With the end of Easter, we return to the season of Ordinary Time. This Sunday and next, however, are designated as special days that call our attention to central mysteries of our faith. Today the Gospel passage we read follows Jesus’ conversation with a Pharisee, Nicodemus, about what it means to be born of both water and the spirit. After the dialogue with Nicodemus, the author of the Gospel offers his own explanation of Jesus’ words. This is what we read in today’s Gospel, John 3:16-18.
In the context of today’s focus on the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the reading calls our attention to the action of God, who reveals himself in three persons: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God the Father, out of love for the world, sent his Son into the world to save it. Through the death and resurrection of the Son, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. As three persons, God acts always as a God of love; he does not condemn the world but acts to save it.
The Gospel also calls attention to the response that is required of us. God’s love for us calls us to respond in faith by professing our belief in God’s son, Jesus, and the salvation that he has won for us. This profession of faith is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
There have been many attempts to try to bring this mystery into our level of understanding. Some have said that the Trinity is like water in its three phases: steam, liquid, and ice. My seminary theology professor kindly explained to me why this position was in error when I tried it out on him.
Others have said that the Trinity is like the same person with three different titles, such as a woman could be a mother, sister, and daughter all at the same time. With all things considered, none of these analogies or metaphors or symbols or whatever it is you want to call them is an accurate illustration.
Rather than trying to shrink a vast mystery into a short explanation, it seems better to ask ourselves what the Trinity has to do with us today. How does the Holy Trinity connect to our day-to-day lives?
In Jesus Christ, we see everything there is to see about God’s love. We see a person who entered our world in the humblest, most ordinary way possible. We see a person who loved everyone and who challenged everyone to be transformed. That’s an important point: Jesus never said to someone he met, “You’re perfect just as you are” but rather invited every person to be transformed by the power of God’s love. The mystery of the Holy Trinity pushes us to look further. Last Sunday and today, as we think about the Holy Spirit, we see yet another dimension of God’s love for us.
In the Holy Spirit, God has promised to be with us always, to guide us into all truth. The Holy Spirit’s guidance and love is inseparable from the love of God the Father and from the love of God the Son. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, and Jesus and the Father are one. There is a mutual glorification at work, and each person of the Holy Trinity reveals something about the other persons of the Trinity. And that is what can draw us into the heart of God’s eternal love: The Trinity represents how God’s very being is about relationship and love. The Holy Trinity is itself the manifestation of God’s abiding promise to be with us at every turn, through every struggle.
This is Good News in our time. So often our temptation is to tear apart the fabric of society and put others down, but we see in the Holy Trinity a God who unites and glorifies. So often our impulse is to separate ourselves from that which challenges us, but we see in the Holy Trinity a God who is eternally steadfast. So often we limit our reality or our possibilities to what fits into our own finite understanding, but in the Holy Trinity, we see a God who promises to lead us into all truth, into deeper mystery.
Today, let us not try to explain away something that is unfathomable. Instead, let us join in songs and prayers of praise to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And let us give thanks that this Triune God loves us more than we can imagine. Let us give praise for our God’s everlasting presence in our lives in this age and in the age to come. And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, three Persons, one God, be ascribed all might, majesty, dominion, and power, both now and forever, world without end. Amen.