WE HAVE A MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS GOD
Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2Cor 13:11-13; John 3:16-18
Every year, on the Sunday following Pentecost Sunday, the entire Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity it is also commonly known as TRINITY SUNDAY. On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—three Persons in One God. Interestingly, this is the one festival in the Christian calendar that does not relate to events that have happened or that will happen in time. For instance, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passiontide, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, all relate to specific events in Christ’s life on earth. But Trinity Sunday is different; it refers to A REALITY THAT HAS NO DATE. This leads us to ask: when did God become the Holy Trinity? Was He always the three-in-one creator, redeemer and sustainer? Was he always Father, Son and Holy Spirit? This is a difficult question we do not intend to try and answer this morning!
- THE TRINITY AS AN ARTICLE OF OUR FAITH
In celebrating this solemnity, the Church reaffirms her belief in the One Godhead, three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, undivided unity. The idea of the Trinity is not explicitly stated as a doctrine in the Sacred Scriptures. But implicitly it is stated many times. This doctrine is the heart of our faith – our belief in God. In simple arithmetic 1+1+1=3. If we go by human arithmetic, God the Father, + God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three Gods, since each person is completely and fully God. But in Trinitarian arithmetic, 1+1+1=1. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit = One God. How is this possible? This is theological mathematics. It is not intended to be fully understood before acceptance. On the contrary, it is meant to be accepted as A GIVEN, whether understood or not. Consequently, this is the case of “take it, or leave it.”
- WHY DO WE BELIEVE GOD AS TRINITY?
It is Jesus Christ himself who revealed the trinity to us. In St. John’s gospel, the Lord said: “When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of truth…whom I myself will send from the Father, He will bear witness on My behalf” (Jn 14:16). “Go, therefore, into the whole world, teach all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). There, we have the Triune God in a capsule.
In several other places in the New Testament the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are mentioned next to each other in a way that leaves no doubt that they are equal and equally God. Commenting about the Ascended Jesus in to heaven, St. Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” Acts 2:32-33. In today’s 2nd Reading we find these opening words of St. Paul: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (This formula is frequently used in the Liturgy today). St. Peter also alludes to the Trinity: “…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).
We usually begin our prayer with these words: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” When we end our prayer, we often finish it with “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.” Jesus Himself tells us that whenever we baptize, we must use the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity is probably the first way we learned to talk about God. It began when our parents taught to us the Sign of the Cross and we said: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We said also this Trinitarian formula when the priest blesses us, when we say the Apostles’ Creed, in the singing of Gloria and even in baptizing someone.
- THE TRINITY SHOWS US THE LOVING FACE OF GOD
The feast today gives us an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the God we believe in. Our God is a loving God.
- a) God the Father: The 1st Reading of today tells us that the biblical God is quite different from the gods worshipped by peoples of other religions. He is a God who is merciful and lives among his people. Before then, humans believed in a God who terrifies. To Moses now, he reveals a completely different face. He is a father who looks at his children with tenderness, understands their mistakes and faults and loves them even when they sin. In the 2nd reading, St. Paul says in 2 Cor :13: our God is “the God of love and peace”. This is an indication of how close God is to each and every one of us. “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). St. Paul throws more light to this when he says: “God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8) St. John crowns it all by saying: “God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” (Jn 3:17)
God is not just the merciful Lord, clement and full of compassion, as we heard in the 1st reading. He loves us to such a degree as to become one of us. God has become and remains one of us. He has not come for some 30 odd years, and left for heaven, to resume his usual spying on our sins. God mixes with us, though he hates sin. He understands our plight and he is always there for our good.
- b) God the Son: In his Gospel, St. Matthew describes the baby Jesus with the name “IMMANUEL” which means GOD-IS-WITH-US. It would be difficult to see that our Abba, our heavenly Father or Daddy cared so much about us if Jesus had not come. But because of Jesus we really do see how much our heavenly Father, Abba, Daddy cares for us. God is no longer loving us from heaven, now in Jesus, God is loving us in the form of a human like us. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son …” (Jn 13:16). In Jesus, the Son, God is Immanuel. In Jesus, God is really With-Us. Jesus is our brother.
