James J. McCartney, O.S.A.
Saint Thomas Monastery
Ex 34: 4b-6, 8-9
Dn 3: 52, 53, 54, 55, 56
2 Cor 13: 11-13
Jn 3: 16-18
I have often heard priests say that Trinity Sunday is the most difficult Sunday of the year on which to preach! That has not been my experience at all during my 47 years of priestly ministry. I think that the problem is that many preachers focus on what the theologian Karl Rahner calls the immanent Trinity, that is the mystery of Godhead that God in Godself is. This mystery is excellent fodder for the ruminations of theologians but is not truly helpful “for us and for our salvation.” Rather I think we should focus on Trinity Sunday on what Rahner calls the economic Trinity, the way God reveals Godself to us.
In Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, even before God creates the universe out of nothing, we are told that a mighty wind (the same description used for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost) moved over the darkness more than night of non-being. Then God (the Father) speaks the Word (his only-begotten Son) and proclaims “let there be light,” and Genesis tells us “and there was light”–the big bang, creation of the universe from nothing! Thus the Father (the source of everything), the Son (the creative Word spoken by the Father), and the Holy Spirit (the Driving Force of God) are present from the beginning in their respective Roles but together forming one Divine event of creating and sustaining the Universe in power and in love.
In today’s first reading, Moses acknowledges the transcendent God (God the Father) worshiped by the Jews by his revealed name YAHWEH, translated in English as THE LORD. THE LORD! The Jews saw this manifestation of the Divine as “totally other,” a jealous and vengeful God who had adopted a chosen people, the Hebrews, as God’s own possession with whom he established a covenant, a sacred bond. And even though the Hebrews broke this covenant again and again and were punished by God, one of the qualities of the Divine that the Jews relied on was what they called “hesed,” loving kindness or mercy. This transcendent God was also a God of love who continually forgave and reconciled the people of Israel.
In the fullness of time this distant God sent forth his only begotten Son, his Word, to be united with a human nature–Jesus of Nazareth! Through his preaching, teaching, signs and wonders, Jesus revealed that he and the mysterious God of the Jews had a shared Divinity–“the Father and I are one!” Jesus also referred to the God of the Jews as “Abba,” a word that is best translated as “Daddy.” He did this to emphasize the care this loving God has for each of us–best described in the Lukan story of The Prodigal Son. In that story Jesus wants us to focus on the image of the Father who goes out to meet his sinful son, throws his arms around him, and celebrates his return.
But Jesus was rejected by the leaders of the Jewish people and was handed over to the Roman authorities to be tortured and killed by crucifixion. Even in the agony of his final hours, Jesus, experiencing the absence of God (“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”) still had faith that his Father accepted his obedience, and was finally able to say, “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” Through this experience of rejection and because of his obedience and Divinity, Jesus was able to reconcile the world with God and made us at-one-with his Father by destroying the power that sin had over us. And being raised up on the third day, Jesus also destroyed the power of death and shared that immortality to those who believe in his name.
Throughout the Scriptures starting at the very beginning as I mentioned earlier, the Spirit, the Breath, the Mighty Wind of God was acknowledged. In the psalms it is stressed that if this Breath of God is withdrawn, all things turn to dust, but when the Spirit returns it renews the face of the earth. Jesus promises his followers that this Spirit of God will be His own Breath of Life and will help them live in imitation of Him. Both at Easter and at Pentecost, this Spirit of Jesus is received by his disciples, and Christians believe that it is still being poured out today in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist and in the events of daily life.
So we see that the Father, the source of everything, his Word united to human flesh, and his Spirit, the Holy Wind of Divine Diversity leading towards Unity, all share a common Divinity but function in different ways “for us and for our salvation.” As Christians, we pray to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. With St. Paul we can say that there is one God, Father over all, Son through all, and Holy Spirit in all. As we celebrate this feast, may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and always and forever!