Our Gospel passage for today is taken from what is known as the Last Supper discourse in John. The whole section starts with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in chapter 13, and in chapters 14 through 17, John records what transpired during Jesus’ last moments before he sacrificed himself on the Cross. The evangelist treasures the last words that the Master shared with his disciples in an evening of intimate fellowship among friends. If we dare to summarize the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity which we are celebrating today, it may be with the word intimacy.
We can see the intimacy of divine love throughout today’s first reading, which attempts to describe the Wisdom of God through personification and speaks of the relationship between Wisdom and the LORD. The Wisdom of God, speaking about himself, says that from the very beginning, “The LORD possessed me.” Wisdom was “brought forth” before the dawn of creation, and he stood beside the LORD to witness the rich unfolding of creation as it happened. This passage shows their intimate unity and collaboration. The Wisdom of God is in, through and with God. We who have received the more fully revealed mystery of the Trinity can recognize in this passage a glimpse of the relationship of love between the Father and his eternal, only begotten Son.
Jesus speaks more about this relationship in today’s Gospel. First, he tells his disciples about the Holy Spirit whom he will send to guide them “to all truth.” He describes this Spirit of Truth as someone who “will speak what he hears” and who will take from what belongs to Jesus and declare it to the disciples. Then Jesus describes his own relationship with the Father in similar terms: “everything that the Father has is mine,” and what Jesus has from the Father is exactly what the Spirit will give to the disciples. Though we cannot fully comprehend all that Jesus is teaching here, we can see that the relationships of the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit of Truth have the character of deep, total, intimate unity in love. This is the love on which the whole universe is based.
While we treasure this knowledge, this insight into the eternal intimate oneness of God, we may begin to wonder what it means for us finite human beings. Today’s Psalm helps us ponder this question. The Psalmist first speaks of the wonders of God’s creation – the heavens, the moon, the stars – and then asks the Lord, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” This question, “what is man?” or “why does man matter to God?”, takes us back to the Book of Genesis, which reveals that God created human beings, the crown of his creation, in his own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:27). Since God is intimately one in himself, and human persons are made in his image, we can say that God’s concern for human persons is directed toward our unity with him in love. The last line of today’s first reading hints at this, where it says God finds “delight in the human race.”
Pope Francis in this week’s Spiritual Reflection speaks of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity as one of closeness. Not only is God intimately one within himself, he also desires to be intimately one with us. “The Trinity is not a theological riddle, but rather the splendid mystery of God’s closeness. The Trinity tells us that we do not have a solitary God above in heaven, distant and indifferent; no, he is Father who gave us his Son, who became man like us, and who, in order to be even closer to us, to help us bear the burdens of life, sends us his very Spirit.” Imagine: an almighty God who desires to be intimately close with us? Pondering this ought to give us rapturous delight and make us joyfully proclaim with the Psalmist: “O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!”
However, even though God is close to us and his name is wonderful in all the earth, we do not always feel that he is so close or wonderful. When we are suffering, he seems far away and unloving. Such experiences do not change the truth about the Most Holy Trinity; rather, they are occasions for us to choose to persevere in faith and hope. St. Paul teaches us in his Letter to the Romans that because of faith, “we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, we even boast of our afflictions.” In times of affliction, God is still close and still wonderful. We can be certain of this because “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
When the mystery of the Trinity seems to hide God from us more than reveal him, and when afflictions tempt us to doubt his intimate love, we make the Sign of the Cross in prayer. When we turn to the Cross, we see that the love that is poured into our hearts is flowing from the wounded Heart of Jesus Christ. We see that God has indeed united himself most intimately with us through the worst afflictions we ever face – suffering, fear, brokenness, abandonment, death. Jesus, who reveals to us the love of the Father and who sends us the Spirit of Truth, teaches us from the Cross that divine love is not absent in suffering, but is more present than ever. He teaches us the way to love as he loves, by allowing his love to pour into our hearts, and from our hearts into our sacrifice for others. He gives us the gift of divine life and invites us to love with his love, by the power of his Spirit. We share in the very life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
How can I draw closer to others especially those who endure afflictions? How do my sufferings, fears, and brokenness unite me more intimately with God? How am I living my life now knowing that my destiny is to be conformed to God in glory?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 18, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.