Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(as listed in the Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2017)

11 June, 2017. Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

Saint Barnabas, apostle

1st Reading: Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9

On the heights of Sinai, Moses perceives God as compassionate, kind and faithful

Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, "The Lord."

The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, "If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance."

2nd Reading 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Abandoning childish ways, we seek the moral nobility of faith, hope and love

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Gospel: John 3:16-18

Jesus came to show God's love in this world: whoever believes will not be condemned

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Bible

Not such a remote God

In bygone times practically everybody agreed about the existence of God. At those days, religious divisions came from conflicting beliefs about God, rather than any conflict between theism and atheism. This is not the case nowadays. Not only do many openly profess their lack of faith, but the quality of life we pursue tends to promote a kind of atheism in all of us. Especially in our large cities, surrounded by a world of largely human inventiveness, people are at a distance from the things of nature. As a result even the rural-based of our population are bound to feel in some degree God's apparent remoteness from our situation, God's silence, remaining hidden to the end of our earthly days.

Today we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity, the revelation of the mystery of God's inner life. This mystery will remain for all of us as long as we live in this world, even though the veil which covers it is lifted ever so little. Our Bible assures us that not only is our God a personal God, but God exists as three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, while remaining one God. Although we cannot even begin to give a logical explanation for this, our faith enables us in some small measure to experience the presence of God. How this can happen is stated by St Augustine in a most beautiful passage from his "Confessions" (p. 211). "What do I love when I love my God?" he asks. Then he continues; "Not material beauty or beauty of a temporal order; not the brilliance of earthly light, so welcome to our eyes; not the sweet melody of harmony and song; not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes and spices; not manna or honey; not limbs such as the body delights to embrace. It is not these that I love when I love my God. And yet, when I love him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind, a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace; but they are of the kind that I love in my inner self." "So tell me something of my God," he asks. And loud and clear they answered, "God is he who made us."

Seeing God will change us utterly, and this salvation is a pure gift that always comes from the Father, announced and realised in his divine Son, and made effective in each of us through the action of the Holy Spirit. St Paul tells us that "in one Spirit we have access through Christ to the Father" (Eph 2:18). But the God's reaching down to us must be answered by the up-reach of our soul to God. To succeed in this we must break free from the sinful pursuits which hold us captive. Then as Paul says, like mirrors we will reflect the brightness of the Lord, until finally we are changed into that image which we reflect (2 Cor 3:17f). For this great promise, glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, forever, Amen.


The Fullness of Love

Much debate in the 20th century centred on the thought of three outstanding figures, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx, described irreverently as "the unholy trinity." They pushed us into the modem world, often in spite of our protests. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was greeted, particularly by the established churches, with howls of derision, and had to battle hard for recognition. Sigmund Freud opened up the universe of the unconscious and profoundly affected conventional attitudes. The socialist theories of Karl Marx came to dominate one half of the planet and considerably influenced the other. Of the three, only Darwin and his theory of evolution remain intact. Recent events in the Eastern Bloc have largely discredited Marx. The theories of Freud are more and more contested in recent times. Time has taken its toll of "the unholy trinity."

The Holy Trinity, whose feast we celebrate today, is beyond the reach of time and the grasp of human reasoning. It is a mystery of our faith. We can only fumble in the dark in search of glimmers of light. "Two is company, three is a crowd" is a popular expression. The gospel would have it otherwise. There, the figure three symbolises completeness and perfect symmetry, and re-appears at all the key moments of the Christ story. His life itself constantly reflected the Trinity. Three figures make up the nativity scene in Bethlehem -- the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Their first visitors were the three wise men. Later, in the desert preparing to begin his public life, Jesus was tempted three times by the devil. A good story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Christ was a storyteller par excellence and three figures prominently in his parables. The Prodigal Son is about a father and his two sons; the Good Samaritan tells of the behaviour of three passers-by, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan; the sower sowed his seed in three different types of terrain, yielding three different levels of harvest. The end of his life, as the beginning, has again the three motif. During his Passion, Peter denied him thrice. On the road to Calvary, he fell three times. The crucifixion scene has three figures, Christ between two thieves. Before his resurrection, he spent three days in the tomb.

God is love. There are Three Persons in the Trinity, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Together they represent the fullness of love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father. The Holy Spirit is their love for each other. We are made in the image of a triune God. God the Father, who created us, his Son who saved us, and the Holy Spirit who continues to guide us. Our lives should reflect the Trinity. We should be always creative like the Father, compassionate like his Son, and dispose our talents in the service of others like the Holy Spirit.


The mystery of three-in-one

A popular idiom says that "Two is company, three is a crowd". This may be true of romantic pairings, but the gospel gives another view. In the life of Jesus Christ, a threesome symbolises completeness and perfect symmetry, and the number three re-appears at key moments of the story of our Lord, for his life itself constantly reflected the Holy Trinity. There were three at the nativity scene in Bethlehem, Jesus, Mary and Joseph; and their first visitors were the three wise men from the East. Later, when praying in the desert before beginning his public life, Jesus was tempted three times by the devil. And so many of his parables reflect the adage that "a good story should have a beginning, a middle and an end."

Jesus was a storyteller par excellence and in his stories, sets of three characters figure prominently. The Prodigal Son is about a father and his two sons; the Good Samaritan contrasts the behaviour of three passers-by, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan. The sower sowed his seed in three different types of ground, each yielding its own level of harvest. The end of Christ's life, like its beginning, again has the three motif. During his Passion, Peter denied him thrice. On the road to Calvary, he fell three times. The crucifixion scene has three figures, Christ between two thieves. Before his resurrection, he spent three days in the tomb.

God is love, as Saint John tells us. And in God there are Three Persons, the loving Trinity, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit,who together represent the fullness of love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father andTte Holy Spirit is their love for each other. We are mysteriously, wonderfully made in the image of a triune God: the Father, who created us, his Son who saved us, and the Holy Spirit who continues to guide us. Our lives should reflect the unquenchable love of that Holy Trinity. We should be always creative like the Father, compassionate like his Son, and dispose our talents in the service of others like the Holy Spirit.

Clearly this trinitarian foundation makes this a missionary Sunday too. The followers of Jesus are deputed to go forth to pass on the good news that Jesus had shown them of God's overwhelming and forgiving love. A lot of time and energy has been poured into that challenge through the ensuing centuries. At times our Church forced people to join, whether they wanted to be or not. Once in Seville, under the Spanish Inquisition, forty thousand Jews had to receive baptism under pain of having to leave the country. It was a bizarre ceremony, with priests striding through the cathedral plaza sprinkling water on the unwilling converts. Other times we have forced them to abandon their native cultures and become Europeans like us. Still other times we bribed them (with rice when they were hungry) to join us. But in the Church's early days converts were attracted baptism by the kinds of people Christians were and by the love they showed for one another and for those most in need of loving care. Surely that is the most valid form of missionary project also for today.


Saint Barnabas

Barnabas was among the most enthusiastic and admired members of the early Church, seen as "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith." Trusted by the apostles, he shared his property with the poor, and managed to have the the conversion of former persecutor, Saul/Paul, accepted as genuine by the Christians in Jerusalem. Later, he animated the young church in Antioch, and went abroad on mission with the apostle Paul. Barnabas showed the sort of unselfish, reliable, encouraging personality that made him an ideal ambassador for the Gospel.