June 11, 2017
Ex 34: 4-6, 8-9
John 3: 16-18
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.
Amid the press of packing for departure from Champaign as well as carrying on normal pastoral duties, I resorted to recycling a homily for the feast of the Holy Trinity (from 2014). I did tweak it a little bit.“The Lord passed before Moses and cried out, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity’” (Ex 34: 6).
We’re taught that the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the core dogmas of our faith, perhaps the most fundamental of our beliefs. The Creed that we profess every week and our baptismal profession are structured around the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This fundamental belief distinguishes Christianity from the other religions that believe, as we do, in the one God who created the universe, rules it, and will judge us all at the end of lives, viz., Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism.
Yet we can’t explain this fundamental doctrine, only define it—3 Persons in 1 God—and profess and celebrate it. Great theologians have tried to understand and explain the Trinity—e.g., St. Augustine in the 5th century, St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, and Fr. Karl Rahner in the 20th century. But finally we can only say, humbly, I believe even tho I don’t understand.
One aspect of the Holy Trinity that we can grasp is that God is love. The Trinity involves relationships—Father and Son, and their personal union that is a 3d Person. Their love overflows, as it were, to involve us: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).
That love seems to be the focus of the readings this morning—the “take-away,” if you will.
In the 1st reading, God has summoned Moses to climb Mt. Sinai to meet him. As you know, God had called Moses personally to his role as liberator of the Hebrews, and God maintained an intimate friendship with him. The word “love” isn’t used to describe that relationship, but “friend” is (Ex 33:12,17). Moreover, it was to Moses that God 1st revealed his own name, in the apparition at the burning bush (Ex 3:14). His name is YHWH, a mysterious Hebrew name that may be interpreted in various ways: “I am,” “I am who I am,” “He who is,” “I am he who causes what is,” “He who brings into being whatever comes into being.”
In most modern translations, that proper name is rendered LORD with all caps, and so it is in our passage today. “God stood with Moses there and pronounced his name, ‘LORD,’” i.e., YHWH. And the Lord YHWH tells us more about himself: “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” He comes to be with Moses, to be with Israel, to be their kind and merciful protector, to stand by them faithfully, to save them from the oppression of the Egyptians.
This is the God who sends his only Son to take human deliverance 3 steps further.
The 1st step is to deliver his people not merely from earthly slavery but from spiritual oppression, from alienation from God and from our fellow human beings, from sin, and even from death, the ultimate result of sin.
The 2d step is to deliver all of humanity, and not just a single nation, from that oppression. “God so loved the world,” not “God so loved Israel.”
The Holy Trinity and the Saints
from the breviary of Mattia Corvino
The 3d step is to bring those whom he saves thru the Son into a close relationship with himself: a fellowship, a communion, membership in the divine family. Moses’ intimate relationship with God prefigured that communion of heart and will opened to us by Jesus. In Christ this communion is extended to every man and woman who “believes in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).
God is 3. He is relational. He is a community. In his graciousness and mercy, he draws us into his community; he shares with us his love; he makes us family.