Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of our origin and destiny as human beings, our beginning and end, the One who made us and the One to whom we return. It’s Trinity Sunday.
Thinking too hard about the Trinity can cause some intellectual hurdles. At the idea of three Persons in one God, our mind stops up short. The medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri said, in his words on the Trinity in Paradisio, “My wings were not meant for such a flight… Here powers failed my high imagination.” It’s an awe easily evoked on the edge of the sea or below the night sky. When we earnestly aspire to grasp the infinite, we find we can’t hold it in our hands.
Perhaps it’s fitting then that this week’s readings take an entirely different tack. In the first reading, Moses stands before God on Mount Sinai. In previous chapters, the Israelites rebelled and worshipped the golden calf. Moses intercedes on behalf of the people, praising God and asking, “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company” (v. 9).
Moses’ prayer is answered in a radical way, a way he never would have anticipated, in the Gospel. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not parish but might have eternal life” (v. 16). Last Sunday we celebrated the descent of the Holy Spirit on the early church at Pentecost. In these readings and feasts we see the comforting truth. God accompanies his people, despite and even in the midst of our own faults and failings. The Church tells us, “The Word became flesh in order to save us by reconciling us with God … ‘the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world’” (CCC #457).
Trinity Sunday is first and foremost a reminder of God’s enduring love for us. It doesn’t end there, however. As human beings created in the image and likeness of God, we have a particular calling and destiny. In one of his addresses on the Theology of the Body, St. John Paul II said, “Man became the ‘image and likeness’ of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons.” We are people made for relationship. St. Paul addresses this in the second reading, when he advises the church in Corinth, “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace” (v. 11).
In the United States and in the broader world, we live in a highly divided time. There’s a tendency at the highest level and across the political spectrum to hurl insults rather than engage in dialogue, to impose ideologies rather than acknowledge the value of difference. We won’t always agree with one another—despite Paul’s encouragement—but there are commonalities to which Christians should resolve. In a time of suspicion and division, we are called, as always, to an imitation of God as Trinity, to be a communion of persons united in truth by the bond of love. We are called to welcome the stranger, to befriend the single parent and the prodigal child, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, pray for those who persecute us, and love both our neighbors and our enemies.
The French author Charles Péguy wrote a novella, The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc. He gives her these words, “We must be saved together… One must not present oneself before the kind God without the others… We must work a little for each other. What would He say to us if one of us came, if one of us returned without the others?”
For all our differences, this Trinity Sunday we can resolve to walk a little further in each other’s company.
Most Holy Trinity, our God,
we praise and glorify you.
We thank you for creating us
and calling us your own.
You who are undivided unity,
we ask for the grace
to image your love to a fractured world.
May we love as you love,
forgive as you forgive,
and witness to your divine life
in all that we do.
May you be glorified,
Father, Son, and Spirit,
now and forever.