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Gospel Commentary: The Trinity’s inner life

Gospel Commentary Jn 16:12-15

Christianity is entirely about the union of love. In the Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday, Jesus gives us a glimpse into the heart of reality — into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. He speaks to us with shocking openness about the relationships between the three persons who are the one God.

Jesus said: “(The Spirit) will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:14). Then he follows, saying: “Everything that the Father has is mine” (Jn 16:15). Thus the Lord makes clear to us the sharing of life within God, the order among the three equal persons and the nature of the Spirit’s message.

From Jesus’ words, we know that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have everything in common, except for their relations as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father has immortality, omniscience, omnipotence, beauty, goodness and every other perfection in himself as the source without source. And all of these belong to the Son. Jesus will say in another place, “For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself” (Jn 5:26). These perfections, contained in the divine nature itself, belong also to the Holy Spirit, so he can declare to us the truth that “God is love,” and thus glorify the Son, who leads us back to the Father. 

When we, instructed by the Spirit, say that “God is love,” we do not mean something vague or merely inspirational. We are not speaking of just any love either, as though the statement “love is God” could also be true. We are making a clear statement about the inner nature of God. The true God is one, not lonely or isolated in his divinity, but a community of persons, whose perfect inner life overflows with a love that reaches out by an act of creation, simply in order to communicate itself to souls capable of receiving it. The love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the great engine at the heart of reality. We only exist because the Holy Trinity wishes us to know, love and serve this love, and be happy in union with it forever. Receiving the love of the Trinity’s inner life is the purpose of every human soul.

As beautiful as that call is, and as consoling as it is to reflect on the fact that the love at the heart of existence invites us into blissful communion, it presents us a distinct challenge. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that most of our hearts are not big enough to receive the gift of divine love. Jesus tells us: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it yet” (Jn 16:12).

Through prayer, bearing suffering well, and forgiving those who have wronged us, the Lord expands our hearts little by little, until they become capable of receiving the love of the Trinity more and more. As St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, God trains us through the prayer of agony to be able to bear the prayer of ecstasy.

If we are willing to let God prepare us through gradual purification, then we will know the truth that the Triune God is love, not only because we have been told, but by experience — as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have desired for all eternity.

Fr. Rampino is parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019