REMINDER: This Sunday evening (7:30pm) will be our last Mass offered on campus before our summer break.
SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER (C)
"Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him." -- Jn 14:23
In today's gospel reading, Jesus tells us something about the life of the Holy Trinity. He speaks of the word that he preaches and tells us, "the word you hear is not mine, but that of the Father who sent me." What He tells us here is that there is no distinction between His word, His will, and that of the Father's. The two are one in their thoughts and words.
In the same passage Jesus speaks of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, often referred to as the Advocate. Jesus says, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you."
Let's unpack this sentence a bit. Jesus has already told us that He speaks with the voice of the Father. And now He is telling us that the Holy Spirit will teach us the words that Christ spoke to us. In other words, there is no distinction to be made between the words of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Trinity is a mystery. We will never truly understand this aspect of God. I read on a bumper sticker once, "If God were simple enough that we could understand Him, we'd be so simple that we couldn't." That is true. God is the Creator, we are His creations. He is infinite, we are finite. Even the holiest saints, even the highest angels, can never fully understand God.
But just because God is a mystery does not mean we cannot know some things about Him which He has chosen to reveal to us. One of the aspects of God's inner life that has been revealed in Christ is that He is a Trinity of persons. We believe, because God has revealed it, that God is three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) who share the same being, the same existence. This is hard for us to comprehend because in our experience persons each have an independent existence. But with God it is not so. God exists as a community of Persons. This means that God holds within Himself attributes that we can only experience with others -- communion, relationship, love.
Because the three Persons of the Trinity share in the same existence, they are alike in all things except in their relationship with one another. Another way of saying this is that the Son possesses everything in common with the Father except to be Father. The Father is father of the Son and the Son is son to the Father. Their relationship to one another is the only thing that distinguishes them. Likewise with the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. His unique relationship proceeding from both the Father and Son in their love for one another is what distinguishes Him from the other two. (In this passage Jesus speaks of the Spirit being sent by the Father. Elsewhere, such as Jn 15:26, Jesus speaks of sending the Spirit Himself.)
It is important for us to understand the great unity among the three distinct Persons of the Godhead. Though we often speak of the Persons of the Trinity as if they had different roles or jobs -- the Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, the Spirit is the Sanctifier -- these "job descriptions" are overly limiting. The truth is that the Son and the Spirit both had a role in creation, as well. "[T]he spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Gn 1:2). "Let us make man in our image" (Gn 1:26). Likewise the Father and the Spirit are participants in our redemption. And the Father and the Son together with the Holy Spirit continue to sanctify us to this day.
For no Person of the Holy Trinity ever acts independently of the other two. The three Persons are so fully united in love that theologians speak of them dwelling within each other, continually pouring themselves into the other two in this eternal, perpetual cycle of love. This never-ending giving of one Person in love to the others is the inner life of God.
Now, if you have followed me this far, you may be thinking, "This is interesting and all, but what impact does it have on me in my life today?" If you are a Christian seeking to live a life in the grace of God, this has everything to do with you. We speak of being in a state of grace, and of falling from grace when we commit a mortal sin. What does it mean to have God's grace? What is grace?
Grace comes from gratia, and it means a free gift. Grace is God's gift to us -- and what does God have to give us? God possesses nothing but Himself. And that is just what He gives us -- Himself, His very life.
So when we are in a state of grace, we have God's life within us. And God has shown us what this life is; a life of mutual and eternal love between the Father, Son and Spirit. No Person of the Trinity is ever separate from the other two. This means when you receive the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, you receive also the Father and the Son. When you receive the Son in Communion, you also receive the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Creator of the Universe wants to come live within you. The Trinity of Love, and all that that means, can exist inside of you.
If you meditate upon that fact for a while it may overwhelm you. When you fully understand that this is what God wants to give us, you cannot want anything else.
If you keep the word of Christ, which is the same as the word of the Father, which is the same as the word of the Holy Spirit still being proclaimed by the Church today, then the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit will come to dwell in you. They will make their home within you. And you will know peace.