John 3:16-18 (Trinity Sunday, year A)
Once a group of adventurers were making their way through a dense jungle. In order to make any progress, they had to cut their way through the vegetation with machetes. It was hard, slow work. Eventually, on member of the group had the great idea to climb a tree in order to get a better view and check on their progress. Climbing the tree, he looked out and to his great surprise found that the group was making their way towards a giant cliff. He called down to his friends in an attempt to warn them that they were going the wrong way. The rest of the group would not listen to him. They kept silencing him saying, “we’re making good progress, come down from the tree and help us!” In our life, we can be like this group making our way through the jungle. We feel that we are making good progress. We go through our daily grind and can be satisfied just to soldier on. We rarely check, however, to see if we are even going in the right direction on our journey. Perhaps we are headed for a cliff. Today, Trinity Sunday, is a great chance for us to climb the tree and see which way we are headed. Today is an opportunity to put our lives in perspective and answer some important questions: where have I come from? Where am I going?The answer to the question, “where have we come from?” is simple: the Trinity. That is our origin. The Trinity both the most important and perplexing Christina belief. A helpful way to consider the Trinity is to start with what is perhaps the most important definition of God: God is love (1 John 3:16). This says much more than simply God is “loving”, something many religions would agree with. In order for God to be love, there must exist within God a community involving a lover, a beloved and the love they share between them. This corresponds to the Persons in the Trinity: Father (lover), Son (beloved) and Holy Spirit (love they share). The communion of love they share is so perfect that they are one in substance. They remain, however, three different Persons, differentiated only by the relationships they have with one another. The Trinity has existed eternally in a state of perfection, before anything was ever created. An important question to consider is “why did the Trinity create”? Was God lacking in anything? We can discover the answer by considering that definition once again: God is love. An elderly priest once told me a story. He said that after his sister got married, she and her husband very much wanted to have a child but were encountering difficulties. They told the priest, “please pray that we can have a child because the love that we share between us is so great that we need to share it with someone”. Likewise, God created out of an overabundance of love and goodness. We have come from the perfect love of the God, who from all eternity has existed in community.
We were created in order to be in a relationship with the Trinity. This is the purpose of our existence. This idea is illustrated in a very interesting way in one of the most famous artistic representations of the Trinity, an icon by Andrei Rublev. In this icon, the Persons of the Trinity are seated at a table. The Father is seated to the left, the Son in the back and the Holy Spirit to the right. It is an image of loving communion and perfect happiness. If you have seen the icon, however, you will realize that there is an empty seat at the table, directly in the front. With this, Rublev sends the message that this place at the table is meant to be taken by each one of us. We have been created by the Trinity so that we could share in their communion of love. This relationship defines who we are as a human being. There is a space for us at the table with the Trinity.This wonderful plan was destroyed by sin. Sin separates us from God, because it is the opposite of love. It prevents us from entering into this communion of love with the Trinity. Sometimes we fail to realize how serious and destructive sin is. That it destroys something so beautiful. If you have ever visited St. Peter’s Basilica, you will no doubt have noticed that a large crowd usually gathers in a spot in the back of the Church, just to the right, when you enter the Basilica. People gather there to catch a glimpse of Michelangelo’s Pieta. This statue, which depicts Mary cradling the dead body of her Son, is among the most beautiful and priceless works of art in the world. If you have ever viewed it, you also know that there is a large plexiglass screen separating visitors from the masterpiece. This was not always the case. In 1972, a man attacked the statue with a hammer. Before visitors constrained him, he was able to strike the statute more than ten times, breaking off Mary’s nose and arm. Though the statue was repaired, it was never quite the same. In the wake of this attack, people could not comprehend how someone could deface a work of such beauty and goodness. This event is a apt analogy for sin and should help us better comprehend the its severity. Sin destroys something infinitely more good and beautiful than the Pieta: our loving relationship with the Trinity.
Jesus’ mission was to allow us to enter into communion with the Trinity once again. The Gospel of today contained what is among the most famous passages of the New Testament, John 3:16. You have probably seen people holding posters at sporting events with this passage on it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The Trinity created us out of love. The Father sent His Son to save us out of love. Let’s return back to the story about people hiking through the jungle. By His passion, death and resurrection, Jesus has cut path for us through the jungle and back to the heart of the Trinity. He has allowed us to enter once again into a relationship with God, this is the destination of our life. Jesus has cleared this path and opened it to all as a free gift. Our salvation, however, is not automatic. As we heard in the Gospel, we have to walk down the path laid out by Jesus. We need to trust Him, believe in Him and live a life in conformity with the Gospel. It is important to ask ourselves: are we following the path laid out by Jesus that leads us into communion with the Trinity in this life and the next? Or, are there areas in our life, certain behaviours or attitudes, that are bringing us towards a cliff? Out of love, Jesus came so that we would once again be able to live in a loving relationship with the Trinity.
Because life is busy, it is easy to get caught up in our day to day commitments and lose sight of the ultimate destination in our life. We get stuck in the jungle, hacking with our machete, and easily lose our way. Trinity Sunday is meant to give us perspective. We often make the sign of the cross. It is such a simple and powerful prayer. Often, however, we don’t pay attention to what we are doing. Whenever we make the sign of the cross, let it be an opportunity to consciously remember that we have come from the love of the Trinity and are meant to return back to this loving communion. Knowing from where we’ve come and to where we are going should determine how we live and the choices we make.