Provers 8: 22-31 + Psalm 8 + Romans 5: 1-5 + John 16, 12-15
June 4, 2023 at St William & St Peter Churches in Naples, FL
We have moved out of the Easter Season now, and after 50 days and last week’s celebration of Pentecost, we reach deep into our tradition with this Sunday’s reflection on the Holy Trinity and next Sunday’s reflection on the Body and Blood of Christ. We are being teased a bit by the Church to try and imagine what is unimaginable and invited to approach what is really beyond us. We take time this week to think about what God is like and what that means for us. From the beginning we have tried all sorts of images and ways to describe God and express what God means to us: omnipotent creator, artist making creatures from mud, someone who walks and talks with Abraham, a God of fire with a voice of thunder, that angry one from the prophets, and a consoling stranger who walks with disappointed and grieving disciples on a road to Emmaus.
In that first reading today from the Book of Exodus God tells us what God is like “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and rich in kindness and fidelity”. No wonder that man Moses who first heard those words wanted God to come along with that unruly crowd he was leading, because this is a God of communal love who creates in order to share that love. Then, Jesus, the Son of God, reveals by what he says and what he does how that love of God takes on human flesh, not just his, but ours as well. His promise to send the “Spirit of Truth” is what guides and preserves us. When he speaks of the “Spirit of Truth”, the key word here is Truth. In Greek, the word for “True” can mean a lack of forgetfulness. Understood in this way, it has nothing to do with right or wrong, it simply suggests that with the Spirit we will not forget. We will not forget our past, our tradition, or forget our roots in the apostles and the teaching of Jesus about unity, forgiveness, fidelity, and love.
When in our freedom we lost the image of that God in whose image we were created, God broke through our stubbornness with one who was ready to put God’s will before her own, and the Word was made flesh restoring us and all humanity to its divine origins, through, in, and with Jesus Christ. That Spirit will not let us forget in whose image we have been made.
One of several things that keeps this old man fascinated with the Word of God is that ongoing studies of language keep refining our translations bringing them closer to what was intended long ago by the sacred writer. What we proclaimed from the third chapter of John’s Gospel today provides a verse we have seen on billboards and signs at sporting events. It says: “For God so loved the world…” Recent studies suggest that this passage is best translated as: “For in this way, God loved the world.” It is a subtle change that shifts from how much God loved the world, to simply how God loved the world. If that is John’s intention, he is telling us that God loves through this unique and only son suggesting that God’s love is shown by action, and the sending of that promised Spirit is one more powerful action that shows God’s love for the world.
Lest we forget again who we are, lest we forget again what has happened to us through the Incarnation, another Incarnation with the Spirit comes to fill us with mercy, to keep us gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and shape us more profoundly into the very image of God revealed in Jesus Christ. It’s all about the wonder of this God who will not leave us alone, a God whose profound and undeserved love takes on human flesh that we might see what is unseen, and begin to imagine what is beyond us. It is a God whose Spirit now in us continues to be revealed by what we do and what we say in the name of his only Son. This is the Trinity we experience greater than the Trinity of Theologians. It is the Father, it is the Son, and it is a spirit-filled people who remember in whose image they were made.