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The Dynamic of Love at the Heart of the Triune God – Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

Scripture Readings
First Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
Second 2 Cor 13:11-13
Gospel John 3:16-18

Prepared by: Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P.

1. Subject Matter
• The Lord, who reveals his name as merciful and gracious to Moses, is the same God of love
and peace who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
• ”The mystery of the Trinity reveals to us the love which is in God, the love which is God
himself, the love with which God loves all men.” (Pope John Paul II)

2. Exegetical Notes
• John 3:16: “The only explanation that we shall ever have of the gift of eternal life made
possible for us in the redemption achieved in Christ is the incredible love of God for the
world.” The gratuity of God’s love extends to the extreme of giving his only son (JBC).
• John 3:16 “gave”: Usually the word “to give” is used by John to describe God as the source
of what Jesus offers the world. However, only here does John say that God “gave” his son to
the world, underscoring how the incarnation stems from God’s love for the world as well as
his will.
• 2 Cor 13:11-13: “This is the richest and most instructive final blessing in the Pauline epistles.
Paul explicitly wishes for everything necessary for the Corinthians’ salvation. The
communication of the Holy Spirit is that which he effects” (JBC).

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

• CCC # 221: ”But St. John goes even further when he affirms that ‘God is love’: God's very
being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has
revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.”
• CCC # 460: “The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’: ‘For this is
why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by
entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a
son of God.’ ‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’ ‘The only-
begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that
he, made man, might make men gods.’
• CCC #682: “When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious
Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his
works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace.”
• CCC # 706: “Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of
faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit. In Abraham's progeny all the nations of the earth will
be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself, in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will
‘gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.’ God commits himself by his
own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and ‘the promised Holy Spirit . . . (who is) the
guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.’”
• CCC #720: “Finally, with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of ‘the
divine likeness,’ prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ. John's baptism was for
repentance; baptism in water and the Spirit will be a new birth.”
• CCC #1274: “The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (‘Dominicus character’)
‘for the day of redemption.’ ‘Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life.’ The faithful Christian
who has ‘kept the seal’ until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be
able to depart this life ‘marked with the sign of faith,’ with his baptismal faith, in expectation of
the blessed vision of God - the consummation of faith - and in the hope of resurrection.”

4. Patristic Commentary
• St. Augustine: “So far, then, as it lies in the physician, He is come to heal the sick. He that
will not observe the orders of the physician destroys himself. He is come a Saviour to the
world: why is he called the Saviour of the world, but that He is come to save the world, not to
judge the world? Thou wilt not be saved by Him; thou shall be judged of thyself And why do I
say, “shall be judged”? See what He says: “He that believeth on Him is not judged, but he
that believeth not.”
• St. Augustine: “The confession of evil works is the beginning of good works. Thou doest the
truth, and comest to the light. How is it thou doest the truth? Thou dost not caress, nor
soothe, nor flatter thyself; nor say, “I am righteous,” whilst thou art unrighteous: thus, thou
beginnest to do the truth. Thou comest to the light, that thy works may be made manifest that
they are wrought in God; for thy sin, the very thing that has given thee displeasure, would not
have displeased thee, if God did not shine into thee, and His truth show it thee. But he that
loves his sins, even after being admonished, hates the light admonishing him, and flees from
it, that his works which he loves may not be proved to be evil. But he that doeth truth accuses
his evil works in himself, spares not himself, forgives not himself, that God may forgive him:
for that which he desires God to forgive, he himself acknowledges, and he comes to the light;
to which he is thankful for showing him what he should hate in himself.”
• Chrysostom: “What He saith, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that ye may
be saved, for this seemeth good to the Father, and He hath so loved you as to give His Son
for slaves, and ungrateful slaves…For by the expression, “so loved,” and that other, “God the
world,” He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between
the two. He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and
ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these
He “loved.” Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He saith,
that “He gave His Only-begotten Son,” not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet
no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.”
• Leo: “For His Nature, which is invisible and shared in common with the Father and the Son,
showed the character of His gift and work by the outward sign that pleased Him, but kept His
essential property within His own Godhead: because human sight can no more perceive the
Holy Ghost than it can the Father or the Son. For in the Divine Trinity nothing is unlike or
unequal, and all that can be thought concerning Its substance admits of no diversity either in
power or glory or eternity.”

