Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
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.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
Why does the Church choose this passage for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity? It’s a popular passage, (probably the most popular in the whole New Testament), but it doesn’t immediately point to the Holy Trinity... or so it may seem at first. It has been said that the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son, so it makes sense to read this passage for Trinity Sunday. It was the Holy Spirit who brought the Son into the World by the Father’s will. So contained right there in the famous John 3:16 verse is the Trinity, manifest in the mystery of the Incarnation. Everything to do with God involves love. He does not simply love, but rather he is love. The Father not only loves the Son, but also loves the world because it is the nature of love to diffuse itself. It is natural for God to do this because love is not simply what God does, it is who he is. Love is his nature. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit could have remained in perfect relation with each other in need of nothing for all of eternity. But love is too good and perfect to be inert. It has to proliferate because it is pure. It is love’s nature to give, and that is why God gave us his Son.
So that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
It’s easy to run into the danger of thinking that all we have to do is believe in Christ, and we will have eternal life. Ultimately though, it is not as simple as that. Our salvation is contingent upon our faith taking effect in our lives and resulting in action. If we do not put our faith into action, we probably won’t be saved. I think the word “might'' is not emphasized enough in this verse. It is used twice for a reason. We might be saved if we believed. Believing is a great starting point, but it is just that: it’s only the beginning. Telling myself that I am loved by God and that I believe he will always forgive me no matter what I do is not what Jesus is expecting from us. If we love him we will follow his commandments. Faith without works is dead. So if we believe in him, it should be our hope that our belief will come to fruition through our actions in our everyday lives. Jesus knew that many seeds would fall among thorns or on infertile soil. Nonetheless, it behooves us to start afresh every new day and to believe, because that’s as good a starting point as anyone can ask for. And the Lord gives us that chance for a new beginning every day if we simply start it by believing in him and trusting that Jesus will help us believe.
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world.
I like to think I am not quick to judge other people, but I often am. I say, ‘If I were in this or that position, I would do it this way.’ I may not say it to others, but I say it to myself. And I secretly wish for God to condemn the people who act in ways I do not like, just to show them who’s boss. It seems like such an obvious statement: Of course, God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world. What kind of God would do that? Perhaps the gods that were commonly worshiped at the time did have that reputation. And maybe it was considered appropriate since many people have that kind of mindset (myself included) even today; the mindset that the world is so messed up, some divine being should come down to fix it. Someone needs to come and set right the people who are doing wrong. It just makes sense. Why would we have such a desire for a better world if there was no way to make it better? And what better way to make it better than by condemning those who make it worse? Why can’t God just do that? Why wouldn’t he?
Well, he kind of did and it didn’t work. More on that later.
First, it’s vital to mention that the better way is love, and that is God’s way. He sent his son into the world to save the world through unconditional, sacrificial love. Condemnation will not do it. Afterall, God did condemn many people and the world still remained fallen and full of sin. He wiped out all of humanity except Noah and his family with the Flood. He destroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s plan of salvation is not God’s way of trying a new approach, though. He planned to send his son into the world to save it from the very beginning. But perhaps people would be wondering for the rest of time why God didn’t just condemn the sinners and keep the righteous ones, like he did with the Flood. Did God learn from his mistake, and then use a different approach?
The more I reflect on this verse the more I notice how it may be connected to the Flood. God did not want to condemn the world then either, but it was necessary just as baptism is necessary. We have to equate that Genesis period with the period of original sin in our own lives. The world was still stained with the sin of Adam and Eve in those years. It had not yet been cleansed from their decision in the Garden, or Cain’s murder of his brother. Just as we had to be baptized as soon as we entered the world, so all of humanity had to be baptized by cleansing it of those who chose sin over God.
But humanity still went on disobeying God. So, just as the Flood parallels baptism, Jesus’ sacrifice parallels the sacraments associated with it: Confession and the Eucharist. The history of humanity is very similar to the history of each human life. The sacraments are there for us to access God’s power to save us from sin and to offer us eternal life. Many people wanted Jesus to choose another way other than love, but love was the only way to get the job done. God always loved every person, even when he sent the Flood. In fact, we do not know the fate of all those who died in the Flood. God had a plan for all of them, and only he knows their eternal fate.
We can, however, know that the Flood was a precursor to our own salvation through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is often symbolized through water. Humanity is cleansed of original sin by baptism through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with water. But we are cleansed of our personal sins by the blood of Jesus. We see the Trinity working out our salvation throughout history, and if we meditate on our own lives we will see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working to save our own souls as well.
You do indeed offer us eternal life if we believe in you and bring that faith into fruition through acts of faith in our everyday lives. I pray for the grace to accept this challenge, and to see each day as a new beginning to reach out to you with faith. You alone have the words of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen
What is God saying to me now? How does his promise of eternal life fill me with hope? How does the love of God we experience reveal a little bit of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and how is God inviting me into that relationship with him?
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report. He received his undergrad degree in humanities and Catholic culture from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. In addition to working with the Knights of the Holy Eucharist (knights.org), he has served as a journalist for Princeton Packet Publications, and the Trenton Monitor, the magazine for the Diocese of Trenton. Some of his published work can also be found in St. Anthony Messenger, Catholic Herald (UK), and Catholic World Report. For the latter he is managing editor. Find more of his writing at ramblingspirit.com.
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