Father Cantalamessa on the Trinity

Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Gospel

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ROME, MAY 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In a commentary on this Sunday’s Gospel passage, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, comments that the Trinity is a model for the whole human community because it shows how love creates unity out of diversity.

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John (3:16-18)

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus: «For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.»

The Source of Love

The second reading of today’s liturgy, taken from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, is the one that most directly evokes the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity: «The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.» But, why do Christians believe in the Trinity? Isn’t it difficult enough to believe that God exists, that we must also have added to it the enigma that he is «one and triune?» There are some today who would not be unhappy to leave the Trinity to one side, to be able to dialogue better with Jews and Muslims, who profess faith in a God who is rigidly one.

Christians believe that God is triune because they believe that God is love! It is the revelation of God as love, made by Jesus, which has obliges us to admit the Trinity. It is not a human invention. There is no love for the void, no love that is not directed to someone. So we must ask: who does God love to be defined as love? A first answer might be: He loves mankind. But we have existed for some millions of years, no more. And before then, who did God love? He could not in fact have begun to be love at a certain point in time, because God cannot change.

Second answer: Before then he loved the cosmos, the universe. But the universe has existed for some thousands of millions of years. Before then, who did God love to be able to define himself as love? We cannot say that he loved himself because to love oneself is not love, but egoism or, as psychologists say, narcissism.

Here is the answer of Christian revelation. God is love in himself, before time, because he has always had in himself a Son, the word, whom he loves with an infinite love, that is, in the Holy Spirit. In all love there are always three realities or subjects: one who loves, one who is loved, and the love that unites them.

The God of Christian revelation is one and triune because he is communion of love. Theology has made use of the term «nature» or «substance» to indicate unity in God, and of the term «person» to indicate the distinction. Because of this we say that our God is one God in three persons. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not a regression, a compromise between monotheism and polytheism. It is a step further that only God himself could make the human mind take.

Let us now turn to some practical considerations. The Trinity is the model of every human community, from the most simple and elemental, which is the family, to the universal Church. It shows how love creates unity out of diversity: unity of intentions, of thought, of will; diversity of subjects, of characteristics and, in the human realm, of sex. And we see, specifically, what a family can learn from the Trinitarian model.

If we read the New Testament with care, we observe a sort of rule. Each one of the three divine persons does not speak about himself, but about the other; does not attract attention to himself, but to the other. Every time the Father speaks in the Gospel he does so always to reveal something of the Son. Jesus, in turn, speaks only of the Father. When the Holy Spirit reaches a believer’s heart, he does not teach him to say his name, which in Hebrew is «Ruah,» but teaches him to say «Abba,» which is the Father’s name.

Let’s try to think what this style would bring about if it were transferred to family life. The father, who is not so concerned about asserting his authority as that of the mother; the mother, who before teaching the child to say «Mommy,» teaches him to say «Daddy.» If this style was imitated in our families and communities, they would truly become a reflection of the Trinity on earth, places where love is the rule that governs everything.

[Italian original published by «Famiglia Cristiana»]

[Translation by ZENIT]

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