'The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity' by Rev. John De Celles
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Today's text essentially summarizes the whole of salvation history: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."
As St. John tells us elsewhere "God is love." It is essential to who God is, to everything he does, that he loves: for God, to live is to love. This is revealed first and foremost in the fact that God exists eternally as Trinity - a communion of three persons who are one God, only distinguishable from each other in their relationships to each other, relationships which are defined by the love of a Father and Son, and the Spirit that proceeds from and personifies that love.
It is in this love that God created man in his image - a creature created to receive God's love and to love Him in return. And it was man's rejection and refusal of love that was the original sin, man's loss of life with God.
But just as sin cannot change the fact that God is Creator of the creature, it also cannot change the fact that the Creator creates in love: sin does not terminate God's love for us. So it is completely contrary to His nature for God to allow man to perish from his lack of love without trying to save him through love.
And so he came to us in the world, in love, nd revealed himself as love: as a communion of love, Father and Son, and Holy Spirit. And that love does not seek condemnation, but salvation: to restore us to receiving and returning God's love, a love that is an eternal and limitless as the life of God Himself, the love that is the essence of "eternal life."
But does all this mean that salvation, or eternal life, is automatic - that God loves us so much we cannot be condemned to live without it? Some would like to think so. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do whatever we want, and still have heaven? Is this what John means when tells us: "Whoever believes in him will not be condemned"? Some very devout and holy Christians argue that this is exactly what it means: all we need to do is believe in Jesus, and we are saved.
However, to believe in Jesus ("the name of the only Son of God") also includes believing in what he actually told us. And what he told us, as St. John also reports, is: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (Jn 14:15; cf. 2 Jn 6: "This is love, that we follow his commandments")
John does not mean to say that mere belief in Jesus saves us. Rather it is belief that opens us up to love. If we believe in God the Son, we will believe in what he revealed to us: that love is the source and essence of salvation from condemnation and eternal life with God, who is love. And that loving is defined not by us, but by God in His commandments. So that, "whoever does not believe has already been condemned" - who ever does not believe in the love that Christ reveals condemns himself by rejecting God's love.
On this Trinity Sunday, as we meditate on these most profound words of "the disciple whom Jesus loved," let us enter into the mystery of the love of the Trinity, a love we were created to share from the beginning, and a love we can share in now because "God gave his only Son" - Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the love of the Trinitarian God.
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