Trinity Sunday - June 7 Pastor's Column
Dear Parishioners and Friends of the Catholic Parishes of Western Holt and Boyd Counties:
On this the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, we have one of the shortest gospel readings of the year, and this from the Gospel of John [3:16-18]. The passage is only three verses and it is proclaimed at the Liturgy of the Eucharist often in less than a minute, no more than two. The opening line of this gospel reading will be familiar to many, as it may be used frequently to sum up Christian theology: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”
This pithy statement grounds God’s action and motivation in love. God is not an angry parent waiting for wayward humanity to make inevitable mistakes, only so he can punish and dole out consequences. No, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and God acts out of love. It is this same love that reflects God’s desire to give not merely to send his only Son. The Son of God is given as a gift to the world out of love. As followers of this same Son, we ought to be motivated by love as well. We freely give without counting the cost; and we give not merely from our excess, but we give our very selves. That is the mark of a Christian disciple.
Finally, though we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, there is nothing about the Holy Spirit, or the Advocate (to use a Johannine term), in these three verses. The gospel reading reflects a theological relationship between God and the Son. Later chapters in the Gospel of John will speak of the Spirit, who is sent after the resurrection. And, of course, other New Testament texts also have more to say about the Spirit and the relationship between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Spirit. Theologians will wrestle with these passages for centuries, struggling to articulate the triune relationship of the one Godhead in a way that expresses Christian belief accurately. But Christian identity is not only about believing, but perhaps even more fundamentally, it is about doing. So, these three verses give us a model for action motivated by love. We are to be givers, disciples of the Son of God who was given to the world.
The mystery of the Trinity can be baffling to comprehend. Three persons, one God. We often state the intellectual proposition of faith without understanding it. And when attempting to understand the meaning of our words, we often fall back on that term: mystery. But what does the Trinity mean for us, beyond an intellectual proposition to which we nod assent? As we read in the opening line of the gospel today, God is self-gift. God loves and God gives. Those attributes would mark our identity as Christians. If we want to live the paschal mystery, or even live the trinitarian mystery, it would behoove us to become like God and to love, to give to the point of giving our very selves. Doing the gospel, or living our faith, is much more a marker of Christian identity than merely parroting propositions we may or may not understand.
Thank you to all who attended our first public celebrations of Mass last weekend, for your cooperation with the guidelines for attending. Almost everyone complied and things went smoothly overall. We didn’t use the “overflow” spaces we had prepared, but we anticipate we will in the coming weeks as people get more comfortable with returning to their churches. I want to also thank those who agreed to act as ushers, those who are on the disinfecting crews in some of our churches, and those who built or created receptacles for Sunday collections. It was good to see people in the pews again. Hopefully, we don’t have a surge of cases that would force us to shutdown again.
Ad multos annos!
Fr. Bernard Starman