Year C: The Solemnity of The Holy Trinity, Sunday after Pentecost
John 16: 12-15
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason, I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
- “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. Have you ever withheld a truth from someone you love because they would be unable to bear it?
- Beyond the theological concept of the Trinity, what does the Trinity mean to you? Where have you experienced the mystery of trinitarian relationships in your day-to-day faith journey?
- When you pray, do you pray to one person in the Trinity more than another? If so, do you know why?
- What role does the Holy Spirit play in your life?
Margaret Nutting Ralph
John 16: 12-15
The scene for today’s reading is once more Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples on the night before he dies. Jesus knows that the disciples are simply unable to understand what he is telling them and that they will be equally unable to understand the events that they will soon encounter: Jesus’ arrest and his scandalous death on a cross. Jesus acknowledges their inability to understand when he says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”
Once Jesus has departed, how are the disciples to learn the truth? Jesus assures the disciples that “the Spirit of truth… will guide you to all truth.” We just read, on Pentecost Sunday? John’s account of the disciples receiving that Spirit of truth on the evening of the resurrection when Jesus appears to them: “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit” (John 20:22). In John’s Gospels Jesus fulfills both his promise to return and his promise of the gift of the Spirit on Easter Sunday evening.
Jesus tells the disciples that when the Spirit of truth comes, “he will guide you to all truth” and “will declare to you the things that are coming. “Jesus is not saying that the gift that the Holy Spirit will give to the disciples is knowledge about inevitable future events. The “things that are coming,” in this context, are Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. The disciples will be frightened and disillusioned by these events. Once they receive the Spirit they will understand the events in an entirely new light.
The Spirit of truth will not “speak on his own,” but “will speak what he hears.” Jesus himself is the revelation of the Father’s love. However, the world has not yet understood this revelation or the mighty saving act that the Father has accomplished through Jesus. So, the Spirit will teach the same truth that Jesus has taught to a world that has not yet understood it.
The Spirit will glorify Jesus: “He will glorify me.” As we discussed before, to see Jesus’ glory is to witness Jesus’ saving acts and to witness some visible manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. In John’s Gospel Jesus’ glory is revealed when he is lifted up, both on the cross and in the resurrection (John 12:27-36). The Spirit will glorify Jesus by making the truth about his death and resurrection known to his disciples.
Just before Jesus’ arrest in the garden he showed that he understood that his crucifixion would reveal the Father’s glory. Jesus said, “ I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? Father, save me from this hour?” But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again’ ” (John 12:27-28). Unlike Jesus, the disciples will not immediately see Jesus’ glory or the Father’s glory in the “things that are to come,” but with the help of the Spirit of truth they will eventually understand.
Our reading ends with an emphasis on the fact that the Holy Spirit will reveal not a new truth but the same truth that Jesus himself has revealed. Twice Jesus says, “he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” However, the truth that is Jesus’ is also the Father’s. “Everything that the Father has is mine.” On this Trinity Sunday we celebrate the Father, Son, and Spirit, who share the same truth: God is love. The Son has revealed the Father’s love, and the Spirit has continued to teach this revelation through the centuries.
Stop Thinking About God
Fr. Michael K. Marsh
What I am about to tell you may sound a bit strange. It might even sound as if I am being unfaithful and inappropriate, especially on the Feast of The Holy Trinity, I think it’s important, however, even necessary. Ready? Stop thinking about God. You probably didn’t come here today expecting to be told to stop thinking about God so let me explain what I mean.
Last week I met with a gentleman who comes to see me for spiritual direction. We eventually got around to a recurring question for him. It comes up about every three to four months. “I don’t understand the Trinity,” he said. “It makes no sense to me. I don’t get it, one God in three persons.” He’s neither the first nor the last to struggle with that question.
I didn’t say anything, I just nodded my head. After a while he broke the silence. “You’re not going to explain it, are you?” I still didn’t say anything, I just shook my head. We sat there for a bit. This time I broke the silence. “So tell me,” I said,” what would you do if one day you finally got, it all made sense, and you completely understood the Trinity?” “Well,” he said, “I’d probably come up with another question, another problem to be solved.” Knowing full well that the pot was about to call the kettle black I said to him, “You think too much.”
I have become increasingly convinced that we spend too much time and effort thinking about God. That’s not just an observation. It is also a confession of one who loves thinking about God. Maybe we should spend less time thinking about God and instead simply be with God. Here’s what I mean. Would you rather be with the one you love or think about the one you love? Would you prefer your relationships be defined by love for another or information about another?
We do not think our way into relationships. In today’s gospel (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus does not say that we are to make disciples of all nations by telling them to think about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He says, “baptize them;” immerse them, plunge them, wash them, soak them in the name, the very attributes and qualities, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This means we are all to live trinitarian lives. How could we not? How could it be anything else? We have been created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27) who is a trinity of persons.
There is a sense in which thinking about God keeps us from being present to and with God. In some way thinking about God distances us from God and sets up a subject-object duality. That is the very opposite of trinitarian life.
We think about other people when we are not with them. We think about our children who have grown up and moved out. We think about our spouse when we are away from each other. We think about our friends when we are apart. We think about our loved ones who have died. But in that moment when we are really present, when we have truly shown up and offered all that we are and all that we have, we’re not thinking about the other person, we are one with them. It is a moment of love, intimacy, and union. It’s not defined by life or death, distance or geography. It is defined and made possible for us by the eternal life and love shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Who is the person with whom you have the closest, deepest, most intimate relationship? Picture him or her and your relationship. When you are with that person you are not thinking about him or her. In moments of ecstatic love, you look at him or her and see yourself in his or her life and he or she does the same with you. We open ourselves to each other. We give ourselves to the other and receive the other into ourselves. That is the trinitarian life. It is the choreography of love and it’s happening all the time.
In the midst of an honest, real, and meaningful conversation we’re not thinking about the other person. We are with them and they are with us. A single life envelops and flows between us. We don’t make that happen; it just does. That’s trinitarian life.
When we are rolling on the floor, laughing, and playing with our child or grandchild we are not thinking about them, we are completely open and present to their life and they to ours. The line between their life and our life gets blurry and there is only love. That’s trinitarian life.
Sometimes we see the world through another’s eyes and their joys or sorrows take root in us as if they were our own. When that happens, we are not receiving news or information about another, we are sharing a common life. We are loving our neighbor as our self. That’s trinitarian life.
Every now and then we are immersed in prayer and no longer conscious that we are praying. We no longer see ourselves talking to or thinking about God. Rather, our life is one with God’s and we are participating in the life of the Holy Trinity.
Each of these are moments when we can honestly say, “I love, therefore I am.” These and a thousand others just like them are trinitarian moments. Love for one another and faith in the Holy Trinity are integrally related. You cannot have one without the other. As Bishop Kallistos Ware has said, a genuine confession of faith in the Triune God can only be made by those who show mutual love to one another. Our love for one another is the precondition for a Trinitarian faith and a Trinitarian faith is what makes possible, fosters, and gives meaning to our love for another.
The Holy Trinity is not a concept to be explained, numbers to be calculated, or a problem to be solved. It is a life to be lived, a love to be shared, and a beauty to be revealed. Stop thinking about God. Live the life, share the love, reveal the beauty.
Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle C, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com.
Spiritual Reflection excerpted from Interrupting the Silence: Fr. Michael K. Marsh. Used with permission. www.interruptingthesilence.com