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The Holy Trinity as a model for love

I would like to begin today by taking a step back and remembering a fundamental truth of our Christian faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching the 'hierarchy of the truths of faith'" (No. 234).

Jesus revealed that the Holy Trinity is a community of persons in an eternal relationship of love. Look for instance at the Father's love for the Son. At Jesus' baptism, the voice of the Father from the heavens proclaims: "This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to Him" (Mk 1:11). At the Last Supper, Jesus stated: "As the father has loved me, so I have loved you" (Jn 15: 6).

Take notice of the Son's love for the Father. "If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the father; the father is greater than I" (Jn 14:28). Toward the end of His earthly journey, Jesus said: "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you"(Jn 17:1). To Philip, Jesus exclaims: "How can you say, 'Show us the father?' Do you not believe that I am in the father and the father is in me?" (Jn 14:9-10).

Finally, we understand that the Holy Spirit is the love that proceeds from the Father and the Son, bringing life to the world. Jesus reveals to us just before He departs from this world, "But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7). The Holy Spirit enables us to call upon the Father with childlike familiarity: "The spirit upon coming to us enables us to cry out, 'Abba!' (Father)" (Gal 4:6). Finally, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Advocate and states: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the spirit of truth that proceeds from the father, he will testify to me" (Jn 15: 26).

There is a fascinating pattern in how the three persons of the Holy Trinity love. Each of the three persons refers constantly to the other. True love is constantly focused on the good of the other. God made us in His image and likeness, to share in His very life and love. God made us to follow His way of being and relating. He made us to love radically, totally and sacrificially.

In contrast to the true love of God, we have the rich man in today's Gospel, whom tradition has given the name Dives. Dives teaches us about two great temptations posed by wealth. First, money and our pursuit of it can easily distract us from being aware that all of our good things come from God. Jesus has Abraham reprimand the rich man: "Remember that you received what was good during your lifetime … ." In other words, you were quite blessed but you did not properly grasp the Giver of those gifts and your dependence upon Him. Sure, you may have been clever, hard-working and industrious, but those gifts came from God as well.

Secondly, the pursuit of riches can make us focus on ourselves exclusively - what I have, what I do not have, what I want to have in 10 years, how much I need to have to be really happy, etc. Money easily becomes an inordinate attachment that enslaves our heart, our dreams and our very lives. This slavery keeps us from seeing our hurting neighbor at our doorstep.

Jesus, in describing Lazarus, reveals His heart. He describes Lazarus as a poor man, covered with sores and desiring to eat scraps. He goes on to add that dogs even used to come and lick his sores. Jesus sees the pain and anguish of the poor and the sick, and it stirs His heart. In his riches, Dives does not even see Lazarus suffering at the door to his house.

Jesus is pretty harsh describing the outcome of this failure to address the needy in our midst: eternal torment in hell. There are very real consequences for our actions, especially the sinful ones of which we refuse to repent. This is a sobering reality that we must all face as children of the Father.

On the other hand, when our faith is real, we grow to love as God loves. We share God's love for the poor, the sick and the outcast. We do not oversee or ignore those around us who are hurting. Rather, we serve humbly and share the gifts that God has given us because they were meant to be shared.

Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in McLean.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2013