Father Donald Senior, CP

June 16: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

In the image and likeness

Prv 8:22-31; Ps 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15

In a recent column, the thoughtful New York Times writer David Brooks quoted a man who said he was “spiritual” but did not accept that there should be “any strings attached in believing in God.”

I guess that makes sense if you think God asks arbitrary things of us, like standing on one leg while praying. But in our Christian tradition (and for our Jewish forebearers), honoring God did have some ethical strings attached.

One of the most profound affirmations of the Bible, found in the creation story of Genesis, is that God chose to make humans “in our image and likeness” (1:26). We are made in the image of God and, therefore, are made intelligent, rational, reflective, and above all, with a capacity for love.

I am always struck when I first meet the children of parents I know well and often see in their young faces startling reflections of their parents. I know (even though I don’t understand) that this is explainable by chromosomes and DNA and such. But I like to think of the mystery of it. They are human beings created in the image and likeness of the ones who gave them life. 

Our biblical tradition dares to think of human beings as “daughters and sons” of God. We are created in God’s image and likeness and therefore destined to be like God and to act like God. “You must be holy, as your heavenly Father is holy” says a quotation from Leviticus 19:2 and which is echoed in the very words of Jesus: “You must be merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful,” (Lk 6:36). This is not some arbitrary string attached to faith but describes the very core of our being.

This Sunday, in the wake of Pentecost, we contemplate the mystery of the Trinity. Recently, scientists put together for the first time a composite image of a “black hole,” this super mysterious part of our universe that we still grope to explain. Explaining the mystery of the Trinity is far more challenging than that.

How are we mere mortals to even glimpse the inner life of God? Just as astronomers detect the presence of some far distant stars and planets not directly but by the shadow they cast on other nearer entities, so we too can glimpse part of the mystery of God by the shadow God’s presence casts on us and our world.

That is the point of the first reading today from the Book of Proverbs. Judaism spoke of wisdom as a kind of personification of God’s creative and loving presence in our world. In this poetic passage wisdom portrays herself as being with God from the beginning of creation and then “playing on the surface of God’s earth; and I found delight in the human race.”

The beautiful Psalm 8 that is our responsorial today also see the human as somehow reflective of God’s beauty: “When I behold the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place — What is man that you should care for him … Yet you have made him little less than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Based on the various facets of God’s presence in our Scriptures, Christian teaching has come to understand that the inner life of the Triune God is a vortex of love — mutual, intense and all-consuming love fusing Father, Son and Spirit into the one true God of love. That is Paul’s conviction in the reading from his letter to the Romans: “the love of God has been poured into our hearts.”

No biblical book is more emphatic on this point than the Gospel of John, which views Jesus, the Word made Flesh, as the embodiment of God’s love for the world. In our Gospel passage today, Jesus reminds his disciples that the Spirit — the Spirit of God’s love for the world — would “guide you to all truth.” The ultimate and astounding truth of Christian faith is that our God is a God of love, love poured into creation, love leaving its imprint on the deepest and most noble instincts of human life.


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