Frances writes on this coming weekend’s readings :-
The season of Eastertide closes with the Feast of Pentecost, so you might be asking why exactly we herald a return to ‘Ordinary Time’ by celebrating the Holy Trinity. The readings we have had over the last few weeks and those of today’s readings give us a clue: we the Church now live in the love of God and God is triune, as all our readings have stated in the last weeks, the Father sent the Son whose entire being has been dedicated to enfolding us in the love shared between Father and Son through the Holy Spirit. The unthinkable and unimaginable has happened, you and I are ‘made’ by and for God, we are intended by the creator to share his life, a life made open and available through the self-giving of Jesus his Son. Our entire human purpose then is shaped and ordered by God in Trinity; within each of us there is both the capacity for and the longing for God given by God and revealed by the grace of the Spirit throughout our lives. We then are not simply earthly creatures but supernatural ones having capacities which reach out beyond the mortal to the creator of all things who in Christ has willed to make himself known to us and gives himself to us. The God revealed to Judaism and through it to Christianity is not a being who delights in making puppets or underlings of us but wishes to relate to his creatures and graciously invites us to respond to him in absolute freedom.
We see the cost of this freedom in our reading from Exodus (34:4-6, 8-9) in which Moses the leader of the small band of escaped slaves has to deal with the continual rebellion of his people. We might think that their miraculous escape from slavery inEgyptwould have so confirmed them in God’s love that they would never have sinned against him, but the entire history ofIsraelup to the present shows that this is very far from the case. Israel stands for the rest of humanity, selfish, even vicious and wilful, prone to disasters which continually drag us back to our need for God, and who we discover to be endlessly loving and patient despite our bad behaviour. God, we discover does not give up in disgust, throw in the towel and storm off; his commitment to us is absolute and his outreach to us in the Trinity never failing.
Lest we consider that these failings were merely a problem of our ancestors the Church requires us to read the closing passage of 2 Corinthians (13:11-13) for our second reading. On the face of it, all seems to be well, Paul wishes the Corinthians happiness, speaks of their greeting their brothers with ‘a holy kiss’ and commends them to the grace of the Trinity. But anyone who takes the trouble to read the Corinthian Letters will immediately become aware that in actuality the lives of the Corinthian Christians were far removed from this idyll. Quite unlike the ecstatic passages of Philippians or Ephesians, the Corinthians appear to be almost universally unpraiseworthy! They are selfish, self-seeking, their behaviour often a scandal even to pagans ; they continually argue and disagree and the Second Letter is full of unspoken tensions which the apostle has to deal with, not the least their fulsome promise of famine relief which they then regret and try to escape from, so that Paul has to twist their arms with the threat of unfavourable comparison with the far poorer but infinitely more generous Christians of Macedonia. Yet in all this, so like the Jews of earlier history, God loves them and enfolds them in his love and redemption. Paul never delivers a message of rejection from God, merely heartfelt reproof and forgiveness and the grace of repentance.
It is the message too of John’s gospel : (3:16-18) as Jesus says to Nicodemus, the promise of eternal life, never condemnation but the offer of salvation delivered through the Son he sent in his compassion to the world. We, along with most of the world’s peoples, may think this is a thoroughly crazy message and viewed from the present state of material things this is so, but our readings encourage us to look at things not from the thoroughly warped valuation of our eyes, but from that of God. God who is eternally a threesome of love – not a feeling or attitude which might be lost or gained, but his indelible nature, Father, Son and Spirit, who cannot be other than self sacrificial and giving ; God, whose purpose is to share, to give as only divinity can – to the uttermost. That is why we devote a specific Sunday to celebrating the Holy Trinity; it is a reaching out into the very heart of God as He is. God does not then have a nice ‘feeling’ about the world, God ‘so loved the world’ is a statement about what God ‘is’, and on this day we give praise and thanks for it.