Commentary on the Readings: Feast of the Holy Trinity – June 16, 2019
Solitary God or God of Communion?
What is the identity card of Christians? What feature distinguishes them from the followers of other religions? Not the love of neighbor: the others too—we know—do good. Not prayer the Muslims also pray. Not the faith in God: the pagans have too. It is not enough to believe in God, it is important to know in which God we believe. Is he a “something” or a “someone?” Is he a father who wants to share his life or an employer who is looking for new subjects?
The Muslims say: God is absolute. He is the creator who lives up there, governs from above, and never comes down, a judge who is waiting for the showdown.
The Jews—on the contrary—say that God walks with his people, manifests himself in history, seeks an alliance with people.
Christians celebrate today the specific aspect of their faith: they believe in a Triune God. They believe that God is the Father who created the universe and directs it with wisdom and love; They believe that he did not remain in heaven, but in his image, the Son, he came to become one of us; they believe that he accomplishes his plan of love with his power, with his Spirit.
Every idea or expression of God has an immediate impact on the identity of people. The face of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit should be recognizable in every Christian. The visible image of the Trinity is the Church that receives everything from God and gives everything for free. She is wholly projected, as Jesus, toward the brothers and sisters in an attitude of unconditional availability. In her, the diversity is not eliminated in the name of unity but is considered an enrichment.
The imprint of the Trinity in families, a sign of a genuine dialogue of love, mutual understanding and willingness to open the hearts to those who need to feel loved, must be captured.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
”I seek your face, O Lord, do not hide your face from me.”
First Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31
The First Reading introduces the theme of the Trinity speaking to us of the Father, Creator of the universe. His wise work is presented with striking images that, to be understood, they need a brief mention of the cosmological concepts to which they are inspired.
The ancients imagined the world built on three levels: – The land inhabited by living beings; – The underground, kingdom of the dead, of the infernal rivers and dark waters of the abyss that feed the springs and the rivers and also the enormous columns on which the earth rested wherever they are posted; – Finally, supported by the “eternal mountains” (Deut 33:15), there is the upper floor, the sky, formed by a sheet of shiny crystal that holds the upper waters. By cataracts that open and close, God dumps rain, snow, and dew. At this firmament hang the heavenly bodies, the stars, the planets, the moon and the sun that move and travel their course on specially drawn paths.
How did this fascinating and mysterious cosmos that surrounds and stands above us come about? The reading explains it.
First of all, God made Wisdom. The author of the book of Proverbs imagines her as a charming girl that the Lord wants at his side, from the very beginning, to make her follow and contemplate all his activities (vv. 22-23). It is in her presence that he created the universe.
He begins his work under the earth: he puts the abyss in order and prepares the abundant springs that feed the rivers and the seas (v. 24), lays down the bases of the mountains, brings out the land from the waters and forms the fields (vv. 25-26), while Wisdom always sits beside him and admires him, amazed. Then he arranges the heavens with clouds, puts a circle along the horizon to separate the waters that are above the firmament from that of the abyss and sets a limit to the sea (vv. 27-29).
The scene which concludes the reading (vv. 30-31) is delightful and invokes God’s judgment at the end of the creative work: “God saw all that he had made and it was very good” (Gen 1:31 ).
It is all an explosion of joy. Wisdom says that she was delighted and danced all the time, happy before God, while he was pleased with her presence. Finally, he expresses his desire to remain on earth forever, his joy, in fact, is to be among people (vv. 30-31).
What do these images mean? When one reflects on what happens in the world, the disasters, the atrocities that are being committed, it is easy to come out not only touched but often gripped by doubt that the universe is the result of chance, that everything is just confusion, that nothing has meaning. The reading assures: creation comes out of the hands of a wise and provident Father. He has always been assisted by his wisdom during all his activities; creation responds to a project of love, even if the intelligence of man is not always able to grasp it. We are like children in front of a cathedral under construction. Those who enter a site see disorder, stacked materials, piles of sand, iron bars, axes, bricks, cans, hammers, nails scattered everywhere. Only at the end, when the work is completed, one understands that what seemed only confusion, actually fell within the wise plan of a skilled architect.
Having faith in God the Father—is the message of the reading—is to believe that he did it all with wisdom and love.
Second Reading: Romans 5:1-5
After creating the universe with wisdom, God did not consider his work finished. He has not withdrawn into heaven abandoning the world, and people to themselves.
Our thoughts lead us to remove God from our world, to place him in an unreachable point by our impurities. “I know that I am very bold to speak like this to my Lord, I who am only dust and ashes!”—says Abraham (Gen 18:27).
The God who reveals himself from the first pages of the Bible is rather surprising: not only does he not consider his holiness endangered by contact with his creatures, but expresses an irresistible urge to be in this world. He caresses man while he molds him with the dust of the earth and blows in him his very own breath of life (Gen 2:7). Then he descends from the sky and walks beside him in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8).
Everything prepares the surprise to which even the First Reading introduced us: the Wisdom of God not only does not have fear of contamination but “is delighted to be on the ground and puts his delight in the children of people.”
In the fullness of time, the Wisdom of God has come “to visit us from on high,” he has become one of us. This is the Son of God made man, the perfect image of the Father. It is him that wisdom talked about in the first reading.
