Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9; II Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18
An old couple took their four-year-old grandson to church where the grandmother sang in the choir. She gave the boy a quarter to keep his grandfather awake during the sermon, but grandpa slept through most of the service. After church she asked the boy why he had not followed her instructions. He said, “Grandpa gave me 50 cents not to wake him up.”
On this feast of the Holy Trinity I don’t want to put you to sleep by explaining the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Moreover, it is impossible for anyone of us to come up with an adequate image of who God is. Every attempt to do so will be inadequate. Every thing we say is but a glimpse of God’s real being. On the feast of the Trinity, I would like to explain to you how there can be one God in three divine persons, but I can’t. I would like to present you with a picture of what God looks like, but that is impossible. I would like to tell you who God is, but every effort I would make would be inadequate.
We all inherited our faith in one God from the Jews. When Jesus came, an observant Jew, he revealed to us new ideas about this one God. Jesus spoke of God as Father, yet Jesus showed himself to be God. He healed people, raised the dead, forgave sins and gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins, he cast our demons he interpreted the Torah with authority, and he spoke not as if he were the Father, but as if he were equal to the Father.
In John’s gospel he says: “I and the Father are one,” and “he who sees me sees also the Father.” He tells the Jews “before Abraham was, I am.” He prays for himself: “Father, glorify me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world began.” He prays for his apostles, “I pray that they all may be one; even as you Father, are in me and I am in you.”
In addition to what Jesus said, and by showing signs that he was divine, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth, another Advocate who was neither Father nor Jesus, who would speak with authority, and would take what belongs to Jesus and declare it to the apostles.
John tells us that he has written his gospel so that we may come to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, and thus have life in his name. To help us come to belief, John throughout his gospel talks about people like us — some who believe, some who half-believe, some who refuse to believe. The context of this gospel passage is the story of Nicodemus. Nicodemus comes to Jesus “at night” and represents those of us who hold back, and thus never completely leave the darkness to enter the light and love of eternal life.
The first sentence of the passage summarizes not only our Trinity Sunday gospel, but John’s entire gospel about the meaning of Jesus and the meaning of our human existence: “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.”
The feast of the Holy Trinity reminds us that every Sunday’s gospel helps unfold the mystery of divine life: in each gospel Jesus makes the Father’s truth and love present in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. Every Sunday’s Eucharist is the prayer of the church in living communion with the Risen Lord praising the Father through the power of the Spirit. Every good work we do is to share in Christ’s mission of making the Father’s truth and love present in the world because we share Christ’s Spirit.
When many in our world seem to prefer darkness to light, we need to celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity with prayer of steadfast hope. God still does love the world. And we can still come out of its dark night to accept his only Son, whom he has given to us so that we might have life in him. Only in his light and in his life can we enjoy peace among ourselves and within ourselves, a peace that surpasses human understanding.