Last Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, we came to the end of that great movement in our liturgy which began on Ash Wednesday. During these three months or so we commemorated and lived through the great mysteries of the culmination of Christ’s ministry—his entry in Jerusalem, the Last Supper, his trial and scourging, his death and resurrection, his ascension into heaven and the birth of the Church.
Now, today, shortly before returning to what is called Ordinary Time we are invited to reflect on the mystery of God himself. What we are invited to contemplate is the very nature of God. We began this liturgical journey in sackcloth and ashes but now we end it with a vision of glory.
We cannot know God in all his fullness but we can know what he reveals to us about himself. And it is important that we do know God as he reveals himself to us because in him is our origin and our ultimate destiny. Indeed, if we want to know anything profound about ourselves then we need to know about God.
Most people in society at large are quite content to travel along life’s journey without any knowledge of God and without any real contact with him. And this is a sad loss for them because in failing to come to know God they fail fully to know themselves.
The very first commandment Moses handed down to the People of Israel was to love God. If, God forbid, we ignored all the other commandments and the entire teaching of Jesus Christ but kept just that first commandment we would still be on the right road and would be able to find fulfilment and salvation. This first commandment should not rightly be called a commandment at all for it is not a commandment, it is an invitation, an invitation to love.
We think that we are human because of our heads, because we can think. But really we are human not because of our heads but because of our hearts, because we can feel, because we can love. It is our capacity for love that sets us apart from all other life forms and gives us our unique status. And the invitation we are being given is to love God, the ground and origin of everything that is.
The mystery of God is that he is all love and that the members of the Trinity live in a mutual self-giving love –a love which is so great that it overflows into the whole of creation. This invitation to love God is an invitation to enter into the very nature of God. If God is love, then the love that is within us is a reflection of God. This means that without God we are not fully human or cannot achieve our fulfilment.
As we have said, so many people in our world have no real relationship with God. Our task and challenge is for us to be sure that we continue in and deepen our own relationship with God. This is not always easy. So often we find ourselves drifting away from him, attracted by the passing things of this world. At other times we might be angry with God. We might feel a deep sense of grievance against him for perceived injustice.
The really important thing for us to do, however we might be feeling, is to maintain a deep interior dialogue with God. What we are talking about here is the life of prayer. Our prayer life should be like a river –starting as a mere trickle, but as it passes through different landscapes and works its way round various obstacles it grows ever deeper and stronger as it draws from these experiences. Until in the evening of life it has grown so broad and deep that it becomes indistinguishable from the sea itself.
God, the Blessed Trinity, is above and beyond anything that is. This is because everything that exists was created by God and so by definition God is of an entirely different order.
So, as we have said, we cannot really know God in this life. But that is not the last word because God has taken the initiative to break through all barriers and reveal himself to us. He has done this in a myriad different ways through history, but he broke through definitively in the person of Jesus his Son.
It is through knowing Jesus that we know God best of all. And by living the kind of life that Jesus lived we live the best kind of life we ever can live, for the way to our highest fulfilment is by imitating Christ. Jesus’ words are the most powerful way God communicates to us. And Jesus’ favourite word is: Come.
Jesus, over and over again, invites us into a deeper and fuller relationship with God. That simple word ‘come’ reveals the depth of God’s love for us. It conveys also a deep respect for our free will because it is an invitation and not a command.
But many people in our world have not heard God’s invitation. There are sadly very many who, for whatever reason, feel excluded from God’s invitation. And this is the greatest tragedy of all—that so many feel excluded from the love of the one who gave his life for them.
Christians know there is no barrier between us and the love of God. But human beings frequently create barriers where they do not exist. It is as if we can’t cope with such overwhelming love. It is as if in relation to God’s love we are all frigid.
But we members of the Church gather here every week because we know that God loves us and has saved us from our sins. Our task, divinely given, is to help our brothers and sisters in the human family to drop the barriers they have set up, consciously or unconsciously, against knowing and loving God. This is a delicate task, one not easily achieved and one which requires a great deal of subtlety. Bible bashing will get us nowhere. Indeed there is only one way to complete this task and that is to do it Jesus’ way. To accomplish this great mission we need to think and live and act like Jesus.
All through the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels we see him in communion with the Father and living in the power of the Spirit. Today we think about and express our faith in and rejoice in the Blessed Trinity. We cannot fulfil our mission in the world unless we keep our eye on the Trinity, unless we keep our eye on God—the God who is love, who is overwhelmingly generous, who is all forgiving, who is the fountain of all meaning and hope for the world.
We cannot draw others into the mystery of God unless we ourselves are drawn into the mystery of God. So, let our prayer and wish and hope today be that we ourselves are enabled to lower all our barriers to the love and power and glory of God. And that as a result of this others too may be led into the path of wholeness and experience the fruits of salvation.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket