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THE MOST HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY – YEAR A – OT
Readings: Exo 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18.
1/ Reading I: RSV Exodus 34:4 So Moses rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tables of stone. 5 And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” 8 And Moses made haste to bow his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in thy sight, O Lord, let the Lord, I pray thee, go in the midst of us, although it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thy inheritance.”
2/ Reading II: RSV 2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.
3/ Gospel: RSV John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
I. THEME: The expressions of the Trinity’s love
The Trinitarian mystery is the most difficult mystery to explain. If God doesn’t reveal, people are never able to understand this mystery. No matter if people can understand or not, this mystery is still existed. The Trinitarian mystery isn’t an invention by theologians or mystics; but a reality because it is revealed by Christ, God’s Only Son. It is hidden many places in the Old Testament (Gen 1:1-2:3; 18:1-15; Psa 110 and today first reading). Instead of paying attention to the theologizing of the Trinity, today readings pay a special attention to the expression of the Trinity’s love for human beings.
In the first reading, God chose the way of love to forgive the Israelites’ sins instead of the way of anger to destroy them in deserts. He accepted Moses’ request to accompany the Israelites, not only until they come to the Promise Land; but also to give people the Immanuel to stay with them all the days of their life. In the second reading, St. Paul used the exemplar of the Trinity to bless and to encourage the Corinthians to imitate this exemplar to love, to forgive and to unite with each other in their life. In the Gospel, St. John expressed God’s love concisely and terse: God so loves the world that He gave His Only Son, so that all who believe in him shall have the eternal life.
1/ Reading I: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
1.1/ The Israelites betrayed the Lord but He still faithfully loves them: The background of today passage is God’s giving the Ten Commandments to the Israelites through Moses. While God called Moses to Mount Sinai to give the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were gathering their gold and gave to Aaron to mold for them a golden calf to worship (Exo 32:1-6). God saw everything and commanded Moses to go down to see for himself people’s betrayal. When Moses saw people worship the golden calf, he got angry and used the two tablets which he was holding to shatter the calf, burnt it with fire, grounded it to powder, dissolved it with water, and made the people of Israel drink it (Exo 32:19-20).
God could destroy the Israelites due to their sins, but out of His love, He doesn’t want them to die in deserts; so He commanded Moses to make two other tablets and to go up to the mountain to meet Him. That is the reason of today passage. The content of the Ten Commandment is unchanged because Moses was revealed by God. “So Moses rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tables of stone. And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.”
The Lord Himself revealed to Moses His five important attributes. The prophet Joel repeated four of these five attributes (Joel 2:13). It is important for us to study these five attributes:
(1) Compassionate (rakhum): God understands people’s weaknesses because He creates them; He doesn’t expect them to be sinless. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews expressed well this attribute in Christ who went through all human temptations and sufferings (Heb 2:15). This attribute is important for us to understand because it helps us to know that God has compassion for our weaknesses.
(2) Gracious (khanun): God doesn’t treat people according to their sins; if He does that no one can be saved. Since He has compassion for our weaknesses, He will treat us according to His merciful love.
(3) Slow of anger (êrek apayim): God doesn’t punish people right after they sin; but He always advises and warns many times before He punishes them. He wants people to have many chances for repentance. The worship of the golden calf is a typical example of this attribute of God.
(4) Goodness or kindness (hesed): God always treats people with goodness no matter who they are. He sends rain and sunshine on both good and wicked people.
(5) Faithfulness (emet): He is always faithful though people are unfaithful to Him. The prophet Hosea used the image of the good husband for his unfaithful wife to express this attribute of God (Hos 1:2; 2:2-3). He always keeps His promises which He made with our forefathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Hesed and emet used to be paired to indicate God’s attributes (Cf. 2 Sam 2:6; 15:20; Psa 25:10; 61:8; 89:14), and can be translated as “goodness and faithfulness.” Since God is always faithful to His people, He must invent ways to bring people back after they betrayed Him. These attributes are shown in the covenants He made with them.
1.2/ Moses’ request to the Lord: Moses knows it is impossible for him to lead people to the Promise Land because they are so large and difficult to control, so he made a wise petition to God to accompany him and the Israelites, “If now I have found favor in thy sight, O Lord, let the Lord, I pray thee, go in the midst of us.” This prayer has a significant meaning when God accepted Moses’ request: God agrees to accompany not only the Israelites till they entered the Promise Land and also after that in the Ark, but also with all the faithful in the Tabernacle until the end of the earth. He promised to give the Immanuel who always lives in the midst of people
Christ is this Immanuel. He is God who incarnated in a human body to live and to remain with people. God continues to forgive people’s sins through Christ because he sacrificed himself to redeem their sins. Through Christ, God receives the people who were redeemed as His own inheritance.