Jesus called God his Father. But he did so in a special way. Jesus called his Father “Abba” (Mk 14:36), an Aramaic word, which means something like our “Daddy”. (Aramaic was the language in Palestine at the time of Jesus). In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul also refers to the Father as Abba, Daddy (cf. Rom 8:14-17). Therefore, we should no longer look on God as being far away from us. Our heavenly Father is our Abba, he is someone who is close to us, who cares about us, who loves us, who watches over us. Paul sums it up very well, “If God is on our side, who can be against us.” St. Paul goes on to announce to us that “Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked…. Nothing can come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8)
- c) Before Jesus ascended he promised the Holy Spirit would come. Last Sunday, we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit also helps us. The disciples were gathered in the upper room before Pentecost; they were afraid. When they received the Holy Spirit, their fear and depression was gone. They could face life again. St. Paul says “The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8). Jesus himself called the Spirit ‘the Comforter’. Like the Father and Jesus, the Spirit is also on our side to help us when we are in need.
- GOD’S LOVE IS UNIVERSAL
The is a saying that goes: “no man is an island.” It means that the human being is created for ‘community’, to live with other persons, and to love and reach out to others. We need the love, support and friendship of others in our family and community. Not only do we like to belong, we need to belong. We cannot bear isolation. It is not good to be alone. It is for our good to belong. No one wants to feel as an outsider. God Himself is not an island. As we have seen in today’s readings, God is and was forever attempting to get close to his creation, so that we may know him, love him. God reaches out to every one of his creatures. God’s love is all-embracing. On this solemnity, we recall that God is a mystery of the communion of three Persons in love – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “God is love,” as John the evangelist tells us in his gospel and letters, and therefore for God to be love, he could not be solitary, because no one can love in a vacuum.
How does the mystery fit into our day-to-day life as Christians? To paraphrase an existentialist philosopher, the “Trinity is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.” Unraveling the puzzle of the Trinity is not so important as living out its message in day-to-day practical life. In pondering the Holy Trinity, what comes out distinctly is: COMMUNITY, living in loving relationship with other persons. If there are Three Persons in One God, then, there has to be a community, a unity among the Three.
As human beings, we are made in the image and likeness of God. That being so, we ought to mirror our various communities, for example, families, religious congregations, offices, workplaces and others in the image of the Holy Trinity. In our human experience, there are three levels of love. The first level symbolizes the most basic kind of love, characterized by self-centeredness and self-absorption? In such a love, one is absorbed in oneself, locking out and excluding others. The second level stands for a more human kind of love. It is characterized by giving and sharing, but it can be also exclusive. Such a love is reserved only for a select group of people, that is, perhaps one’s family, and an inner circle of people. The third level represents a more divine kind of love. This is God’s brand of loving. It entails giving and sharing with a love that is not exclusive. It is communal and universal. It is this third level of love that the Blessed Trinity shares; it is the same love that God shares with his creatures.
The love that God calls us to does not exclude others. If we want to become more like God, our love must go beyond our immediate inner circle of families and friends. It should be the prayer and wish of every good Christian that our love and our lives may become more and more Trinitarian. Just like God, we should not exist only for ourselves. We are not meant to withdraw from the world and isolate ourselves from others. We are not meant to be self-centered or self-absorbed, thinking only of our own needs and working only for our own interests. Just like God, we are meant to live with other persons.
God the Father is our creator. God the Son is our Saviour. God the Holy Spirit is our sanctifier and our comforter. On Trinity Sunday every year, we remember that God is our Father, our Daddy or Abba. He is our brother Jesus who is Immanuel, God-with-us and nothing can separate us from his love, except sin. God is also the Spirit who helps us in our weakness. With knowledge of who God is to us, let us continue to turn to God in our times of need, especially at these difficult days that our country is passing through socio-political crisis, and the menace of the world pandemic of Covid 19. Let us, therefore, pray with one voice: “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”.