We'll take a few moments to reflect on today's Scriptures. It's a special feast, as you know, the feast of the Holy Trinity, when we celebrate God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and yet one God, a very important feast in our faith life. It's a blessing that you're being confirmed on this day. As we begin to reflect on today's Scriptures, I thought it might be a good thing to remind ourselves about last Sunday when we celebrated the feast of Pentecost.
Our opening prayer for that feast went something like this: "Oh God, hear our prayer. Send your Holy Spirit upon us to make us witnesses before the world to the good news proclaimed by Jesus Christ."
That's a prayer that expresses what you are committing yourselves to do here today. You're asking God to send his Holy Spirit, and not just to these candidates — all of us can deepen that life of the Spirit within us. So ask God to send that Spirit upon us to enable us to be witnesses before the world to the good news.
Witnesses — that means we stand out; people see who we are, what we are, what we stand for, what we say, what we do. We're witnesses, but to what? What's that good news, the good news that we're going to witness to? It's what today's feast is about because the good news of today's feast is: Who is God?
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The answer of course: God is love. That's what the feast of the Trinity tells us — God loves. It's not a noun; it's a verb — God loves. God is going out to another, to the Word — Jesus, the Son. That bond of love is the Spirit. God is a community of persons who is love.
That's so beautifully expressed in the First Letter of St. John, a marvelous passage that you probably have heard before, I hope, and have reflected on where John writes, "My dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God, for God is love." That's what John is telling us — God is love, the three persons in the communion of love.
Then John goes on to say, "This is love: not that we first loved God, but that God first loved us."
Sometimes I think we get the idea that if I do the right things, if I act according to God's commandments and so on, I earn God's love.
No, you don't earn God's love; it's a gift that you get from the very first moment of your existence. We are loved into existence by God. That's how we are here. Every one of us is loved into being by God. That love of God never, never stops. God is always loving us, no matter what we do.
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Sometimes, I'm sure, we feel like we fail to respond adequately to God. We're not holy enough; we don't do the right things all the time; we fall into sin. How could God love me?
The answer is God doesn't ever stop loving you. God is always calling you back.
Did you hear the first lesson today from the Book of Exodus? That was a time when the chosen people had been traveling through the desert and God had made a covenant with them: I am your God; you are my people. They pledged to be faithful to that covenant.
But then when Moses went up the mount to be in the presence of God, the people fell into sin. They adored a golden calf which they had made. When Moses was coming down, he saw what was happening and he was angry.
Those tablets that God had given him to mark the covenant, he threw on the ground and broke. He was so angry with the people and he was sure that God would condemn them forever. But then after he calmed down a bit and he went back to be with God again, he pleaded for the people and God had never stopped loving them. In spite of their unfaithfulness, in spite of their sin, God still loved them.
That's what our lesson today tells us. God passed in front of him and cried out, "Yahweh." Yahweh is a God full of pity and mercy, slow to anger, abounding in truth and loving-kindness.
In spite of their sin, God loved them. That's true of each of us no matter what we do. Obviously, we want to try to follow the way of God, be drawn into that love of God, and then do as God asks: love one another. But when we fail, God is still there loving us.
That's important for us to always remember: God first loved us; God always loves us because God is love.
But then if we're going to be witnesses to the world to this good news, what do we have to do? Of course, we have to go out into the world and show what it means to love one another.
That has been made easy for us because as John says in today's Gospel: God so loved the world that God sent Jesus to be one of us, fully human, a brother to us, and all of us brothers and sisters to him. God sent Jesus to be one of us so that we could share in the very life of God.
Jesus shows us in a very visible way what it means to love. Jesus calls us to love God and to love one another. We have to put this in very concrete terms about loving one another because that's how we give witness to who God is.
When people see us filled with love and reaching out in love, making our community a community of love, people begin to understand who God is and that's the witness that we give.
We're very blessed today in our church because at the head of our church is Pope Francis. He's known around the whole world now because of what he does in giving us examples of love. He draws his ability to do that from Jesus because Jesus came into our world and witnessed to us what it means to love one another: to reach out to those who are most in need.
There are many examples in the Gospel where Jesus shows us what love means. It means giving respect, looking with kindness, reaching out in kindness to those in need. There are, as I say, many examples. One that I find most compelling is one that happened toward the end of the life of Jesus, when he was going to Jerusalem where he was going to be tortured and executed, and on the way the crowds followed him. He was about to enter the city of Jericho and there was a blind beggar on the roadside, a poor man abandoned, alone, probably pushed aside by the crowd, just a poor beggar.
But he started to cry out, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" He knew who Jesus was so he dared, in spite of the crowd pushing him back, to cry out to Jesus.
What happens? Jesus stops and he calls the man over. He could have waved his hand and said, "You're cured; you can see." No, he didn't do that. He calls him over because he wants to interact with the man and wants to show him respect. So he even asks him, "What do you want?" Most of us would presume, "I know what he wants; I'll help him."
No, Jesus respects him enough to say, "What do you want? What is it? Share with me." So he enters into a relationship with the man. He doesn't just sit down and write a check for something and send it through the mail. He wants to meet the man face to face, to interact, and to show respect, to show love.
So the man says, "I want to see."
Jesus says, "Your sight is restored." The man is cured, healed.
Jesus is reaching out in love, but notice how he does it. In fact, in the eucharistic prayer that we'll say in a few minutes, there's a part of it that encourages us to be inspired in reaching out to our brothers and sisters. It says, "After the example of Jesus and at his command."
That's what we must try to do: love one another after the example of Jesus and at his command. That's how you and I will give witness in this world to Jesus, to God who is love. That's how we can celebrate this feast of the Holy Trinity — rejoicing that God has shared with us God's very life.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit lives within me, within each one of us, and asks us to bear witness to that God who is love by going out into our world and loving one another after the example of Jesus and at his command.
[Homily given June 11 at St. Charles Borromeo in Detroit. The transcripts of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's homilies are posted weekly to NCRonline.org. Sign up here to receive an email alert when the latest homily is posted.]