A Reflection on the Readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Sunday, June 4, 2023
This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of our faith, but it is a mystery that is beyond human reason. We cannot understand the Trinity intellectually; we can only grasp the concept of one God in three persons through faith. And that faith is offered to us by God through the Holy Spirit. We are taught by the Spirit working through the church that God is one divinity existing in three forms without disparity of substance and without superiority of degree of one over the other. Three infinities, each considered in himself is entirely God; and considered together is entirely God. The three are inseparable.
A mental image I use to contemplate the Trinity is that of an unbreakable bond of love between the Father and the Son. That unbreakable bond of love is the Holy Spirit sent into our hearts to make us aware of the Holy Trinity and to cause us to desire union with that Trinity and union with each other as children of God and heirs of heaven. If the heart is open to that Spirit, we will be led to union with the Trinity. But if the heart is too full of hatred and jealousy, there is no room for the Spirit.
Our first reading from the Book of Exodus draws attention to God the Father. Exodus, of course, is from the Old Testament, in which there is little direct evidence of the trinitarian nature of God. The emphasis of the Old Testament is entirely on God the Father. The Trinity will not be made known to us until the Incarnation of God’s Son and the Pentecost event of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
Our reading from chapter 34 of Exodus should be seen as a renewal of the covenant God made with the people through Moses. The laws of that covenant were inscribed on stone tablets by the hand of God and given to Moses to present to the people. But when Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets and found the people had made a golden idol to worship, in his fury, he smashed the tablets, indicating that the people had broken their covenant with God. In our reading, God first announced himself to Moses as “The Lord. The Lord,” thus assuring Moses of God’s presence. Then God renewed the covenant with new stone tablets because God is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
In ancient times, covenants were made between a greater and a lesser king to avoid warfare. A covenant nearly always began with a prologue that identified the greater king and asserted what he had done for the lesser king, thereby impelling the lesser to be loyal to the greater. It then contained the stipulations of the covenant and the rewards or punishments for loyalty or violations of the covenant. The Ten Commandments (the covenant between God and the people) follow this ancient covenant formula. “I am the Lord, your God” identifies God as the greater king. “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt” proclaims what God has done for the lesser (the people). Then we have the stipulations of the covenant, the remaining commandments.
Our second reading is the conclusion of St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians. This short reading is an appeal by Paul for an end to hostility and for peace in the community, and it ends with one of the clearest trinitarian passages in the New Testament: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
Our gospel passage from chapter 3 of John is also short but very concise. “For God …. gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is not universal salvation; it is limited salvation. There is a caveat here that tells us that salvation is limited to those who believe in the Son of God. “Whoever does not believe has already been condemned.”
Our first reading draws attention to God the Father, our gospel to God the Son. And in our second reading, St. Paul draws the three persons of the Trinity into unity. The Holy Spirit is our union with God. Without the Spirit, we could not begin to comprehend and, therefore, believe in the Holy Trinity. Pray always that we will never disappoint the Spirit through a loss of faith.
Reference: Image of the Trinity ©LPI
Author: Ric Cross