Sunday Sermon for June 7, 2020, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year A
Readings: Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18
We used to hear about a distinction made between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. The God of the Old Testament was said to be vindictive while the God of the New Testament was said to be merciful. This is ridiculous on several levels, but suffice to say God cannot change, so He clearly did not decide to give up being vengeful and suddenly begin being merciful just because Jesus came into the world.
Indeed, when we look at the first reading today we notice the way God reveals Himself to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” The people of Israel had been in Egypt for four hundred years and most of the people no longer remembered the God Who had chosen them from all the peoples of the earth.
Being raised in the royal palace of Egypt, Moses may not have been very familiar with the Lord until God appeared to him in the burning bush. Now, on Mount Sinai, the same mountain where Moses had encountered God in the burning bush, he speaks with God as he receives the Ten Commandments. Moses had asked God the favor of allowing him to see the Lord. God did not permit Moses to see His face, but revealed His holy Name and the essence of His being.
We know from the First Letter of St. John that God is love and that every attribute of God is simply a reflection of His love. However, when we consider the greatest attribute of God, it is His mercy. Certainly, God is just, but His mercy demonstrates His love more than any other attribute. This is exactly the way God revealed Himself to Moses. He did not tell Moses that He was a vindictive God looking for someone to destroy; but a God Who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.
This mercy is extended not only to the Chosen People, but to every person made in the image and likeness of God. We see this, for instance, in the Book of Jonah, when God sent the Prophet so He could spare the city of Nineveh from the destruction they had brought upon themselves. God was not looking for a way to destroy the Ninevites or unleash His anger, but to show His mercy. The Old Testament describes many such examples of God’s mercy.
Perhaps Moses’ own invitation to God sums up the situation best: “This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins and receive us as your own.” God revealed His mercy to the people in the desert and throughout their time in the Promised Land, even though the people were so often unfaithful to God and His covenant. But in the fullness of time, God revealed the fullness of His love and mercy by sending His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world.
St. Paul tells us that Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of God. Because this is true, the fullness of the love and mercy of God is revealed in Christ. If we accept the Lord Jesus and, therefore, the love and mercy of God, we choose salvation. If we reject Him, we have chosen condemnation. Choosing the Lord implies accepting His love, receiving His mercy, and living accordingly.
At the heart of what Jesus revealed, is that God, Who is love, is three Persons. One of the many ways this has been expressed is that the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is Love.
As we celebrated last week, God loves us so much that He remains with us. Not only did He send His Son to be our Mediator, but He sent the Holy Spirit to be another Paraclete and to dwell within us. We also know that where one Person of the Holy Trinity is present, all Three are present. So, we are not only temples of the Holy Spirit because He dwells within us, but we are temples of the Holy Trinity because all three Persons of the Trinity dwell in us.
The love of God is not exclusive; rather, dwelling within us, He invites us into that love. St. Paul expresses this beautifully in the second reading when he says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” This is happening within you right now! God is not looking to punish you; He is waiting to show you His favor and to bring you into His love!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.