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God Loves Us
Deacon Mike Meyer / Sunday, June 4, 2023 / Categories: Blog, Homilies

God Loves Us

Homily for Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity, Year A

          I’m not very artistic, but I do love art. So while preparing this homily, I couldn’t help but think of the many ways artists have tried to portray the Holy Trinity in art over the past two thousand years. Most depictions involve two men for God and Jesus and either a dove or a tongue of fire for the Holy Spirit. Many show the divine persons arranged in a vertical line, with the Spirit hovering at the top, the Father seated in the middle, and Jesus pictured as a baby seated on the Father’s lap. Some works prefer a triangle, with one of the three persons of the Divine Trinity placed at each vertex. Not too long ago, a spiritual director friend of mine introduced me to a ceramic piece sculpted by Dominican Sister Caritas Müller called The Merciful Trinity. Müller’s work is circular in form, which is unusual for trinitarian art. What strikes me the most about The Merciful Trinity, though, is that it includes a fourth figure at the center of the piece. Who’s the fourth figure? Perhaps today’s feast and readings can help us figure that out.

          Today, of course is Trinity Sunday, the day we set aside to celebrate and contemplate the mystery of God, three divine persons in one substance. Now, the New Testament doesn’t fully develop a Trinitarian concept of God; Jesus subtly introduced it by referring to the Father and the Spirit in several Gospel passages. In fact, our second reading is one of the few passages in Scripture that speaks of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same breath.[1] This blessing expresses Saint Paul’s hope that the Corinthians will experience the love of God made known through the grace of Jesus Christ so they can live in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Today’s feast, then, focuses our attention on God’s deep, abiding love for all humanity. Today’s feast is about God’s love.

          God loves us—every one of us. How do we know? Scripture’s undeniably clear, and today’s readings offer two great examples. In our first reading from Exodus, Moses returns to Mt. Sinai. He needs a replacement set of Commandments from God since he smashed the first set on the ground when he caught the Israelites worshiping the golden calf. What does God do? He declares that he’s merciful, gracious, and slow to anger and then, he gives the Israelites another chance. God doesn’t reject them. God doesn’t smite them. God loves them. Our Gospel passage next speaks of the extent of God’s love for all humanity with the familiar words: “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.” The evangelist was very careful in choosing his words here. The Greek word for love used in this passage is agapaó, which isn’t mere friendship or affection; it's not romantic love; It’s absolute, selfless, unconditional love. It’s God’s love.

          There’s another way we know that God loves us, but it requires that we accept a sobering fact: God doesn’t need us. We Christians believe in the utter self-sufficiency of God. God lacks nothing and is perfectly content in God’s self. God didn’t create us because God needed someone to talk to or to have friends. God didn’t create us because God needs our worship and praise.[2] God created us because God just can’t contain his love.[3] God created us to love us.

          OK, so God loves us, but what does that mean for us? It means a lot of things, but first and foremost, it means that we need to love ourselves. A lot of people have a hard time loving themselves these days. Whether it’s our appearance, our professional status, or how many friends we have on Facebook, Snapchat, or Insta, we’re really hard on ourselves. But if all three persons of the Almighty, all knowing, eternal God loves us, how can we not love ourselves?

Human dignity comes from God, no one else. There’s no person or human-established standard that determines whether we’re worthy of being loved. God sets that standard, and we’ve all passed with flying colors. So if you’re vexed by the bump on your nose, a few too many pounds, or crow’s feet stamped at the corners of your eyes, remember, God loves you. If you’ve been dumped by your true love, laid off from work, or abandoned by family or friends, God loves you. If you’re anxious or depressed, bullied, discriminated against, disrespected, or misunderstood, God loves you. Whenever you feel like you’re not good enough, smart enough, or lovable enough, God loves you! We can run, we can hide, but we cannot escape the fact that God loves us—no matter what we may do. We need to accept the great gift of God’s love because when we do, two incredible things happen. First, we live, right now, in the comfort and peace that can only come from the eternal embrace of trinitarian love; and second, we won’t be able to contain ourselves either. God’s love will pour out of us, enabling us to love God and neighbor, just as Jesus commanded us to do.

          Why all this talk about the fact that God loves us? Because it tells us who the fourth figure is in Caritas Müller’s Merciful Trinity. You see, The Merciful Trinity shows the three persons of the Holy Trinity encircling a poor, injured, bone-weary person lying on the ground. The Father bends over the person, holding him tenderly, supporting his limp body, and kissing his forehead. The Son is stationed at his feet, kissing them, and tending to his wounds. And the Spirit, in the form of a dove with flaming wings, swoops down toward him as if to awaken and raise him to new life. Who’s the person? It’s you, and you, and you, and even me. Every one of us lies at the center of divine attention. I love this touching image because it reminds us that the divine Trinity accompanies us—in Word, Works, and Eucharist— through every aspect of our lives, supporting us in our suffering and responding to our every need. I love it because it reminds us that God never hesitates to touch us, bind our wounds, and hold us close. Most of all, I love this image because it reminds us that God loves us.

Readings: Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; Daniel 52-56; 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13; John 3:16-18

 

[1] Mary M. McGlone, “The Lure of the Unimaginable,” National Catholic Reporter,” 59: no. 17 (May 26-June8, 2023), 19.

[2] James V. Schall, “A Final Gladness,” Last Lecture given at Georgetown University (December 7, 2012).

[3] Robert Barron, Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master, (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2008), 107-108.

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