Today, the universal Church has devoted the Scripture readings and prayers of the day to one of the greatest mysteries of our faith, the Most Holy Trinity. This is the day when we focus on what some theologians call the “economic Trinity,” or the idea that God is revealed in his activity in history through the sending of his Son and the outpouring of his Spirit. Two weeks ago, the Scripture passages of the day detailed the events of the Ascension, the culmination of God’s saving act of sending his son. Last week, we heard about Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured onto the earth. It is certainly fitting that, as we move into the Ordinary Time of the Church year, we pause to reflect on these most-significant moments in our Salvation history.
When I was in graduate school, I spent many years researching and studying the various religious traditions in the world. Many of my peers and colleagues wondered how I could stay Catholic after I had learned the “truth.” My counter was always that it was precisely because I knew the truth that I stayed Catholic, because there was no question in my mind that what I was doing was correct. Of the many unique features of Catholicism, there was one that was very significant to me: the God of Catholicism was very personal and cared deeply for me.
We first see this desire for a close and intimate relationship in the first Scripture reading from today. In the reading, God speaks to Moses, saying his own name, Yahweh, and Moses speaks back to him. We do not meet an abstract God. We meet a person, not a power.
In our Second Scripture reading, we get a very similar message to the passage from Exodus in our First Reading. St. Paul, in effect, exhorts the Corinthians not to be “stiff-necked.” If they will mend their ways and live in love and peace with one another, then “the God of love and peace” will be with them. In order to have God remain “in our company,” we must remain true to the great commandment of the new covenant to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. From its foundations, one of the primary characteristics of the Church has been the love that its members show for one another.
We also see this in the Gospel, when we are reminded that God’s son was given to us because of his great love for us. His son is a gift to us, not because we merited it our qualified in some way, but because of his absolute love. Here, we see that love is an action, not a feeling, and that love is expressed in giving.
How are we to do show this love to others? We certainly cannot be expected to do exactly as God has done. Nor do I believe he expects us to. What we can do is use the gifts God has given to us.
For twelve years, I served as the music director for various Catholic parishes in our Diocese. During my tenure, I also served as the Director of Choral Studies for Hackett Catholic Prep. One of the pieces I made sure was always performed was a piece by John Stainer, from his work The Crucifixion. The piece was based on the text from today’s Gospel reading from John 3:16. In my mind, it is one of those pieces that every musician should study in college and possibly even have a chance to perform. As a composer, Stainer did a remarkable of setting these words to music.
To me, John Stainer is an example of someone who used the gifts from God to share Christ with the world. This is what God asks of each of us.
Perhaps we are good at caring for the sick. Perhaps we are good at educating others. Maybe our strengths lie in managing or motivating people. Or perhaps, as with John Stainer, our gifts are with the arts. We have each been given different gifts and have each been called to use them in God’s name.
In my homily for the Ascension, I reflected on the words of Saint Teresa of Avila, who said that Christ has no body now but ours. By using the gifts we have been given, we can share him with the world, and, as the Gospel tells us, to bring Christ into the world to save it. We can make disciples of all nations and confidently know, as St. Paul tells us, that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with all of us.