Why has God entered our history? The second biblical text proposed to us today says: he intervened to justify us, through faith in Jesus; that is why “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (vv. 1-2). What does it mean?
Faced with their own kind, people boast of their ability, their strength, their wealth, and their successes. But, before God, of what can they brag about? Someone responds to this question: they can assert their good works. If they behave well, he looks at them with pleasure, if they misbehave he is indignant and inflicts punishments.
The Son came into this world to announce an unheard message, amazing, incredible good tidings: the Father has decided to “justify,” that is, to make right all the people in a free way, without considering their merits.
The pride of man is not his good works, but something infinitely more solid and safer: the unconditional love of God. This does not mean that God will cover, will pretend not to see our sins. This would not be salvation. God makes all people righteous because, leaving them free forever, he manages, with his love, to change their hearts and make them good.
Take for example the behavior of a mother: even if the child refuses food and is stubborn in keeping his mouth shut, she is not discouraged; she does not resign in the face of the vagaries of the child and with kisses and caresses, she always manages to get the son nourished with what makes him grow. It is unthinkable that the all-powerful love of God is weaker than that of a mother’s.
If one would look only to himself, a person has only one thing to brag about: his or her own weakness (v. 3). This outlook—Paul says—does not have to throw one into disarray, but to open to trust in God’s love and to give rise to a hope that, certainly, will never disappoint (v. 5).
To have faith in God the Son is to believe that he loves people to the point of sharing the precariousness and fragility of life; it means to have the hope that this infinite love can record some momentary failure, never a final defeat.
Gospel: John 16:12-15
It is the fifth time that, in John’s the Gospel, Jesus promises to send the Spirit, and says it will be the Spirit to carry out the project of the Father. Without his work people could never be able to accept salvation.
The passage begins with the words of Jesus: “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now” (v. 12). This phrase might suggest that Jesus, having lived a few years, has not had the opportunity to convey his whole message. So as not to leave his mission halfway, abruptly interrupted by his death, he would send the Spirit to teach what was missing.
This is not the meaning. Jesus clearly stated that he has no other revelations to do: “I have made known to you everything I learned from my Father” (Jn 15:15) and in today’s Gospel he says that the Spirit will not add anything to what he has said: “he has nothing to say of himself, but he will speak of what he hears … . He takes what is mine and makes it known to you” (vv.13-14). He does not have the duty to supplement or expand the message but to enlighten the disciples to make them understand correctly what the Master taught. The reason why Jesus does not explain everything is not the lack of time, but the inability of the disciples to “bear the burden” of his message. What is it? What is the “too heavy” topic for their weak forces?
It is the weight of the cross. Through human explanations and reasoning, it is impossible to come to understand that the plan of salvation of God comes through failure, defeat, and the death of his Son at the hands of the wicked. It is impossible to understand that life is reached only by passing through death, through the free gift of oneself. This is the “total truth,” very heavy, impossible to sustain without the power communicated by the Holy Spirit.
In the First Reading, we have considered the project of the Father in creation. In the Second Reading, it was explained to us that this project is carried out by the Son, but we did not yet know that the path to salvation would be not only strange but even absurd. That’s why the Spirit’s work is necessary. Only he can lead us to adhere to the project of the Father and the work of the Son.
He will tell you of the things to come (v. 13). This is not—as claimed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses—the predictions about the end of the world, but the practical implications of Jesus’ message. It is not enough to read what is written in the Gospel; one needs to apply it to the concrete situations of the world. The disciples of Christ will not deceive themselves in these interpretations if they will follow the impulse of the Spirit because he is the one in-charge of guiding “into the whole truth” (v. 13).
To whom does the Spirit reveal himself? All Christ’s disciples are educated and guided by the Spirit: “You have received from him an anointing, and it remains with you, so you do not need someone to teach you … so remain in him, and keep what he has taught you” (1 Jn 2:27).
In the Acts of the Apostles, an episode shows the way and the privileged setting in which the Spirit loves to manifest himself.
In Antioch, while the disciples came together to celebrate the cult of the Lord, the Spirit “speaks,” reveals his plans, his will, his choices (Acts 13:1-2). Prayer, reflection, meditation on the Word, fraternal dialogue create the conditions that allow the Spirit to reveal himself. He does not miraculously send from heaven the solutions; he does not reserve his illuminations to some privileged member; he does not replace the efforts of people, but rather accompanies the passionate pursuit of God’s will that the disciples do together. That’s why, in the early Church, everyone was invited to share with the brothers what, during the community meeting, the Spirit suggested for the edification of all (1 Cor 14).
“He will glorify me” (v. 14). To glorify means for us to applaud, exalt, incense, magnify. Jesus did not need these honors. He is glorified when the Father’s plan of salvation is implemented: the evil becomes right, the poor receive help, who suffers finds solace, the unhappy resumes to hope and to believe in life, the lame man stands up and the leper is made clean. Jesus glorified the Father because he finished the work of salvation which he had been entrusted.
The Spirit, in turn, glorifies Jesus because he opens the minds and hearts of people to his Gospel, gives them the strength to love even the enemies, renews relations between people and creates a society founded on the law of love. That is the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit: a world in which all are his children and they live happily!