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

• The transforming power of the love of the Trinity is at heart of the sanctity of all. One
example is St. Charles de Foucauld. As a boy, he abandoned his faith for a life of easy
living. At the age of 28, he rediscovered it, and wroth “As soon as I believed in God, I
understood that I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone.” At the age of 43 he
moved to the Sahara desert. He wanted to be among those who were, “the furthest
removed, the most abandoned.” He wanted all who drew close to him to find in him a brother,
“a universal brother.” In a great respect for the culture and faith of those among whom he
lived, his desire was to “shout the Gospel with his life”. “I would like to be sufficiently good
that people would say, “If such is the servant, what must the Master be like?” On the evening
of December 1st 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders who had encircled his house.

• Pope Benedict XVI: “In the light of the Pascal Mystery is fully revealed the centre of the
universe and of history: God himself, eternal and infinite Love. The word that summarizes all
revelation is this: ‘God is love’ (I Jn 4: 8, 16); and love is always a mystery, a reality that
surpasses reason without contradicting it, and more than that, exalts its possibilities. Jesus
revealed to us the mystery of God: he, the Son, made us know the Father who is in Heaven,
and gave us the Holy Spirit, the Love of the Father and of the Son. Christian theology
synthesizes the truth of God with this expression: only one substance in three persons. God
is not solitude, but perfect communion. For this reason the human person, the image of God,
realizes himself or herself in love, which is a sincere gift of self.”
• Pope Paul VI: “’For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ for its salvation. All
our religion is a revelation of God’s kindness, mercy and love for us. ‘God is love’ (1John
4:16) that is, love poured forth unsparingly. All is summed up in this supreme truth, which
explains and illuminates everything. The story of Jesus must be seen in this light. ‘(He)
loved me, and gave himself for me.’”
• Pope Benedict XVI: “The Spirit does not speak, as it were, from himself, but is a listening to
and a making clear of the Son, who in turn does not speak on his authority, but is, as the one
sent by the Father, his distinct presence. The Father also gives himself to the Son so
completely that everything that he has belongs to the Son. Each of the three Persons of the
Trinity points to the other two. In this circle of love flowing and intermingling, there is the
highest degree of unity and constancy to everything that exists…”
• Pope Benedict XVI: “What sustains us is the movement of the heart and spirit that leaves
itself and is on the way to the other…It is only if each Christian makes his whole being
available to the Word in the passage of time that time can as a whole be made open to
Christ…The Trinity, then, provides us with the means by which both the individual and the
community of the Church can disentangle the confusion of time. We shall not solve the
problems that trouble us today by theorizing, but by spiritual means, by entering, in other
words, into the form of the Trinity.”
• Pope Benedict XVI: “In the one and indivisible God there exists the phenomenon of
dialogue, the reciprocal exchange of word and love. This again signifies that the ‘three
Persons’ who exist in God are the reality of Word and Love in the attachment to each other.”
• Pope Benedict XVI: “’Father’ is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being for the other
is he Father; in his own being, in himself he is simply God. Person is the pure relation of
being related, nothing else. Relationship is not something extra added to the person, as it is
with us; it only exists as all as relatedness.”
• Pope John Paul II: “This is the same Spirit who was at work in the Incarnation and in the life,
death and resurrection of Jesus, and who is at work in the Church. He is therefore not an
alternative to Christ, nor does he fill a sort of void which is sometimes suggested as existing
between Christ and the Logos. Whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the
history of peoples, in cultures and religions serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can
only be understood in reference to Christ, the Word who took flesh by the power of the Spirit
so that as perfectly human he would save all human beings and sum up all things.
Moreover, the universal activity of the Spirit is not to be separated from his particular activity
within the body of Christ, which is the Church. Indeed, it is always the Spirit who is at work,
both when he gives life to the Church and impels her to proclaim Christ, and when he
implants and develops his gifts in all individuals and peoples, guiding the Church to discover
these gifts, to foster them and to receive them through dialogue. Every form of the Spirit's
presence is to be welcomed with respect and gratitude, but the discernment of this presence
is the responsibility of the Church, to which Christ gave his Spirit in order to guide her into all
the truth (cf. Jn Jn 16,13).”

7. Other Considerations
• The Trinity reveals God as literally the Love that moves the world. There is no solitude in
God, but perfect gift. We become partakers of the Divine Nature through the reception of this
Gift in the sacraments as well as through our own participation in Divine Charity or Friendship
with God.

Recommended Resources
Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI ed. Peter John Cameron, Ignatius Press, 2006.
Congregation for the Clergy, Biblia Clerus, on line at:
Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, and Roland Murphy,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.
The Navarre Bible: St. John, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998.
The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of John” vol ix, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990.