May 20, 2016

Rejoice in the Lord

The face of mercy is the Blessed Trinity

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

“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” (Jn 16:12-15).

Each year on the Sunday following the great feast of Pentecost, the Church asks us to reflect on the marvelous mystery of God’s nature as three persons in one divine being. We call this mystery the Blessed Trinity, the most fundamental and essential teaching in our faith and life as baptized Christians. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #234.)

This jubilee year, the Holy Year of Mercy, we are invited to reflect on the Holy Trinity as “the face of love,” and the manifestation of the power and endurance of God’s mercy that will last forever. God’s inner life, his triune nature, has something very important to teach us about ourselves as people who are loved unconditionally, and who are called to love others in the same unconditional way.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading for Trinity Sunday that “Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). The love poured into our hearts is, of course, the love that is God’s inner nature. It is the endless mercy that is given to us without any expectation that we will (or could) earn it or pay for it by our own words or deeds. The only thing expected of us in response to God’s freely given love is that we love ourselves, and others, in return.

Jesus is the merciful love of God incarnate. Jesus is what we are called to be—children of the Father who bear witness to his loving kindness. “No one knows the Son except the Father,” Jesus tells us, “and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt 11:27).

We baptized Christians are blessed because Jesus has chosen to reveal our heavenly Father to us. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we know who the Father is, and we know how much he loves us. We know also that we have a divine advocate, the Holy Spirit, who is with us always to teach and guide us as we follow Jesus on our life’s journey home to the merciful Father, who will welcome us with open and loving arms.

The Trinity is the central mystery of our faith, but it is really a very simple concept. God is love filled to overflowing. There is so much love in God that it expresses itself in a unity that is not closed in on itself. God’s love is triune. It is a threefold witness to the truth that love is never stagnant or self-contained, but is always in relationship to others. God creates because he cannot hold back. He forgives because he cannot bear to see anyone excluded from the ever-widening circle of his infinite love.

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, the risen Lord acknowledges that there is only so much our limited minds and hearts can absorb. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” he tells his timid and frightened disciples. “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:12-13). The Holy Spirit helps us understand—gradually over time—the central mystery of our faith and life: That God is love and that we have been chosen to proclaim this mystery in our words and in our actions to the whole world.

St. John Paul II taught that mercy is “love’s second name” and that it lasts forever through the power of the Holy Spirit, and “takes upon itself the burden of any need in its immense capacity for forgiveness.” Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continued to emphasize the importance of divine mercy for our understanding of who God is, and who we are as women and men made in God’s image and likeness. If God is the face of mercy, we must be also. Otherwise we distort God’s image and fail to give truthful witness to him.

This Trinity Sunday, let’s see God as he really is—the unconditional love who creates, redeems and sanctifies all things visible and invisible. And let’s be merciful to one another as our Triune God has been merciful to us. †

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