With Pentecost behind us, the Easter Season comes to a close as the Church welcomes a long stretch of Ordinary time. But as is typical for the Church, she’s not yet ready to leave the party behind, so for these next two weeks we continue the celebration by looking at the Church’s most sacred mysteries: The doctrine of the Trinity with this Sunday’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinity Sunday), and next week with doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist with the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (also remembered as Corpus Christi).
It is most fitting to celebrate these solemnities at this time of year because the theologies they represent are what we as a Church have come to realize through the Easter Season, and gives us the spiritual food we need to sustain us through the remainder of the Liturgical Year. Both solemnities, though firmly grounded in the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church Fathers (the two pillars of the Church), they also require us to make that all too necessary leap of faith… to suspend our human senses and reason to reach for something beyond our physical understanding. We believe in a Trinitarian God, we believe bread and wine can be transfigured into the Body and Blood of Christ. Neither of these believes came to us overnight, but they evolved as our understanding and relationship with God evolved.
The Word for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Our first reading for Sunday comes from Exodus, where God, after having set his wrath upon Israel for the Golden Calf incident, has agreed (with Moses’ urging) to take back his people. As you may recall, Moses went up the mountain for 40 days and came back with the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Upon his return, however, he found the camp in disarray having created a new god (the golden calf) to worship. Moses threw down and broke the tables, and vengeance was enacted on those who turned away from the Lord. With today’s reading Moses has returned to the mountain with a new set of tablets in the hopes of reconciliation. It is interesting to put this reading, one that shows us a benevolent God, in context to the previous two chapters where Israelites are slaughtered for their transgressions, leaving Moses now having to reason with God to lead them on. Both God and the Israelites have grown from this experience.
Our Responsorial is not from the book of Psalms for this Sunday, but instead from the book of Daniel where we sing of God’s greatness. Though not from the Book of Psalms, it is a fitting response for our celebration, and echoes the desire of the people to follow the Lord. It is also interesting to note that one keys to recognizing that this reading is not from the Book of Psalms is the mention of the Temple, which of course wasn’t built until after David’s reign.
Our second reading comes from the closing of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians. Here he gives us his version of the now famous “can’t we all just get along” speech. It is appropriate here not only because it speaks to how we should treat each other, but closes with what has become the signature closing for the Church’s activities with the phrase, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” That familiar Trinitarian blessing that binds us together as one Church.
We finish with a passage from John’s Gospel that is perhaps the most quoted by non-Catholic Christians. As Catholics our general unfamiliarity with Scripture usually has us failing to recognize the famous John 3:16 we read today. This passage reminds us of the relationship between God and Jesus, and how through Jesus we are able to be reconciled with the Father. It comes at the end of a discussion Jesus is having with the Pharisee Nicodemus, where Jesus is explaining how one is reborn through the Spirit. Though traditionally ascribed as a quote from Jesus, there does seem to be some peculiarities that could lead one to believe this is a narrative revelation from John. The passage works as a theological conclusion to Jesus’ teaching on Baptism and rebirth, but it seems a little out of place as it jumps to the third person past tense. Jesus has been having a rather intimate conversation with Nicodemus, and even though his referring to the “Son of Man” in the third person (as is typical in John’s Gospel), this passage takes a leap into what can be read as a historical perspective (“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son:”). Even for the divinely enlightened Jesus we see in John, a lack of quotation marks can alter one’s perceptions of the text. This should remind us that as Catholics we should not be intimidated by Scripture (or our own lack of knowledge of it), nor should we stop ourselves from asking questions or accepting too readily “traditional” interpretations. Our understanding of Scripture continues to evolve as our relationship to God continues to evolve. A God, present as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit, who created us and continues to sustain us.