, we are articulating a great mystery about God and his proximity to us that has been revealed to us by God Himself. The only way that we know about the Trinity and the names of the persons contained within God is because Jesus Himself has told us about Them. As the Son of God sent from the Father, Jesus has told us to call God “our Father” and has repeatedly spoken to us about the Father. During His life, Jesus promised His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit after He had returned to the Father. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Church by Jesus and His Father in Heaven. That the three cannot be separated is witnessed to in the passage from the end of the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 28), as Jesus commissions His disciples to baptize all people “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Everything that we know about God as the Trinity has been revealed to us by the Trinity Himself. We can learn so much about God’s love for us in reflecting upon this great mystery of our faith.
The fact that God exists as a Trinity of persons within one God speaks to the reality that God has so much love within Him that it is impossible for Him to exist on His own. The force of the love that is within Him is so powerful and dynamic that it is responsible for all of creation. I often think that the best way to describe the creation of the world is from “the Big Bang” which emerged from the force of God’s love. This love is so profound, that it is responsible for bringing about all of creation. So too, as every human person, no matter his or her colour or nationality, is created in the image and likeness of God, our own happiness depends upon our patterning our lives on the love of the Father and the other persons of the Holy Trinity. Our happiness is found in loving relationships with God and one another.
Each of the three persons of the Holy Trinity also reveals to us an awesome aspect of God’s love and identity. God the Father is the source of all creation. He has willed each of us into existence that we might know the love that He has for each of us. Everything that we have and are is from Him. Every race and nation has its origin in the love of God the Father. Our lives are sustained by Him and we are called to return to Him so that we might know the fullness of happiness with Him in Heaven for all eternity. Our Father in Heaven, the God who made the entire universe, and every race and nation, cares for each of us so much that He desires to live in intimate relationship with us. As Jesus Himself has taught us, the Father wishes us to call on Him intimately, calling Him “Our Father.” We express our own intimacy with the creator of the universe every time that we pray calling upon Him and addressing our prayers, “In the name of the Father.” When we speak so intimately with God there is a danger that we grow overly familiar and forget who it is that we are speaking to and what it is that we owe Him.
Jesus, the Son, has been sent by the Father so that we might understand how much the Father loves each of us. As Christ has told us Himself, He has come to reconcile us to the Father. As we hear in the Gospel this Sunday: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” All who see Jesus see the Father and come to know His love for us. By taking on the flesh, Jesus comes so that God can share His life with us. Jesus shows that every human being is loved by God. There is a beautiful prayer that is said at the preparation of the gifts during Mass. It states: By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the Divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.” We can often forget that Jesus became one of us so that He might share His divinity with us. We are invited to share eternal life with Him in heaven. This invitation is given to people of very colour and nation. He has come so that God may share His life with us now and so that we do not need to wait until we are in Heaven. It is because of the love that the Son reveals to us that we must love one another, regardless of colour or nationality, as He has loved us. Now that His mission on earth has been completed, Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, where He presents our prayers to the Father in His own name. This we are to remember every time that we begin our prayers in “the name of the Son.”
It is through the Holy Spirit that we are able to be in contact with God here and now and that our prayers are able to be heard. The Holy Spirit manifests to us God’s love and grace and allows Him to intimately dwell in our hearts today. Because of the Holy Spirit we are in communion with God at every moment of our lives. The fact that the Holy Spirit enters into the hearts of all people, of every colour and nation, shows us the dignity of all people created by God. The Spirit enters into our hearts like the breath of God and is made present through prayer, the Scriptures and the Sacraments of the Church. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in innumerable other ways that allow our hearts to be opened to Christ’s presence in our lives. Anything that draws us closer to God is the work of the Holy Spirit. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God is always near to us and penetrates the very core of our being. All of our prayers are heard by God through the Holy Spirit and it is through His grace that God always is at work in us. God’s intimacy is encountered every moment of our existence through the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that we always present our prayers “in the name of the Holy Spirit.”
Each time that we begin our prayers “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” we recall the words with which we were baptized and given new life in Christ. These words speak to us of how closely God dwells within us through the power of the Holy Spirit. They remind us of the love that God has shown us in the life of His Son. These words also speak to us of a radically loving Father who wishes to be intimately close to each of us, even though He is the same Father who created the universe and holds it in existence. As we reflect upon the great mystery of the Trinity, let us also pray “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” As we celebrate how much God loves us, we are reminded that we are to respond to this love by loving one another.
May the love of the Holy Trinity sustain us all, now and forever! May this love help us to end all racism and put aside everything that prevents us from seeing Christ in all of our brothers and sisters.
Fr. Michael McGourty
Pastor – St. Peter’s Church, Toronto