by Br Julian McDonald cfc
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now…the Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth.” John 16, 12-15
Even though the celebration of God as Trinity did not appear anywhere in the Church until the 8th century when it was initiated by the French and was not integrated into the universal Church-calendar until 1334, theologians across nearly nineteen centuries have spent an incalculable amount of ink on articles, treatises and books grappling with the notion of the Holy Trinity. While the theologians have given us insights into God worthy of our attention and reflection, we know that the God in whom we place our faith and trust will always be a mystery. Still, some have described Trinity Sunday as the hinge that joins the two halves of the Church year. The first half shines the light on the life of Christ while the second focuses on the life of the Church as the Christian community.
While today’s scripture readings are offered to provide support for the concept of God as Trinity, the word Trinity is not to be found in the Scriptures. In fact, today is the only day of the year on which we are invited to reflect on a Church teaching rather than on a teaching of Jesus.
While God is a mystery who will never be depthed, we have grown to appreciate that God is someone to be encountered through a personal relationship that grows out of faith. However, growth in faith, does not happen by magic. In fact, in today’s gospel-reading, Jesus alludes to its slow progress in his close disciples: “I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now” (John 15, 12). Even though he said this on his last night with them, the issue was not related to his running out of time. The problem was with the disciples, who were short on intellectual comprehension. The truth that Jesus wanted them to know would have to be learned through painful and joyful experience – that of living through his passion, death and rejoicing in his resurrection. Even the Last Supper experience of having him wash their feet and being told that he was going to an experience into which they could not follow him, would not complete their education. In their time with Jesus, the disciples had seen incredible signs that demonstrated he was indeed the Messiah, they still needed more than convincing proof. They needed to be led into the truth by an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Moreover, that was an assurance that Jesus gave them when he told them that the Holy Spirit would guide them to the truth through a felt encounter. Jesus had already asserted that everything he had taught his disciples had been revealed to him by the Father. Everything the Spirit inspired had come by way of revelation from the Father. It follows logically that all knowledge of God given to the disciples ,and consequently to us, is inspired by the Trinity.
As we engage with today’s gospel-reading from John, it’s important to remember that John was writing for a community that had not known Jesus in the flesh. What’s more, it was a community that was dealing with violent persecution. John realised that the Spirit, the Advocate promised by Jesus, was the one who would continue to reveal something of God to Christians who were being oppressed, and that God’s Spirit would continue to breathe something of God’s love, hope and compassion to Christian communities down through the ages as they tried to give practical expression to what they had already learned about Jesus’ teachings and respond to the challenges that emanated from those teachings.
It is the same Holy Spirit who assures us of God’s guiding and loving presence as we deal with the issues that confront us and our world right now; as we deal with the impact of the Covid pandemic, with the natural disasters of fire, flood and earthquake, with the war in the Ukraine, with religion-based conflicts in various parts of Africa, with the tensions around rights to possess and use firearms, with the debates linked to climate change and use of fossil fuels. As a consequence, we are becoming increasingly aware of our need to open ourselves to the many things that Jesus still has to say to us 21st century disciples. That implies our being ready to be touched by the promptings of God’s Spirit.
As we have grown into an adult faith, we have come to appreciate the multiple dimensions of God’s self-revelation to us. We are conscious of God, creator and sustainer of all life and all creation; we know Jesus, the Christ of God, who, in becoming one of us, demonstrated the depth and breadth of God’s love for all humanity; we are aware of God’s Spirit of love present in the depths of our being, prompting us to reach out in love to everyone we encounter, The “truth” to which John refers in today’s gospel-reading is his insight into the fact that God’s self-revelation goes on forever. God’s Spirit dwelling within each of us and in the community of God’s people continues to guide us into an ever deeper understanding and appreciation of all that Jesus taught when he preached and taught and healed during his time on earth. It is our faith in the triune God that inspires us to continue the creative love of God in our world as we reach out in compassion, forgiveness, mercy, kindness and acceptance to everyone we encounter and to our common home, planet earth, crying out for healing.
Echoing the words of St Augustine, scripture scholar Jay Cormier writes: “The gifts we offer one another are sacramental when they manifest the love and mercy of God; they are eucharistic when they transform us into a community bound together by that love.” That’s a fitting segue into next week’s reflection.