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Sunday Scripture: God is three persons in one God

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

By Terrance Callan

Trinity Sunday: Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

This Sunday we celebrate our belief that God is three persons in one God. Each of the readings views the relationship among the three persons from a different angle.

The reading from the Book of Proverbs describes God’s creation of the world. It uses terms similar to those in the first chapter of Genesis: God made heaven and earth, and separated the water from the dry land. But Proverbs adds something that Genesis does not mention. Before creating the world God brought forth Wisdom, and Wisdom was associated with God in creation.


 
Originally this portrayal of Wisdom was probably a personification of the wisdom of God that is visible in creation. But the early Christians understood it as a description of Jesus prior to His incarnation. Thus they saw Jesus as the incarnation of Wisdom, who was with God the Father from the beginning and shared in His creation (see Colassians 1:15-16).

The reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans speaks of the mission of Jesus. God sent Him to make things right between God and the human race. By believing in Jesus we have peace with God right now, and the assurance that we will one day share in the glory of God. This assurance is based on the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
 
As Paul says elsewhere, the Holy Spirit is a guarantee of our salvation (see 2 Corinthians 1:22). And the presence of the Holy Spirit is so powerful an assurance of our future share in God’s glory that Paul says we can actually boast of our afflictions. With the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, afflictions can even increase our hope.

The reading from the Gospel according to John also speaks of the relationship between the Father, Jesus and the Spirit, but in somewhat different terms. This passage is part of Jesus’ lengthy farewell to His disciples in the Gospel of John. Here He prepares the disciples for His departure by promising that after He has gone, the Spirit will come to guide them into all truth.
 
Before Jesus returned to the Father in His death and resurrection, His disciples could not clearly grasp who He was. But after His death and resurrection, with the help of the Spirit, they understood. What they understood through the Spirit was the same thing that Jesus had said to them; and the message of Jesus was that the Father was present in Him. Through the Spirit we understand that Jesus is the way to the Father.

Our belief that God is three persons in one God is difficult to understand, and may seem unimportant for our lives. The readings for this Sunday speak of the Trinity in a way that may be helpful. The readings tell us that God the Father created the universe, sent Jesus to save us, and has poured out the Spirit upon us to continue the work of Jesus in us.
 
The readings tell us that the Son was with the Father from the beginning, cooperated with the Father in creating the world, became incarnate in Jesus to save us and continues to be with us through the Holy Spirit.

And the readings tell us that the presence of the Holy Spirit within us enables us to know Jesus and the Father, and assures us that our salvation will be completed.

Callan is a faculty member at the Atheneaum of Ohio.

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