30 May 2010
Two women were discussing their marriage. One said to another: ‘After all these years of marriage I think I will never fully understand my husband. What he did recently really surprised me. I never knew he could be so creative’. No doubt men say similar things about their wives. I remember my good father shaking his head from time to time as he saw some aspect of my mother’s personality that was new to him.
Isn’t this really the experience of each of us? No matter how long we live with another in a family or in a community, people will continue to surprise us by new ‘revelations’ of their personality. If this is so true for us on the human level should we be surprised if God is like that, continually revealing himself to us in new ways. My father would have said to me more than once: ‘you know your mother is a great mystery to me at times’. If that is true of us humans how much more true is it of God?
Mystery in the religious sense means that we cannot know everything about God.
But we can know more and more about God than we did at an earlier stage as he progressively reveals himself to us. Our God is a revealing God. There are many things that parents cannot tell a 6-year-old daughter. Yet 10 years later they know she is now ready to hear them. The parents are not being difficult. They are being wise. Is it not even truer of God who is Wisdom itself?
We can tie ourselves into all kind of knots if we try to give a mathematical explanation of how there are Three Persons in the One God. Various examples were given to help us explain this. Like in a catechism class the teacher would light three matches at the one time and say: ‘Look, only one flame etc” – meaning three persons in the one nature of God. But I think it is much better to show from Scripture what God has already revealed to us about himself.
So in the gospel today Jesus says to the disciples: ‘I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. When the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth’. Now that Jesus has gone back to his Father he has given us the powerful Holy Spirit who will make known to us and to successive generations the meaning of what he revealed when on earth to his apostles. There would have been little point in Jesus speaking about ‘cloning or genetic engineering’ to his disciples. But now the Spirit is with us to help us give a Christian response to this reality of the 21st century.
What then are some of the things we can say about the Blessed Trinity that have been revealed to us already?
God is not a loner, someone so far away in the heavens that we cannot dialogue with him. Also, using human language God is a community of love, totally focused outwards toward the other and towards all others. In the gospels, Jesus does not focus on himself. He tells us a number of times in the gospels – ‘I have come not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me’. He also says that the Holy Spirit will reveal all things to us. Thus Jesus focuses on the Father and the Holy Spirit.
When the Father’s voice is heard on the mountain and at the baptism of Jesus at the river Jordan he refers to the Son: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him”. So the focus of the Father is the Son. Jesus himself tells us that the Spirit will not focus on himself but will reveal to us more and more who the Father and Jesus are. God therefore is always concerned for the other. When Jesus came he lived out the same dynamic. He never worked a miracle for himself. He was concerned only to show God’s loving concern for us by healing, forgiving, feeding the crowds etc. Jesus’ focus was on others and their greatest needs.
In the gospel today therefore Jesus has announced the kingdom and love of the Father. Jesus came as a life-giver, his message is life-giving. Its demands, which the Spirit will make known to us, are always new and surprising. The Spirit is always at work in us to develop our potential and he invites us to work to make the world a better place to live in by having the attitudes of Jesus. This is the work of the Trinity inviting us.
Jesus shows us the way to the Father, and says the Spirit will be with us on our journey. The Spirit will sometimes lead us in ways we have not foreseen. Our Superior General, Fr Kieran O’Reilly SMA, has just been appointed a bishop in Ireland, the first ever. It is not what we in the SMA expect to happen. When asked about it, he said: “To say that it was a surprise would not be an understatement!” I know a Frenchwoman who after the death of her husband decided to work as a lay in missionary in Africa. So the Spirit blows where it wills.
The Spirit may lead us paths we have not foreseen. This can make us afraid and distrustful. We would prefer to be settled, to live with the security of the known, of the tried and trusted. But the same Spirit empowers us with courage and hope. If we cling to our own paltry security how will we be in solidarity with all those in need: the poor and needy, prisoners, those with AIDS, unemployed etc. Convinced that the Most Holy Trinity wants us to participate in its life of love and service let us be people of hope in our world today. Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
“Lord Jesus, help us return to the source of hope – You, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Help us to believe the words of St.Paul that hope in you will not disappoint us because ‘your love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that you have given to us. Amen”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA