Reflections for the Week
Know that I am With you Always
In the National Gallery in London is a painting by the seventeenth-century Spanish artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo. It is a painting, at first sight, of the Holy Family; but it has an odd title: The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities. In the centre of the painting we see the child Jesus, standing on a rock, his hands held by Mary and Joseph, who sit either side of him. As the Christ child looks up, his face is brightened by the opening of the heavens, from where descends the Spirit, in the form of a dove, sent by the Father, visible as the clouds part. It is a picture of the centrality of Jesus as the one who opens up earth to heaven. It is a picture not just of the three people of the Holy Family and the three persons of the Holy Trinity, but, more profoundly, on the meaning of the Trinity itself.
Perhaps what this painting most powerfully expresses is love. There is a loving we can all relate to in the familial love of Mary, Joseph and Jesus: the mother’s adoring and delighted look at her son, the father’s supportive hand, and the child’s physical dependency on his parents. There is something properly human and “earthly” here. And it is precisely here that we glimpse what is most true and most mysterious about God: that he is truly and totally God, and other than us, and yet, at the same time, comes to us as one of us, so that we can be sharers in his life.
This paradoxical mystery of God as both above all things and yet close to us is the dominant message of today’s readings. It is a message that takes us to the heart of why, as Christians, we do everything “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” What becomes clear is that these words are not merely some ancient formula; nor are they expressing something nonsensical and obscure. Rather, these words tell us about God’s abiding love for us, his presence with us, and the mission that he calls us to. The liveliness of this teaching of our faith is beautifully expressed by St Paul. He presents us with an image of the Trinity not as something difficult and remote but as the very air we breathe when we pray. For when we are at prayer, we stand before God as our loving Father, as “coheirs” - family - with Jesus. Because we are born again in the Holy Spirit, this familial intimacy with God is a daily reality, an extra-ordinary presence in our ordinary living.
However, for us, as for the people of Israel when Moses addressed them, this loving intimacy with the Father is not just a cosy being-at-home with God. No; such a sharing in the Trinitarian life leads us to share, too, in God’s great love for all people and for the whole of creation. This Trinitarian love is an active, outgoing love, a missionary loving. The risen Jesus, taking leave of his disciples at his ascension, not only says, “I’m going to prepare a place for you;” but also, as Matthew records, instructs his followers to go out and make disciples.
It is all too easy on Trinity Sunday to content ourselves with naming the Trinity as “mystery” and then go about our business as normal. Yet what today’s readings teach us is that this is a profoundly practical teaching of our faith: the Trinity tells us who we are, as baptised people; it opens up the riches of prayer and intimate life with God; it assures us of God’s closeness to us as we go out to do God’s work in the world.
In practice, then, simply to begin each day “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” can be a way of entering, day by day, more deeply into this mystery of love. To call on God as our Father, Abba, throughout the day, is the practice of prayer that most closely brings us to Jesus, as his family, and opens our hearts afresh to the life of the Spirit. From such prayer we can find small but powerful ways of living the mission of the Trinity in our lives. Let’s find moments in the coming week where, like God who is Trinity, we can go out to others in love, knowing God is with us in all things.
The Living Word Redemptorist Publications
'Come to Me, all of you… Behold, for you I have established a throne of mercy on earth and from this throne I desire to enter into your heart. I am not surrounded by a retinue of guards. You can come to me at any moment, at any time; I want to speak to you and I desire to grant you grace. I desire that (Eucharistic) Adoration take place for the intention of imploring mercy for the world. Adore in the Most Blessed Sacrament my heart, which is full of mercy. At Adoration that beneath these rays (from the Eucharist) a heart will be warmed even if it were like a block of ice; or hard as rock.’
Diary of St Faustina
Gaudete et Exsultate
We may think that we give glory to God only by our worship and prayer, or simply by following certain ethical norms. It is true that the primacy belongs to our relationship with God, but we cannot forget that the ultimate criterion on which our lives will be judged is what we have done for others. Prayer is most precious, for it nourishes a daily commitment to love. Our worship becomes pleasing to God when we devote ourselves to living generously, and allow God’s gift, granted in prayer, to be shown in our concern for our brothers and sisters. (GE 104)
Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad) Pope Francis
Fr Bill's Thoughts