– 07-6-2020 –
– TRINITY SUNDAY –
Gospel text : John 3:16-18
vs.16 At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus: “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.
vs.17 For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.
vs.18 No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.”
We have four sets of homily notes to choose from. Please scroll down the page for the desired one.
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, Specialist in Lectio Divina
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales. Lampeter.
John Littleton: Director of the Priory Institute Distant Learning, Tallaght
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels – Year A
The feast of the Trinity is classed in the Church’s calendar as a “solemnity”. I have sometimes heard it called “the climax of the liturgical year”. This is an unfortunate expression which betrays a misunderstanding of liturgy – and of our relationship with Jesus.
As I pointed out last week the focus of the Church’s liturgy (and of our lives as Christians) is always Jesus, not primarily as a teacher but as a person who like us lived in particular historical circumstances and responded to particular challenges as he met them.
This is why the Church’s main liturgical feasts are also the main events of Jesus’ life:
– his birth and childhood at Advent and Christmas;
– his preaching in Lent;
– his passion and death at the Sacred Triduum;
– his resurrection culminating in the ascension and the sending of the Spirit, at Easter.
These events, as I also showed last week, are not particular to Jesus; they are “mysteries” – like the mysteries of the Rosary. This means that he now lives them in his followers and in the church, so that we do not merely look at or admire them, but “celebrate” them as stories of Jesus, recognising them from our own experience (or the experience of others) and letting them lead us to become ever more like him. We apply to liturgical feasts the words of the popular prayer at the end of the Rosary; “we imitate what they contain and hope to obtain what they promise”.
In the liturgy then, “doctrinal feasts” like the Trinity are always subordinate to “events-feasts” like Christmas, the Sacred Triduum and Easter. The Vatican II Decree on the Liturgy made this clear: “The minds of the faithful should be directed primarily to the feasts of the Lord, whereby the mysteries of salvation are celebrated throughout the year” (No 108).
The doctrine of the Trinity emerged in the Church very gradually after several centuries of meditation on the life of Jesus. We do not need to make that journey again – the Trinity is now a doctrine of our faith. It remains true however that the best way to approach the Trinity is by meditating on Jesus, how he faced life and related with people.
This is how we approach today’s feast, and the gospel reading. We meditate on Jesus responding to a concrete situation – he converses with Nicodemus who has come to him “by night” because he is afraid of the Jews. Our meditation reveals him as a totally free person, his freedom rooted in his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the fact that he was a “Trinitarian person” – as we too are called to be.
The reading comprises several “themes” which are intertwined and run through the entire passage. We can identify three such “themes”.
– Jesus sees his mission as bringing “eternal life” and “salvation” to those who are “lost”. These are traditional expressions, almost clichés. We must make a real effort to let them come alive through meditation.
“Eternal life” is in contrast with “temporary life”. It means a life that can survive every form of death, failure in relationships or the work place, defeat and humiliation, the loss of a loved one. We remember people (ourselves included) being “lost” – insecure, adrift, without guidance – and then moving to being “saved” (safe) – the feeling of security, the tremendous relief of finding one’s way after having drifted for a long time.
– The next two themes answer the question, how did Jesus keep his mission truly “life-giving” and “saving”? The first answer is that he was conscious of his mission not originating in himself – he was the “ son” who had been “given to the world” by the “Father”, a loving gift, as precious as an only child to its parents. Our meditation must make the expression “only son” come alive. It means “very dear son”, conjuring up memories of only children, of how their parents dote on them, and how they grieve over them when they die prematurely.
Jesus’ sense of himself as “beloved son” (a “sent person” as in many other gospel passages), keeps him focussed on his mission. It removes any possessiveness; he loves selflessly.
