In our part of the United States, we are recovering our lawns and gardens from the ravages of a long winter and rainy spring. Cars are being washed and trees and bushes are being trimmed up, we call this Spring Cleaning. Spiritually as well, we are renewing our beliefs and traditions. There are many baptisms, confirmations and First Communions being celebrated in churches and family homes as well.
We prepare to celebrate this Sunday’s feast after having celebrated the birth of the Church last Sunday, with the sending of the Holy Spirit. It is a sacramental time these weeks. The Spirit breathes life into the bones of the Church and the folks in the pews. We might profit from reflecting on our First Communion, our being confirmed, our being married or ordained.
As with the flowers, grass, bushes and trees, which have been silent and less visible these past months, our living of the sacraments might profit from a kind of spring-cleaning as well. The trees will bring forth buds and leaves and fruit of various kinds. The flowers will come out of hiding as well. The sacraments of the Church are to bring forth beauty and fruitfulness in our lives. We and the church, as with our cars and homes, need a sacramental face and faith-lift.
It is the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity! I mentioned at dinner tonight that I was going to my room to write the most difficult Reflection of the year. One of my brothers remarked that I could write anything I wanted, because nobody really knows anything about the Trinity. “It’s a mystery.” So maybe I should let it go at that and finish here.
Well I didn’t. The First Reading is a “self-description” by the Lord God. Moses had broken the original “tablets” of the Law. God had given him the word to come back up the mountain and bring two new stones with him. God had told Moses that he should come to the mountain top alone and even the flocks and herds should be moved away. God gives Moses the “name” by which the people should call upon the mysterious God.
God will be “Lord”. God then shouts out in no uncertain terms announcing qualities the Lord wishes the people to know and rely upon within the relationship to which God is covenanting the people.
The Lord declares that their God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and rich in kindness and fidelity. Moses makes a quite human response. In short he tells God that this all sounds very good and that God is going to need all of these qualities and more to deal with the “stiff-necked” and sinful people God has called God’s own. Moses knows his own fearfulness and sense of failure in leading God’s people so he is quite glad to invite God into the company.
The Gospel for this liturgy is taken from the discussion Nicodemus initiated with Jesus about how one is to enter the community of believers and so enter eternal life. Jesus has told him that he must be reborn and after a bit of clarification about what that meant, Jesus tells him he must be born of “water and the Holy Spirit.” Nicodemus represents all those who were seeking the “way” to continue the relationship with God after the destruction of the sacred Temple in the year seventy.
As God spoke about the divine attributes of mercy and kindness, Jesus speaks of Himself in the third person. God, Who is Love, spoke the Word of Love to the world. God continues loving the world by continuing that speaking of the Word. The sending is as an invitation and those who refuse condemn themselves to the darkness they prefer. God does not do the condemning, but allows choices to have their consequences.
Now I am in a dilemma. If I write something about the Trinity using an analogy it would just be cute and limp as do most analogies. If I try to write in strictly theological terms, it would not be a Reflection. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, what are your images of these? What we can say is that we know something of the term and experience of love and being loved. That’s a good start for a Reflection on the Trinity. God so loved and does now love the world, that God sent and continues sending Love to this world, even if this world is stiff-necked, stiff-hearted and stiff-upper-lipped when it doesn’t feel loveable.
When I was in grade school I sent a little love-note to a girl in my class and told her of my amorous feelings. So the word was out, but here’s the rest of the story, I didn’t sign it. That would be too bold, too much exposure. She eventually asked me if I had sent that note to her. Sorry about that, I strongly and laughingly denied it. It was a kind of revelation, but not full enough.
God sends us the Word of Love, that “Mercy, graciousness, slow to angerness, rich in fidelity” kind of love. God Signs the Word as “Son” and stands behind and in front of that Word statement. The Holy Spirit labors so that all the Nicodemuses in the “world” might hear and be moved to ask God, “Did you send me that word?” That same Spirit comforts us with a confirming, “Yes!”
“Blessed be God the Father and his only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit: for He has shown us that He loves us.” Entrance Antiphon for this liturgy
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