The best way to know God better is to accept fully, with a humble heart, whatever he reveals about himself. Today we celebrate that God has revealed himself as a “Trinity,” Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one eternal God, all love. The better we know him, the more we love him.
The gospel for this Trinity Sunday is brief, but it summarizes the whole message of Christianity: God’s love for the world and his gift of his only Son for the sake of giving believers eternal life. It is such a beautiful revelation of the love of God that many Christians have committed this verse to memory, “God so loved the world…” Sometimes we may see posters or signs on street corners or at sports events, saying simply, “John 3:16.”
In the first reading for today’s profound feast, we are told of an earlier revelation of God, the time he spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. God comes down “in a cloud.” A cloud both reveals the divine Presence and veils it from our eyes. God proclaims his holy name: “Lord.” This name, YHWH, “I Am Who Am,” like the cloud, mysteriously identifies the Lord, yet without fully revealing him. Like Moses, we too can have a personal relationship with God. We can truly encounter him, know him and even call on him by name, yet we also realize that we do not and cannot fully understand him.
Next the Lord reveals to Moses some of his most wonderful attributes: he is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and rich in kindness and fidelity. Moses, recognizing that he is in the Presence of God, “at once bows down to the ground in worship.” This gesture is more than a simple nod of the head, as we do in greeting one another. It is a deliberate, total body movement, signifying, “I am all yours.” Bowing to the ground is a sign of reverence and total surrender. Moses’ outward bow is an indication of the “posture” of his heart.
What we do on the outside – with our bodies – reflects and influences what happens on the inside – in our souls. We dress up for important occasions, but wear old clothes to work in the yard. We stand in respect when someone enters the room. We bow when meeting someone we honor. We who are Catholic have a special advantage in recognizing that our bodies are important in our spiritual lives. The Church respects that we are created with both body and soul, and she helps us use both in our worship of God. The “smells and bells” of the liturgy; the postures of kneeling, standing and sitting; the candles and vestments and statues – all help us offer genuine worship to God in spirit and truth.
Moses knows human nature. He knows the inner disposition of his people, the Israelites, who are waiting for him at the bottom of the mountain. He identifies them by describing what sounds like a bodily condition: they are stiff-necked. “This is indeed a stiff-necked people.” What does he mean? He is describing people whose hearts are hard, whose wills are stubborn. They are not disposed to welcome the Lord and his commands. Moses foresees that his people will not even bend their necks to bow their heads, much less bow down to the ground in worship of God. But since the Lord has just declared that he is a merciful and gracious God, Moses asks him to come along with them, and dares to beg him: “pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.”
What we learn from Moses is the importance of basing our prayer and our relationships with one another on what the Lord has revealed. Because God is merciful and gracious to us, we are to be merciful and gracious to one another. We intercede for our brothers and sisters, no matter how stiff-necked they may seem to us, because we too have been stiff-necked, and the Lord has chosen to reveal his love to us anyway. God’s plan for the human family is indeed to “come along in our company” – or rather, to have us join his company. The unity he envisions for our families and communities is based on the one life shared by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for he has created us in his own image and likeness.
In the second reading, St. Paul instructs us in the way of unity with God and with one another. If we are “stiff-necked” toward God, the same attitude will afflict our human relationships. So Paul, who wants nothing more than our union with God, urges us to work toward unity in the community, for this opens our hearts to the Presence of God: “Brothers, mend your ways. Encourage one another. Live in harmony and peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” Paul closes with a beautiful invocation of the Holy Trinity – the very words that the priest often uses when he greets the people at the beginning of the Mass: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
How do the revelations of Jesus form the basis of my prayer life and my personal relationship with others? Is my heart open to the union of the Trinity? What is my inner disposition?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 13, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.