Father Donald Senior, CP

June 7: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Judged on love alone

Ex 34:4-6, 8-9; Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18

This time of pandemic has brought some new words to our everyday language. We speak of “social distancing” and “contact tracing” and “pre-existing conditions.” The latter term struck me as we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. 

We are warned about pre-existing conditions that make us more vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as diabetes and heart problems or old age itself. But in a certain way, just being human is a pre-existing condition for all of us. 

The profound changes this pandemic has brought to our way of life surely reminds all of us how being human is more fragile that we may have realized. At every turn we hear people reflecting on how this time challenges us to think more seriously about our lives and the values we hold dear. During all this we celebrate Trinity Sunday, the solemnity that comes after Pentecost and adds punctuation to the Easter season.

How can humans even glimpse the inner life of God? That is the challenge of this solemnity. Affirmation of God as three in one, as Trinity, is one of the most fundamental and tenacious parts of our Christian creed. Yet, how can we explain or understand it, even in the most rudimentary way?

The Scripture readings for this Sunday lead us in the right direction. The first reading from Exodus is one of the most haunting scenes in the Bible, as Moses converses with God face to face on Mount Sinai. 

The leader of the Israelites came up the mountain after leaving behind the chaos of his own people who were rebelling after their long desert trek, turning to idolatry and promiscuity. The Lord speaks to Moses, describing himself as “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

That leads Moses to plead with God on behalf of his “stiff-necked people,” not only asking for pardon for their sins but, astoundingly, asking God “to receive us as your own.” Out of love, the awesome God of the universe, whose name cannot even be enunciated, is stuck with this people.

Paul’s message to the Corinthians in the second reading is not all that different. Paul was always in contention with the rambunctious Corinthians, certainly in this second letter to them. But he ends up where Moses did: “Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Perhaps no passage in the New Testament is more popular or more frequently quoted than the Gospel selection for today from John 3:16. It is a citation seen on roadside billboards, in the end zone of football games and behind the basket at college and NBA games. It says: “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

Our Scriptures tell us over and over that the primary characteristic of God is love. It is a freely-given, overwhelming, gracious and unconditional love. That has led the great mystics and theologians of our tradition to affirm that at its essence the Holy Trinity is a vortex of love, a boundless interrelationship of three persons who are fused as one in an all-consuming, abundant, mutual love.

It is a love that spills over into the very act of creation, into the very nature of us as humans who are designed for love. It also defines the very essence of Jesus Christ who embodies love. As Pope Francis has so eloquently put it, “Jesus is the human face of the Father’s mercy.”

So, amid uncertainty, even about our own lives and futures, we can take heart in the unshaken conviction of Christian faith that God is a God of love. In the searing words of the great mystic, St. John of the Cross, “In the evening of life we shall be judged by love alone.”



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