John 3:16-18, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
The community quarantine has made us rethink our normal way of doing things. One of those is the where and how we source our food. In Jesuit communities inside the Ateneo de Manila campus, there has been a renewed drive for sustainable sources of food—at least for vegetables, fruits, and spices. San Jose Seminary and Arrupe International Residence were more prepared than the rest. Their vegetable gardens were already bearing fruit and supplementing their community supply even months before the lockdown. Loyola House of Studies and the Jesuit Residence have followed suit. In LHS, having just begun our vegetable garden, we only have seedlings to show. In an area which used to be empty, we now have rows and rows of different colored pots of different shapes and sizes housing different baby vegetables. Day and night, a brother in our community—named Lloyd Sabio—tends to his vegetables: tomato, eggplant, cucumber, chilli, okra, kalabasa, kangkong, ampalaya. Since I don’t know anything about plants, I would often stop ask him about the names of each baby plant. Patiently he would point out to me that these ones in clay pots are tomatoes, or those suspended in recycled softdrinks bottles are okra, and so on and so forth. He would name them carefully, one by one, and he would explain how each had to be treated differently. One type couldn’t stay too long out in the sun. Another has to be watered more frequently. For still another a wooden stake has to be attached to it for support. He knew their names, so he knew how to take care of them. I, on the other hand, do not know their names. And because I do not know them, I could not take care of them. In fact, I would probably kill them.
Today, Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the gift of knowing God’s name. Our faith teaches us that there is only one God, but our faith marvelously proclaims that God is also Father, Son, and Spirit. This we see clearly in the Second Reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which he ends with the blessing that the priest uses at the beginning of the mass: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!” There is only one God, but in God is a community of persons who are caught up in a wonderful eternal exchange of love. For us who sign ourselves in the Trinity’s Holy Name every day—“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (+)—this might seem a plain and trite reality. But if we really wrap our minds around it, and if we clasp our hands in prayer to contemplate on it, we soon discover how the Trinity is the mystery of mysteries, not an idea we can fully grasp, but a deep reality we are all invited to enter.
That is why I find it striking that in the First Reading we see the God of Israel introducing himself to Moses, making known to man his name: LORD. He even describes himself, attaching divine adjectives to his name: “A merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” The God of Israel introduces himself as Lord who is, through and through, love. And yet, while talking with Moses the Lord remains covered in a cloud. He remains hidden. Paul, in another part of the letter to the Corinthians, describes this hiddenness as ‘seeing through a glass, but darkly.’ Isn’t this what we experience also? There are graced moments in our lives when we see God clearly, when we can call him by name, when we feel his love for us. But even during these times of clarity, he remains hidden to us, our sight obscured by a cloud.
The Good News for us is that God does not delight in playing hide and seek. The Evangelist John gives us one of the more famous and powerful lines in all of Scripture in our Gospel today: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” He sent his Son so that we may know Him. And in knowing Him intimately—not anymore darkly or dimly, but as clear as the sun on a bright summer’s day—in knowing him intimately, we are saved. The Father gave, he sent, he delivered his son Jesus so that all may be gathered again in His Holy Name. And this Son with the Father, sends the Holy Spirit to be with us, to accompany us to this very day.
Today we celebrate God as Trinity, God as revealing Godself through his most profound name. The Church marks this, commemorates this because many times we forget to call him by this name. Most often our forgetfulness—our amnesia of God being Father, Son, and Spirit—takes the form of taking for granted our being members of one community—whether as a family or religious community, as a parish, as a Church. We must guard against this amnesia since we are deep into a culture that glorifies independence and self-reliance—values which could easily morph into isolation and indifference. Thus, one way of truly giving glory to the Triune God is to give oneself totally and freely in community, to reach out to others at a time of great fear, division and suspicion of one another. To celebrate Trinity Sunday at a time of a renewed sense of being together as family, as religious community, as Church brought about by the community quarantine could then be truly a cause for joy and thanksgiving.
Today on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we give thanks for the gift of knowing God’s name as Three Persons in One God, of recognizing Him as community, and of being given the mission to continue building bridges with one another in His name. Because God introduced himself as Father, Son, and Spirit, we know that the love shared in the relations among the Divine Persons is also given without limit to us. However, in the same way that gardeners or farmers can care for their plants better by knowing their names, we are also given the wonderful opportunity to enter more into his mystery as Love, because we know his name. Naming him does not only allow us to be loved by Him, naming him allows us to love Him even more.
*image from the Internet