Before the pandemic, when we entered a Catholic church to pray or participate in the celebration of the Mass we would stop by a holy water font, dip our finger in the holy water and make the sign of the Cross. We may also say orally or silently the words that go along with the gesture, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” When we do this mindfully, we are recalling our Baptism, we are recommitting ourselves to our baptismal vows which is to live our lives as followers of the God of Jesus Christ. This God is one God, subsisting in three Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We also affirm this reality in the Creed we say each Sunday, where we affirm individually, while at the same time in communion with one another, that I believe in one God the Father Almighty, I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son who is consubstantial with the Father, I believe in the Holy Spirit the Lord the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
We also may bring this sacramental practice into our everyday lives. This gesture we can also make when driving past a Catholic church out of reverence for the true presence of Jesus in the tabernacle. We can also make this gesture and say the accompanying words, at the beginning and end of prayers, before and after we eat, in private as well as in public. We can see this movement of crossing one’s self at sporting events, before taking tests, when passing an accident, or when some one cuts us off in traffic. This gesture being a much better choice than a few others we might otherwise be tempted to use.
This hand gesture and accompanying words are one of the most basic prayers we learn and when we practice it consciously, we call to mind the very foundation of our existence. God within himself is a communion of three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a reality that always has been, is, and always will be. God the Father loves his Son eternally and fully, he is the Lover; God the Son receives the Love offered from the Father, he is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the infinite breath, expression, and mutual sharing of the infinite love between the Father and the Son. This is why we can say without hesitation that God is Love because of this eternal self giving, receiving, and willing the good of the other.
The Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, coming from beyond time and space, has entered into our three dimensional realm, our temporal time and reality, to become a human being, while remaining fully divine. He came close to us in person so we could draw close to him and become partakers in the same communal exchange of love that he shares with his Father. Having spent thirty-three years on earth, before he would Ascend back to the Father, he then commissioned the eleven Apostles: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:18-20). The followers of Jesus did just that and we have the invitation and opportunity to continue that rich Tradition today.
We who have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, are called to be partakers in the life of the Trinity. We are to be participants in the love of God through our thoughts, words, and actions. As we have been loved into existence, so we are to love others, “of all nations.” We need to resist the urge to withhold our love from, those closest to us, yes, but also those we consider as other, those we fear, and those we would judge as lesser and/or label as an enemy.
When we withdraw into ourselves, keep others outside, when we build up walls, we go against how God has made us. We separate and isolate ourselves from one another. We wound our interconnectedness and become less than human when we dehumanize, degrade, and belittle. By actually being engaged with and willing to interact with one another, by willing each other’s good, through participation in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the external labels, judgments, and prejudices may begin to fall away. We can begin to see each other as human beings again. We can then experience the love of God flowing back and forth between one another and grow as brothers and sisters.
Pope Francis tweeted on September 12, 2015, that “Every time we make the sign of the Cross, we draw closer to the great mystery of the Trinity.” May we ponder the mystery of God today, ponder and so enter into the mystery of his Trinitarian Love. Each encounter with a person is to be a mirroring of Trinitarian communion in that having been loved by God we are to love and so experience the love that is shared between us. This is when we are at our best as Church. May we live the deep reality of what making the Sign of the Cross means in our lives. If you are not sure where to start, begin with a smile, a simple hello, and/or a kind word. We are all interconnected with a Trinitarian Love that surpasses all understanding. As we engage in sharing the love of God, we remember who we are and whose we are.
Photo: May the Cardinal Newman graduating class of 2021 be bearers of God’s love.