Readings: Exodus 34:4-6,8-9; Daniel 3:52-56; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18
When you first meet someone, you don’t ask them to explain themselves! You ask their name. So, I think we get off on the wrong foot with the Blessed Trinity if the first thing we ask for an explanation. The Trinity is not a problem to be solved (like “Maria” in the “Sound of Music”), but the true God who is to be adored because loved.
Until recent centuries, the existence of God was never doubted. People had different notions of him, of course, but God was never just some object of inquiry among others that had to be investigated. People sensed intuitively that he was just there; he always preceded us and somehow enveloped us. As the apostles Paul will say: “in him we live and move and have our being.” What is common to all religious traditions is the attempt to name God. Yet whatever name man would give to God or to his gods, that name merely reflected man’s limited understanding. For man does not have the power to name the true God. To know God as he is required that God would reveal himself, give us his own name.
It was only when God himself revealed his name that man was given as pure gift an insight into the true God, true because coming from God himself. Moses asked God his name and was given the majestic response, with was both enigmatic and yet also simplicity itself: “I AM WHO AM.” And in the first reading we heard today, God unearths more detail of what is name means when he says to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.”
So, God reveals himself not so much as raw power but as infinite love, and as an infinite love which creates and calls a people to himself. He is a God in relation to man and woman whom he creates, who wants man and woman, who wants to love man and woman and to be loved by then in return. All his power and majesty are expressed in and through this, in the divine desire to give himself to humanity.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God reveals to Moses the first commandment: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is the one Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” You could almost say that with this commandment, God reveals his oneness, that there is only one God, and that he alone is to be loved exclusively.
But it is with the coming of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, that this one God further reveals that his inner life as One is not solitary. God does not play solitaire; he is not like the famous statute of the Thinker, sitting alone, looking down and inwards and contemplating eternity. If God is love, moreover, it beggars belief that he would be a solitary love. That makes no sense. And, in fact, God is not solitary. Gradually, Jesus reveals to the minds and hearts of his disciples, not without some frustration and difficulty, that he is himself the Son of God and that he has been sent by his Father to show just how much he loves the world. The infinite tenderness and compassion and kindness and faithfulness of the I AM are now embodied for all to see and hear and touch in the person of Jesus.
So, this love of God is not a passing affection but a passionate immersion. In the light of the Jewish faith and its understanding of the very origins of the human race, Jesus reveals that creation itself is a work of singular and gratuitous love by God. He reveals that man and woman are the masterpiece of that creation and that all God only ever wanted to do was to pour out the infinite treasures of his love, life and glory upon them. And even yet, now that man and woman had rejected him, he still wanted to pour himself out in an even greater way by sending Jesus to redeem them from that rejection. As he says in today’s Gospel, he came, not to condemn the world, but so that all who believe in him might be saved. If anyone is condemned it will only be the result of their own persistence in rejection of the God now visible in Jesus Christ.
The highpoint of what Jesus reveals about God comes on the Cross. The Father gives his only Son, who carries all sin and death on his body on the Tree, so that, by dying, God’s infinite mercy and compassion and tenderness and faithfulness would not only be shown once more, but that it would also be poured into the hearts of all who believe by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus breathed out in his very act of death. The Cross reveals the mystery of the Trinity as wholly selfless, as wholly engaged with his creation, and above all with man and woman whom he has loved with an everlasting love. The resurrection of Jesus proves that he is God, proves that he has acted in obedience to the Father and proves that he has the power to give the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of eternal life to his own. The Cross is the Name and the shape of the Trinity in history.
With that, we are in a position now to understand a bit better who God the Blessed Trinity is. Much like you get to know someone through what they do, we have been given the knowledge of the Trinity through their works: first, creation; then redemption; and now, until Christ returns, the sanctification of those who believe. The final stage, when Christ returns, will be the work of glorification, when Christ will raise us in the flesh to share for ever in the glory of the Trinity, in its very bosom.
God the Father’s love is at the origin of all of this. It is a love that is gratuitous and that gratuity or grace is given to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the aim of all of this is for the Spirit to unite us in the fellowship of the eternal God.
My brothers and sisters, it is very important in our spiritual lives, our life of faith, to be open to each of the three Persons of the Trinity. Ask them to reveal themselves to you in the way and at the time they wish. Confess them frequently as your God by using the prayer we all know, the Glory be to the Father. Each person of the Trinity wishes to relate to you in a way in which they relate to no-one else. If we are each unique and if we are each created and redeemed by the work of the Persons of the Trinity, then it means that the very particular creation, redemption, sanctification and glorification of each one of us is itself a unique manifestation of the love and power of the Trinity. God does not deal in half measures. He doesn’t do things on the cheap. The attentions of the Trinity for each of us are ineffable, unsurpassable and always new. The perfection of the Trinity is not something we can achieve on our own, but it is something which the Trinity wishes to share with us as a free gift according to the immeasurable wealth of their eternal love. All we need do is believe in Jesus.
Let the Trinity explain you to yourself. Seek out, not just “God”, but the incredible uniqueness and unity of the first family that ever there was: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.