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The Truth about God, the World, and Ourselves
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Opening Prayer: Father, I turn to you in my need and my weakness: Please grant me your grace this day, so that I can continue to grow in faith, hope, and love. Jesus, I turn to you as my friend and companion: Please keep me aware of your presence in my life today, of your smile and your eagerness to walk with me. Holy Spirit, I turn to you as my guide and protector: Pour out your gifts upon my mind and my heart, so that I can be docile to all your inspirations.
- The Truth about God: The first verse of today’s Gospel passage is perhaps one of the most famous verses in the whole Bible: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” In many ways, it is a summary of the entire Christian message. Within this single verse we find, in capsule form, the truth about God, about the world, and about ourselves. The truth about God has to do with his deepest identity, which is love (“God is love” [1 John 4:8]), and which was the motivation for Jesus’s incarnation (“God so loved the world…”). But for God’s deepest identity to be love, his deepest identity must also be personal and relational. After all, love always involves the generous acceptance of another person, as well as the generous giving of oneself to that person. And so we discover our first glimpse of the greatest mystery of the universe, the mystery the Church celebrates today in a special way: that God is a Trinity, and that from all eternity God is one divine nature and three divine persons, truly one God, but at the same time Triune in his divinity. We can never fully fathom the depths of this mystery. How can God be at the same time one and three? We cannot comprehend it fully. But we can contemplate it. And we can delight in knowing that God is not just some kind of a vague, impersonal force, as many New Age spiritualities claim; that eternity is not populated by hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of conflicting deities, as some pagan religious claim; and that God is not only all-knowing and all-powerful, not a grim and demanding taskmaster, but also all good. God is love! What idea of God dominates my mind, my attitude, my reactions to the ups and downs of life, when I pray?
- The Truth about the World: The truth about the world around us is also hinted at in this verse, when it tells us that life here has two possible endpoints: we can either “perish,” or we can enter into “eternal life.” This world is an arena in which each one of us, exercising the gift of our spiritual freedom, works out our everlasting destiny. This world is a war zone, and each one of our hearts is a battleground. God comes to our aid in Christ, and if we believe in him–in other words, if we accept the offer of his friendship and follow where he leads–all that is good and true and beautiful will triumph in us and we will make our way to greater and greater wisdom, peace, and joy in this life and forever in heaven. If we stubbornly resist the advances of God–his whispers in our conscience, his invitations to our hearts, his providential signs and encounters–we may be able to entertain ourselves for awhile with the pleasures and delights of this world, but in the end God will respect our decision to separate ourselves from his friendship. And when our lives come to an end, we will suffer the everlasting frustration that comes from such a separation: We will “perish.” This world is not our true home or final resting place. This world is a place of journeying, fighting, and–we hope–growing to spiritual maturity.
- The Truth about Ourselves: This verse also reveals the truth about ourselves. We are loved; we are loveable; we are known; we are pursued; we are chosen; we are wanted; we matter. Many experiences we have in this fallen world, this battleground world, seem to contradict that. As children, adolescents, and even adults, the people around us often don’t treat us according to the dignity we possess in our very selves by having been created by God in his own image and likeness. And so, we find ourselves often belittled and abused, abandoned and ignored, objectified and neglected. These experiences cause us pain, and to deal with that pain we begin to believe lies about ourselves—that we are not worthy of being loved, that we don’t need to be loved, that our desires for fulfillment and connection are unreasonable and unfulfillable. Jesus came to shatter the darkness of those lies, to release us from the spiritual and emotional chains they forge, and to heal us of the wounds beneath them. This is what it means when St. John explains the meaning of John 3:16 in the following verse, John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” To save the world, to repair what is broken and redeem what is lost—that is why Jesus came. That is why Jesus continues to come, every day, through the working of the Holy Spirit, through the holy sacrifice of the Mass and Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, through the governance of all things by the Father’s providential wisdom. The Blessed Trinity is continuously unfolding a tapestry of salvation that includes the full restoration of our own broken and divided human nature. And that is why we can say, with today’s responsorial psalm: “Blessed are your, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever” (Daniel 3:52).
Conversing with Christ: O God, thank you for revealing to me the truth about yourself, about the world, and about me. I believe in all you have revealed. I believe with all my heart in Jesus, your Son, whom you sent into the world to be our Savior and Redeemer. I want to believe in him more fully and vibrantly every day, so as to spread in my own heart and in the hearts of those around me the everlasting life you have promised to everyone who accepts your offer of friendship. I am so easily distracted by the hustle and bustle of life, and I lose sight of the truth of things. Teach me to live more firmly and consistently in the light of your truth. Teach me to discover and delight in the evidence of your love as it is hidden beneath the surface of all things.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will truly pray every time I make the Sign of the Cross (at Mass, before meals, in my own prayers, as I go to bed), turning that gesture into a heartfelt act of adoration and praise, a renewal of my commitment to follow Christ no matter the cost, and a petition for supernatural help in the struggles I face as your beloved child and disciple.
For Further Reflection: The Mystery of Eternal Love: A Retreat Guide on the Blessed Trinity, by Fr. John Pietropaoli, LC. As always, this Retreat Guide is available in audio, video, and textual formats.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.