2 Cor 13, 11-13
Jn 3, 16-18
Today we celebrate the mystery of God who revealed himself to us in the history of salvation as the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The New Testament, more than an elaborate doctrine on the Trinity, clearly shows us a Trinitarian structure of salvation. The initiative corresponds to the Father, who sends, offers and resurrects his Son Jesus; the historical realization is identified with the obedience of Jesus to the Father, who for love gives himself up to death; and the constant actualisation is the work of the gift of the Spirit, who after the resurrection, through Jesus from the Father, dwells in the believer as principle of new life, configuring him to Jesus in his body which is the Church.
The first reading (Ex 34, 4b-6. 8-9) narrates an important moment in the history of salvation: the renewal of the Covenant on Mount Sinai. In the account, the most intimate being of God is revealed to us through two significant themes: the new stone tablets and the revelation of the holy name to Moses.
- The new stone tablets
When it is said that Moses went up to Mount Sinai with the two stone tablets in his hands (Ex 34, 4), it should be taken into account that these tablets are the “second”. He had broken the former upon discovering the idolatry of Israel who danced and adored a golden calf. Chapter 32 of Exodus relates that when Moses went down the mountain with the first tablets of the law that he had received from God, “he saw the calf and the dancing; his wrath flared up, so that he threw the tablets down and broke them on the base of the mountain.” (Ex 32, 19) Israel had sinned gravely against God and the broken tablets represented the end of a covenant that had lasted very little. However, Moses interceded for the people and the Lord pardoned the sins they committed (Ex 33, 12-17).
The command God gave to Moses was an eloquent sign of divine forgiveness: “Cut two stone tablets like the former, that I may write on them the commandments which were on the former tablets that you broke.” (Ex 34, 1) So Moses went up the mountain again with new tablets: “Moses then cut two stone tablets like the former, and early the next morning he went up Mount Sinai as the Lord had commanded him, taking along the two stone tablets.” (Ex 34, 4) The two new tablets, “like the former”, represent a new beginning and are an expression of the saving will of God, “slow to anger and rich in kindness”, who through forgiveness, reveals his greatness and holiness. If God had shown his mercy, liberating Israel from slavery in Egypt, now he manifests it with greater splendour when he forgives the sins of the people and reveals himself ready to renew the covenant and to continue journeying with Israel.
- The revelation of the Name of God to Moses
God presents himself to Moses through the dark and mysterious sign of a cloud, which reminds us of the presence of God who is distant and close, hidden and manifest at the same time. The cloud indicates the transcendence and closeness of the Lord. The divine revelation communicates and hides at the same time. God presents himself in the cloud: “Having come down in the cloud, the Lord stood with him there.” (Ex 34, 5a) Then “Moses called on the name of the Lord. Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity’” (Ex 34, 5b-6). God makes it that Moses hear “the holy name” on the mountain, that is to say, he reveals to him the most profound meaning of his being: his mercy and faithfulness.
In other words, the name of God is forgiveness and fidelity. The merciful love is the glory of God. It is his “hidden face”, the holy face that Moses was not able to see directly (Ex 33, 19). Upon hearing these words, Moses recognized that hidden glory and “bowed down to the ground and worshipped the Lord” (Ex 34, 8), invoking his presence and guidance in favour of Israel.
Moses, as representative of all the people, makes us discover in his prayer the practical consequence that this divine revelation has to the existence of Israel. God’s forgiveness makes possible a new creation that transforms the sinful man and woman into “heritage” of the Lord (Ex 34, 9) through the bonds of the Covenant: “If I find favour with you, Lord, let my Lord come with us, I beg. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your heritage.” (Ex 34, 9) The divine revelation on the mountain unveils the mystery of God and of man, the infinite greatness of the Lord and the human littleness, God’s perfect love and man’s limited and imperfect love. In this manifestation of the great mystery of divine love, the splendour of man appears, “little less than a god”, as Psalm 8, 6 daringly says.
The second reading (2 Cor 13, 11-13), which corresponds to the ending of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, introduces us more explicitly into the unfathomable mystery of the living God, that we celebrate today as the most Holy Trinity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
The formula is unique in the whole New Testament and its use in the liturgy undoubtedly contributed to the formulation of the Trinitarian doctrine. In the text Jesus Christ is presented as “grace” (járis), since in him the gratuitous and saving benevolence of the Father has been revealed; God represents the Father and is placed in relation to love, since he is its original source and he himself is love (1 Jn 4, 8), who so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn 3, 16) (agape); and the Holy Spirit is placed in relation to communion (koinonía), since He created the unity of the community in diversity (1 Cor 14, 5) and internalises in man the love of the Father and the Son.
The gospel (Jn 3, 16-18) places us before a new revelation of God’s mystery, this time within the framework of the new Covenant. God manifests himself fully through a particular historical event: the saving mission of his only Son. In this divine revelation, as in that of Sinai to Moses, God’s mystery is not presented through a theoretical theological discourse, cold and separated from life, but as the beginning of a vital dialogue between God and man. The initiative is from the Father, original and permanent source of love, who “gives” his only Son in order to give life to men and women: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3, 16)
The confession of the Triune God in the New Testament is founded on the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and in the action of the Holy Spirit, through which we are welcomed in the loving communion that exists between the Father and the Son. God in the New Testament reveals himself thus as a dynamism of love and communion, open and expansive. Therefore, the eschatological definitive self-revelation of God in the Bible can be summarised in the phrase. “God is love” (1 Jn 4, 8.16).
The Son is the gift that should be fully accepted. “To all who did accept him, to all who believe in the name of him, he gave power to become children of God.” (Jn 1, 12) Before the divine initiative, men and women are divided: acceptance is “life”, rejection leads to “death”. However, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world may be saved through him.” (Jn 3, 17) God does not want judgment and death for the world, but the negative decision of man before the plan of the Father, manifested in the Son as love and fullness of life, is in fact a self-condemnation of man who closes himself to life and salvation (Jn 3, 18).
The solemnity of the most Holy Trinity is an invitation to our faith, so that we may rediscover each day with amazement and gratitude the “name” of the holy God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That mysterious name that was revealed obscurely to Moses on the mountain and that in the fullness of time has been manifested in Jesus Christ: “God is love” (1 Jn 4, 8). The Trinity is love. Their very being and more specific activity is love. Gratuitous and endless love, expansive love that recreates and forgives man and women and gives divine life to them. “God’s love was revealed in our midst in this way: he sent his only Son to the world that we might have life through him. Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God but that he has loved us and has sent his Son as an offering for our sins.” (1 Jn 4, 9-10)
God and love and the only valid response from us is love. Only in love, in limitless self-giving and generous pardon is our knowledge of God manifested. The language about God becomes intelligible only when it brings us to communion and participation. Our faith in the Trinity finds its more perfect expression only in love: “Let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” (1 Jn 4, 7)
To believe in the Trinity is to live and to envision the world in his image. In the light of the mystery of the Triune God, to be a person after the image and likeness of the divine Persons means to live as son or daughter in relation to one’s own origin, in the mystery of the great love of the Father; as brother or sister in relation to others, giving ourselves and accepting without limits in the Son and in his image; and in relation to the world, living with the freedom, joy and strength that the Spirit gives.