John 3:16-18
Living in Divine Love
by Rev. Robert Wagner

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.

Nowhere in Scripture do we find the word “trinity” in reference to God as three divine persons. Of course, it is in Scripture where this divine truth is revealed, for the Gospels distinguish the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in many passages. For instance, when John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River, the voice of the Heavenly Father announces Jesus as His Son, while the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove (Mt 3:13–17, Mk 1:9–11, Lk 3:21–22, Jn 1:31–34).

By calling God the Holy Trinity, we identify Him by his divine characteristics. This is nothing new. We say that God is omnipotent, omniscient, holy, perfect, merciful, and just because God has shown us these attributes through the ages. This helps us relate to God, to pray to Him, to place our faith in Him. Yet while adjectives like “omnipotent” and “perfect” are easily understood with regard to God, describing God as a trinity of three persons provides a characteristic that requires further reflection to grasp its importance with regard to our relationship with God and, in turn, our understanding of ourselves.

It is the incarnation of God, Jesus Christ, who not only shows us the face of God, but also reveals the Holy Trinity to us. The Gospel of John is the source of much of this teaching, especially in the Last Supper discourse found in chapters 14 through 16. As we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we hear another passage from John's Gospel where Jesus reveals, “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,” (Jn 3:16). This well-known passage, while brief, is a source of great fruitfulness in our reflection on the Holy Trinity.

Before the world was created, God existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with each divine person distinct from the others yet sharing the same divine nature, no one person greater than the other, all three united eternally. This divine union lacks nothing, for what can be added to perfect perfection? However, the love of God is so abundant it becomes a creating force, flowing outward from the loving union of the Holy Trinity and filling the universe with all things, visible and invisible. Yes, God did not need creation, but in His abundant and overflowing generosity, He created and continues to create all that is.

Among His creation, humanity holds an honored place. Not only are we creatures formed in the image and likeness of God, but the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, took on our human nature. Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, who took our flesh and offered Himself on the cross for us. Each of us is created out of the divine love of the Holy Trinity. Each of us is redeemed by the love of the Holy Trinity.

Not only that, but when we are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19), each of us becomes a partaker of the divine nature of God, members of the body of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. Catechism, No. 1265). As baptized Christians, we are swept up into the intimate union of the Holy Trinity as Jesus promises: “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); “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, … it remains with you, and will be in you” (Jn 14:16,17).

When we remain in God's grace, we are united to the Holy Trinity in an undeniable reality. Not only that, but also we are united to the whole church, the mystical body of Christ, because of the divine love of God. In this way, we also imitate the Holy Trinity, for we are made for communion, with God and with others. God is love (1 Jn 4:8). We are the result of that love and the dwelling places for that love. Let us live that love abundantly in this life, that we may share in its fullness for all of eternity.

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