2/ Reading II: “Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
2.1/ The Trinitarian mystery according to St. Paul: The Church uses St. Paul’s blessing formula, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14) as the blessing at the beginning of the Mass. Many scholars disputed about this verse as later addition; but it was recorded in the Vaticanus Codex (about 4th AD). Even it is added later, it must be one of the sources which the Council of Nicea (325 AD) used to declare the Trinitarian mystery.
This is the only time in the whole Pauline corpus, disputed and undisputed, mentioned about the relationships between the Trinity; although Paul analyzed many times about the role of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in different places. We should analyze this blessing to understand its meanings.
(1) The grace (charis) of the Lord Jesus Christ: There are many graces which come from Christ’s merits through his Passion, death and glorious resurrection. These graces are bestowed on people through the sacraments which he established them.
(2) The love (agape) of God: St. Paul can mention many of God’s attributes, but none is more proper than God’s love. St. John also highlighted this attribute when he defined, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Out of this love, God does everything for people.
(3) The fellowship (koinonia) of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is the principle of unity between the Father and the Son, between God and people and between people with each other. When people are in unity with the Trinity, they must also be in unity with each other.
2.2/ The faithful must imitate the Trinity: In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul helped them to solve many problems. After the doctrinal section, Paul advised them to imitate the Trinity by paying attention to the following five things:
(1) Rejoice (chairete):There are many things that cause joy for the faithful: They are loved and cared for by the Trinity; they have the hope to be united and to live with the Trinity forever; they are equipped with divine truths to overcome all falsities of the devil and the world, etc. The faithful must be the witnesses of joy for the world.
(2) Be perfect (katartizesthe): People aren’t born perfectly but they have the potential to be perfect as their Father in heaven. By recognizing their weaknesses and by acquiring virtues gradually with God’s help, the faithful can be perfected.
(3) Be comforted (parakaleisthe): This verb can mean “to call for help in time of need.” The noun “paraclete” means the advocate; comes from this verb. Paul used this verb at passive to indicate that the faithful must be comforted by themselves. This can be achieved when they know from where their sources of strength are, and how they can get them. All three persons of the Trinity and their gifts must be the sources. Trials and sufferings are opportunities for the faithful to be purified and to be perfect.
(4) To agree with one another or to have the same mind (to auto phroneite): The unity of the Corinthian community is Paul’s main concern. To preserve the unity, the faithful must have the same thinking to solve their problems. In the Letter to the Philippians (Phi 2:2-11), Paul used the exemplar of Christ for the faithful to imitate. They must be humble like Christ and work for God’s will, not to seek their own glory.
(5) Live peaceful with one another (eireneute): People have different temperaments and interests, so the faithful must learn to live with each other. They can’t pay attention only to what they want and like to do, but also to the others’ concerns and likes. They can’t exclude others out of their life but try to greet them “with a holy kiss,” the sign of peace between people.
3/ Gospel: God’s love is shown in giving His Only Son to die for us.
3.1/ God’s love for people is expressed through the event He gave them His only Son: To recognize other’s love for us, we can evaluate it through the sacrifice which he must suffer. The Old Testament prepared for people a perfect case in which Abraham was demanded by God to show his love for Him by killing his only son, Isaac. Almost all readers of generations are at odd with God in His inhuman demand; but Abraham didn’t have to kill Isaac. This event was told to prepare people to understand God’s immense love for them. Christ is also God’s Only Begotten Son and he was actually killed, not by his sins but to take away all people’s sins. Every time when we look up to the cross, we should understand how immense the love which God has for us is.
St. Paul explained more about God’s love for the people in the Letter to the Romans as follows, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” Nothing is more precious than Christ. If God gave him to us, He shall not hold back anything from us.
3.2/ God desires salvation for all: Many people are afraid when they think about God’s judgment on the Last Day. St. John reported a different viewpoint in this matter: When God gave people His only Son; He isn’t concerned about judging people but only about saving them. People judge themselves in this world and shall receive their sentence accordingly; and this judgment is depended on their faith in Christ, as St. John wrote, “He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
People in every generation must make their decision on Christ, whether to believe or to deny him:
(1) If people believe in Christ, sent by the Father to die for people’s sins and to bring salvation for them, they have the eternal life.
(2) If people refuse to believe in Christ as their Redeemer, they also deny God’s immense love for them; and so, they deny the eternal life with God which Christ purchased for them by his precious love.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We have an important dignity before the Trinity so all three persons of the Trinity sacrificed for us.
– After experiencing the Trinity’s love, we must also imitate them to sacrifice for others so all can also inherit the eternal life.
– One of the concrete expression of the relationships between the Trinity is the relationships between a father, a mother and their children in a family. We should imitate the Trinity to always obey, to love and to sacrifice for others so that our family is always united and happy in this life and deserved to live the eternal and happy life with the Trinity in heaven.