The love that exists within the Holy Trinity overflows into love and forgiveness for man, as shown by Christ’s death on the cross. That was the message of Pope Benedict XVI in his Trinity Sunday sermon during his visit to the tiny European state of San Marino June 19.
“So, in the mystery of the cross, there are three Divine Persons,” he told the 25,000 strong congregation at the country’s Serravalle Stadium.
“The Father, who gave his only begotten Son for the salvation of the world, the Son, who carries out the will of the Father to the very end and the Holy Spirit - poured out by Jesus at the moment of his death - who comes to render us participants in divine life, to transform our lives, so that our lives are animated by divine love.”
San Marino is situated in the north-eastern part of the Italian peninsula and is one of just three independent states in the world to be completely surrounded by another country, in this case Italy. It has a population of only 30,000. Pope John Paul II also visited San Marino back in 1982. That visit was for just one day, as is Pope Benedict’s today.
“The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, because God is love: the Father gives everything to the Son, the Son receives everything from the Father with gratitude, and the Holy Spirit is like the fruit of this mutual love between the Father and Son,” said the Pope. He described the Holy Trinity – the Christian proposition that God is three persons but one divine nature – as the “first and greatest mystery of our faith.”
To illustrate the Holy Trinity’s mercy for man, the Pope drew upon the first Bible passage read at today’s Mass. It recounted the disobedience of the Jewish people who, after being led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses, wanted a golden idol instead of God.
“All seems lost, all friendship broken,” said the Pope.
“Yet, despite having committed the gravest of sins, God, through the intercession of Moses, decides to forgive His people and calls Moses to ascend the mountain once more to receive His law, the Ten Commandments.”
God then describes himself to Moses as “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” In these words, said the Pope, “there can be no clearer revelation” of the Trinity’s benevolence towards man.
“We have a God who renounces the destruction of the sinner and wants to show His love in an even more profound and surprising way right in front of the sinner in order to always offer the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.”
The culmination of this divine offer said the Pope, drawing upon today’s Gospel reading, is the incarnation of God-made-man in the person of Jesus Christ.
“The evangelist John refers to this statement of Jesus: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life’.”
So while some may presume a God who would “come to judge the world, to destroy evil, to punish those who work in darkness,” instead, said the Pope, “He shows He loves the world, He loves man, despite his sinfulness, and sends what is His most precious possession: His only begotten Son.”
San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. It was founded in the early 4th century by two missionaries, Marino and Leo, who were fleeing anti-Christian persecution in what is now Croatia.
The Pope noted how “Marino and Leo with their faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ, brought new perspectives and values to the local context, resulting in the birth of a culture and a civilization centered on the human person.”
And he urged the people of St. Marino to stay true to the ancient Christian faith of Marino and Leo.
“The temptation has crept in to believe that the wealth of man is not the faith, but his personal and social power, his intelligence, his culture and his ability to manipulate scientific, technological and social realities.”
“Thus, in these lands, the Christian faith and values have begun to be replaced with a presumed wealth, which in the end reveals itself inconsistent and incapable of containing the great promise of truth, goodness, of beauty and justice, which for centuries your ancestors identified with the experience of faith.”
Later on today the Pope will venerate the relics of St. Marino at the local cathedral before travelling back into Italy for a meeting with young people in the nearby town of Pennabili. He will then return to the Vatican by helicopter tonight.