– Then there is the theme of “condemning”. It is not an expression we like; for us it connotes self-righteousness and writing off people. On the other hand it is a theme (like God’s anger) that is central to the bible. If we ignore it (throwing out the baby with the bath water) the message of Jesus loses its “muscle”, becomes an innocuous, take-it-or-leave-it affair. We must keep the theme of “condemning” therefore, just making sure that we purify it of wrong interpretations. The following are some conclusions.
a) Jesus (like his followers to the extent that they are true to him) is conscious that he poses a challenge to the world, one that requires a response. Those who refuse to accept him (to “believe in the name of God’s only son”) must also accept the consequences – “condemnation”.
b) We human beings are not responsible for “condemning”. When we take on that responsibility, we inevitably find ourselves condemning, not in the name of God but of our prejudices and narrow-mindedness. It is highly significant then that Jesus says he was sent “not to condemn”.
c) Because God has created us free we ourselves are the only ones who have the right to condemn. It is the consequence of God’s breathing his Spirit on us. A practical example – if Nicodemus is afraid to come in the daylight, as far as Jesus is concerned he is free to come at night. Note that this freedom has another side – we are not in bondage to the judgement of others. Cf St Paul 1 Cor 4, 3: “Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you or indeed any human tribunal find me worthy or not”.
The feast is the occasion for us to pray for the grace (for the Church and for us as individuals) of a “Trinitarian spirituality”.
– Awareness of God as Father so that we stand in his presence with awe and never think we can possess or control him.
– Consciousness that in Jesus we are sons and daughters of God, sharing in his divinity, so secure in ourselves that others feel “safe” in our presence.
– Awareness of the Spirit at work in others so that we will respect the freedom of each person especially those who disagree with or are different from us.
Truly we need to “celebrate” the Trinity.
“God is gracious and and so graciously does he seize our hearts in order to draw them
on, that he in no wise impairs the liberty of our will”. ….St Francis of Sales
Lord, we thank you that you have sent us into the world as parents, teachers,
managers, community leaders, ministers in the Church community.
We thank you for the times when we feel secure in your love,
as secure as an only child is secure in the love of its parents,
so that we feel no desire to condemn,
are only concerned that those whose lives we touch do not feel lost,
on the contrary feel safe and can live their lives to the full.
“I am disarmed of the will to overcome, to justify myself at the expense of others,
I am no longer on the alert jealously guarding my riches.” …Patriarch Athenagoras
Lord, forgive us as members of your Church,
that we are quick to condemn those who are different from us
– in race or ethnicity
– in mores
– in faith or religion.
Remind us that like Jesus you want us to be a saving presence
in your world that you love so much,
not condemning but at the same time challenging our contemporaries
to make the choice for life rather than condemnation.
“You know when you have met a saint; instead of feeling inferior you feel enormously affirmed.”
…Margaret Hebblethwaite after meeting Cardinal Arns
Lord, we thank you for the great people you have sent into our lives,
who touched us so deeply that we felt that you had given us a precious gift.
We sometimes refuse to accept the values they teach us, but they leave us free.
“It is not for me to win you round, I have only to say no to you.” …Jean Anouilh
Lord, many people in our world are lost, feel they are going nowhere,
that life is not worth living:
– drug addicts wandering aimlessly through the streets;
– once successful businessmen who have lost their jobs and sit at home doing nothing;
– families suddenly orphaned;
– a community floundering under corrupt leadership.
Forgive us that as Jesus’ followers we leave them in their lostness
and at times add to their lostness by condemning them.
Remind us that you gave us to them as your gift,
given out of your great love for them,
and your will is that we should so befriend them
so that they can begin to feel safe again and to live to the full.
“No one possesses the truth, we all seek it”. …Bishop Pierre Claverie. Dominican Bishop murdered in Algeria.
Lord, help your Church to recognise truth as your beloved possession, your only child,
which you have entrusted to the world
so that we may not be lost but may have eternal life.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the Celebration
We have just blessed ourselves and declared that we are gathering in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I have just wished you welcome by wishing you ‘the grace of Jesus Christ’; then wishing you ‘the love of God’ the Father; and then wishing you ‘the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’. Whenever we gather or pray we are talking about the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. It is this mystery that God is Father, Son, and Spirit that we are called on to reflect on today. As we move through today’s celebration, listen out for just how often we will call on ‘Father,’‘Son,’ and ‘Spirit.’
1. Go back through the second reading and note how Paul’s relationship with Jesus – Jesus is Lord – leads him to adopt a way of speaking of God as Father which Jesus had taught his followers. Moreover, Jesus had spoken of sending the Spirit and so the Spirit too is spoken of as ‘Lord’.
