(By Fr. Dexter Brereton)
Today’s feast, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is a feast, highlighting the Christian teaching on the doctrine of God. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity supplies the answer to the question “who is God?” It is the Christian answer to these questions which is presented in the readings for today’s mass. In the first reading from the book of Exodus, the Lord identifies himself as follows: “Lord, Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.”
The Gospel reading approaches the same subject but from the viewpoint of the gift of the Son: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” In both cases, in answering the question ‘who is God?’ the bible looks at what God does in the history of salvation, and what God is like. Both cases point us to the experience of LOVE. Here then lies the first point in the bible teaching for today. If you want to understand God, you need to begin with the experience of love. The God in whom we believe is well-disposed towards humanity, merciful, kind and caring. Jesus, who reveals God in the face of a human being, came to earth because of this same love. All that we know about God, we know because of God’s loving actions toward us. In church teaching, unlike with us normal human beings, there is no difference between God’s qualities and God’s very being. We do not say in Christian practice God HAS such and such quality but God IS such and such. Thus we read in 1John 4: 8 “GOD IS LOVE.” In the line before it says something important : “whoever fails to love does not know God.”
In today’s Gospel, John says this somewhat differently: No one who believes in him will be condemned; But whoever refuses to believe is condemned already. I first read this famous and well known passage in the Gospel last Monday, the day that the identity of the three attackers who committed mass murder in London, yet again. Their bearded faces flashed before me as I thought about what “refusing to believe” could mean. “He who refuses to believe is condemned already.” Believing in God’s only Son is not simply to be understood as commitment to Jesus of Nazareth, a historical figure. It is that surely but so much more. “Believing in God’s Son” in a religiously diverse world has to mean believing in the message that was Jesus’ life. He himself was God’s message to humanity and the humans who refuse this message, or “who refuse to believe”, reject, or refuse to love and condemn themselves to be lost. This scourge of terrorism is no different from the cynical National Socialist (Nazi) agenda of World War II. The Nazis refused to believe and were probably in many cases, baptized Christians. The Islamists, the Jihadists of today represent yet another form of this same refusal to believe that the human race has struggled with down through the ages.
We thank you Lord, for you are love itself. We love you and we praise you on behalf of those who do not believe, do not adore, do not love. Amen.