15th June (Sunday). Feast of the Most Holy Trinity
First Reading: Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9
(On the heights of Sinai, Moses perceives God as compassionate, kind and faithful.)
Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.”
The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”
2) 1 Corinthians 13:11-13
(Abandoning childish ways, we seek the moral nobility of faith, hope and love.)
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Gospel: John 3:16-18
(Jesus came to show God’s love in this world: whoever believes will not be condemned.)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
The mysterious merits of three-in-one
A popular idiom says that “Two is company, three is a crowd”. This may be true of romantic pairings, but the gospel gives another view. In the life of Jesus Christ, a threesome symbolises completeness and perfect symmetry, and the number three re-appears at key moments of the story of our Lord, for his life itself constantly reflected the Holy Trinity. There were three at the nativity scene in Bethlehem, Jesus, Mary and Joseph; and their first visitors were the three wise men from the East. Later, when praying in the desert before beginning his public life, Jesus was tempted three times by the devil. And so many of his parables reflect the adage that “a good story should have a beginning, a middle and an end.”
He was a storyteller par excellence and in his stories, sets of three characters figure prominently. The Prodigal Son is about a father and his two sons; the Good Samaritan contrasts the behaviour of three passers-by, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan. The sower sowed his seed in three different types of ground, each yielding its own level of harvest. The end of Christ’s life, like its beginning, again has the three motif. During his Passion, Peter denied him thrice. On the road to Calvary, he fell three times. The crucifixion scene has three figures, Christ between two thieves. Before his resurrection, he spent three days in the tomb.
God is love, as beautifully stated in John’s first epistle. And in God there are Three Persons, the loving Trinity, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit,who together represent the fullness of love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father andTte Holy Spirit is their love for each other. We are mysteriously, wonderfully made in the image of a triune God: the Father, who created us, his Son who saved us, and the Holy Spirit who continues to guide us. Our lives should reflect the unquenchable love of that Holy Trinity. We should be always creative like the Father, compassionate like his Son, and dispose our talents in the service of others like the Holy Spirit.
Clearly this trinitarian foundation makes this a missionary Sunday too. The followers of Jesus are deputed to go forth to pass on the good news that Jesus had shown them of God’s overwhelming and forgiving love. A lot of time and energy has been poured into that challenge through the ensuing centuries. Often we made a terrible mess of it. We have forced people to be baptized whether they wanted to be or not. Once in Seville, Spain forty thousand Jews were baptized (under pain of leaving the country by priests who strode through cathedral plaza sprinkling water on them. Other times we have forced them to abandon their native cultures and become Europeans like us. Still other times we bribed them (with rice when they were hungry) to join us. Sometimes we got the point, particularly in early days and attracted them to the church by the kinds of people we were and by the love we had for one another and for them.