2. Paul is adopting a formula already in use within the churches, it is a formula that speaks of the relationship we Christians have with God: we live and move and have our being in God the Father, God the Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Spirit.
3. We do not accept ‘the Trinity’ within our minds in the way we accept other religious notions such as ‘God loves us.’ The mystery of the Father, Son and Spirit is the mystery of God and as such cannot be comprehended by a created mind. Rather, we accept this as part of the gracious revelation of God and respond in the way of Jesus: him we address as Lord; with him we call on the Father; from him we accept the Spirit.
Talking about God is invariably difficult because we need to use finite language and concepts to describe that which is infinite. When describing God, we are essentially describing the indescribable.
The most serious problem frustrating our reflection and discussion is the problem of religious language. Because human language is unable to express the totality of the mystery of God, we frequently resort to using images, metaphors and analogies when speaking about God. Human words are always necessarily limited.
Christian faith believes that there is one God, accepting that God is unique and indivisible. Accordingly, God is Supreme Being who is beyond description and on which all else depends. God is unchanging, all-powerful and all-knowing. God is often described rather impersonally as the Unmoved Mover and the Ground of Being. Saint Anselm (1033-11O9AD) argued that God is ‘that than which nothing greater can be conceived’. Thus God is beyond, separate and remote from nature, history and humanity. God transcends human and earthly reality.
Yet, God is also referred to in a very personal way as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Gen 32:9), who is unconditionally loving and merciful. God even reveals a personal name, YHWH, to Moses (see Exod us 3) and has an affinity with his people. God is so close to creation and his people that his abiding presence is with them. The principal manifestation of God’s intimacy is the partnership relationship that he has with his people, whereby he is their God and they are his people.
The simultaneous remoteness and familiarity of God provide Christians with a real dilemma because the terms are mutually exclusive in human reasoning. God’s unity and uniqueness are stressed throughout the Old Testament. However, the fuller selfrevelation of God’s nature is not revealed until the New Testament account of the Incarnation.
Unlike Judaism and Islam, which also claim to believe in one God, revelation teaches Christians that, at the Incarnation, God became human, adopting our human nature, in the person of Jesus Christ. John’s Gospel records that ‘the Word was made flesh, he lived among us’ (Jn 1:14) and that God established the closest possible relationship with humankind in Christ who is both divine and human. Consequently, Christians cannot speak about God without also referring to Christ. This is the uniqueness of the Christian perspective on revelation.
The Holy Spirit enables us to be in communion with Christ, yet the Holy Spirit has been active from the beginning of creation. The Holy Spirit mediates revelation, enkindles faith and nourishes the life of grace. Jesus revealed the Holy Spirit and promised to send it to his followers. This promise was fulfilled on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit still remains with the Church, keeping it holy and faithful to God’s revelation.
For Christians, God is loving and merciful and has been revealed as Three-Persons-in-One: Father and Son and Holy Spirit. On Trinity Sunday, we recognise the most fundamental mystery of Christianity and we worship God who is Father and Son and Holy Spirit. 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.
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)
In the name
They looked down from heaven – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – with love for their people. They could see men and women of all races, colours, ages, faiths, holiness and sin. They knew help was needed for the human race and waited a long time before the time was right.
The word of God, son of God, born before all ages, became one of us. We know the rest of the story. One of the persons of the Trinity became one of us, so that we could become like them. Jesus, Son of the eternal Father, was born, lived and died like us. In death, cruelly murdered and then laid in the tomb, the Spirit became alive in him, and now the Spirit of Jesus and the Father is alive in each of us since baptism.
The life of the Trinity becomes very ordinary in the love, care and forgiveness we offer to each other. It is also there in the ways in which we try to better the lives of the poor, the depressed and the anxious. It’s in how we try to teach a younger generation the best lessons of humanity and faith, and introduce them to this mystery of God. We are active partners in the work of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the world today.
Slowly make the sign of the cross a few times today,
asking to believe in the mystery of God’s love within God and for us.
By the mystery of water and wine in the Mass, help us, Lord,
to share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.