Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 12, 2022.)

Love Park in Philadelphia is named for the now-famous sculpture of the word “love,” with the letters “L” and a somewhat tilted “O” on the top of “V” and “E.” The piece, part of a series by artist Robert Indiana and a local favorite, was initially the design of Christmas card, and became popular when a postage stamp was made of it 1973. Interestingly, the U.S. Postal Service has used the word “love” (but not the same format as the sculpture) since then almost 50 times. Countless songs in popular culture sing about “love”: “All You Need Is Love,” “Love Is in the Air,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Endless Love,” “Somebody to Love,” “What Is Love?” — and the list goes on and on.

In the New Testament, there are four Greek words that are translated into English using the word “love,” which points to the wide use of the term and the nuances involved in its different meanings. These are just some examples on how love has an impact on the human mind and heart. Most human beings recognize innately an inner need and desire to love and to be loved. Life experiences of caring and committed parents, along with strong family bonds, help nurture, channel and satisfy these desires. The word seems to express a central, if not the most basic, fundamental answer to the questions of life. As St. Paul writes in his famous passage on love, “faith, hope and love; these three remain, and the greatest of these is love.”

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the mystery of God as he is: three Persons in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The mystery is one of love, and in his first letter, St. John writes: “God is love.”

We know of the three Persons through Jesus, the Son. He often speaks of the loving relationship he has with the Father so much so to say that they are “one.” During his public ministry, he also speaks of the Holy Spirit who will be poured forth. We just celebrated this outpouring last Sunday on Pentecost.

The mystery of the Holy Trinity speaks to the reality of love: Father, Son and Spirit bound perfectly as One in love. Many times, we identify the persons of the Trinity as associated with particular actions related to humanity: the Father with creation, the Son with salvation and the Spirit with sanctification. All of these activities are built on love.

God the Father creates the universe in love. Sometimes when we are reading scientific studies on the creation of the world — the “big bang theory” and so forth — the presentations seem sterile. Some authors suggest that it was all chance. The Christian understanding is quite different. Though faith is not tied to a particular theory on the details of creation, it does present an answer to the “why?” That answer is love. God’s love was so perfect and complete that he wanted to (but was not required to) share it with a creature that could authentically and genuinely love and be loved. Thus, he created man, male and female, in his image and likeness, instilling in them the ability to love and the desire to be loved.

God the Son takes on human nature in his incarnation to show us God’s love and to invite mankind to participate more fully in the divine life of love. He takes on the brokenness of man, and through his passion, death and resurrection heals mankind of sin, delivering us from death. Through baptism and the sacraments, we are joined in love to the God who is love. This union provides the life-blood of love so that we can know love and to share love.

God the Holy Spirit continues God’s intimate presence among us and guides us along this path of life. He draws us in love throughout our lives to the Father and the Son, like a magnet drawing its object to union.  St. Paul, in the passage from his Letter to the Romans used as the second reading for today’s liturgy, speaks of the strength of Christian hope being rooted in love. He says that the “love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

Life is challenging. We all desire to love and to be loved. Today we celebrate the mystery of the God of love. He is Father, Son and Spirit, and he invites us to live in his love.

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.