ONE GOD, THREE PERSONS (HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR B)

By: Fr. Sylvanus AMEH

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Psalm 33; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

The doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity is the central teaching of Christianity, because it is the mystery of God himself, even though it is incomprehensible to us. It says summarily that God is One, but in the One God are three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. These three persons are not three gods:

  • The Father is not the Son or Spirit
  • The Son is not the Father or Spirit
  • The Spirit is not the Father or Son
  • Yet all are one in the Trinitarian Godhead

There is no mention of the Holy Trinity anywhere in the Bible. Mention is only made of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. It is from these mentions that we deduce that in one God, there are three persons. Let us look at some of these texts.

  • In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our own image.” The “us” in this statement is an obvious indicator that a community of persons had a dialogue concerning the creation of man. However, the idea of the three persons in one God became clearer in d New Testament.
  • In Luke 1:35, Jesus says “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of God will rest on you, and the child you shall bear will be called the son of God.”
  • We read in John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God… through him, all things were made, and there was nothing that was made which was not made through him.” Note here that the “Word” is clearly addressed as a distinct being, and that this “Word” is also God. It is this “Word” that became flesh and dwelt among us (vs.14).
  • In John 14:16, Jesus said “I will ask the Father, and he will send you an advocate, who will stay with you forever.” Here too, the Father, Son and Spirit are mentioned as distinct persons.
  • When Jesus gave the great commission in Matthew 28:19, he said “Go into the world and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Notice how he says “in the name, not in the nameS, yet mentioning three persons, thus indicating a unity of persons.
  • The picture of the three persons in the one Godhead is clearer after the baptism of Jesus. Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended and the Father spoke (Mt 3:16-17).
  • Later on, Jesus will begin to talk about the oneness of himself and the Father. In John 10:30, he said “The Father and I are one,” and in John 12:45, he says “Whoever sees me has seen the Father.”
  • In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul mentions the three persons of the Trinity when he said “We have peace with God through Jesus Christ and the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:1, 5).
  • Also, in the conclusion of his second letter to the Corinthians, he prayed that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with them” (2 Cor 13:13).
  • All these texts and more show clearly that there are three divine persons, but only one God. Scripture also says clearly that there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us that “The Lord and the Lord alone is one God” and God also says “I am the Lord, there is no other God” (Isa 45:5), meaning that there cannot be three gods.

Lessons

Live in love and harmony

The three persons of the Trinity are undivided and bound in complete unity. Though each person is distinct, there is no division in the Trinity, rather, there is complete harmony. This teaches us that we too, made in God’s image and likeness, can and should live in completely peace & harmony. We may be different, but our differences should not divide us. Just as God is one, we too must be one, living in unity. This is a message that we need to remind ourselves of, more so at a time like this when the things that polarize us seem to be numerous.

Shun pride, embrace humility

Though God is so great, so majestic, so incomprehensible, he still came down to us in the person of Jesus and lived like us. There is nothing stopping God from completely alienating himself from us, but no, he came down to our level. Philippians 2:7 tells us that he humbled himself, took the form of a slave and was born in human likeness. We should learn too, to remove pride from our lives and come down from our high castles. We must not feel that we are too good or too big for some other people, such that we cannot relate with them. Sometimes we allow pride to control us and destroy our relationship with other people, but we seem to forget that before God, we are all the same, we are all equal. In our eyes, we may be bigger than some people, but in the eyes of God, we are all dust. If Jesus Christ, who is God can relate with us, then who are we to feel too big to relate with each other? Let us therefore, put away our pride and embrace humility.

We must remind ourselves again that the Holy Trinity is a mystery beyond our comprehension. We accept it, not because we can truly comprehend it, but we accept it in faith because God has revealed it to us in his divine Word. The day anyone fully understands the Trinity, that day, God ceases to be God, for no one can fully comprehend God. That is why scripture says God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa 55:8-9)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

LESSONS FROM JUDAS’ TRAGEDY (7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B)

By: Rev. Fr. Sylvanus AMEH

Readings: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; Psalm 103; I John 4:11-16; John 17:11-19

“None of those you gave me has been lost, except the son of perdition…his place, let another take”

The above quotation is taken from the prayer of Jesus before his arrest and the speech of Peter before the election of Mathias to fill in the space of Judas Iscariot. It is interesting how the first reading and gospel of today’s Mass make mention of Judas; our reflection therefore, shall focus on lessons to be learnt from the tragedy of Judas. Judas was a tragic example of lost opportunity and an embodiment of wasted privilege. His biggest tragedy was that he could have been Saint Judas, but for his greed. We shall look at about three lessons.

  • Right after the ascension of Jesus, as the disciples returned to the room where they hid, the first thing they did a few days later was to find a replacement for Judas who betrayed Jesus. This is primarily because nature abhors a vacuum, and nothing must be left to be in void. So Peter, in his speech, quotes Psalm 109:8, “His place, let another take.” Judas lost his position, first by his betrayal of Jesus, and secondly and eternally, by committing suicide. In this “act” of the apostles, we ought to take a lesson for our lives too, that even concerning us, nature will not tolerate a vacuum. So, if there is any position we occupy in life, a space we fill, we must not create a vacuum in it, else, someone else will replace us, after all, no human being is indispensable.

And there is even another angle to this, which is more frightening, and it is the fact of being physically present, especially in the lives of people, yet, in their hearts, our place, another has taken. For instance, some husbands/wives are physically present in the lives of their spouse, but emotionally, another has taken their place. This may not necessarily mean that the other is adulterous, but simply that the space meant for their spouse has been occupied by someone or something else. A wife can replace her husband in her heart with her children; a husband can replace his wife in his heart with his work, etc. Some parents have also been replaced in the hearts of their children by their nannies or school teachers or even neighbors, yet the parents are still physically there. To be replaced while we are still there should frighten us much more than to be replaced when we are gone. Never live your life in such a manner that you no longer exist in the heart of those to whom you should matter a lot.

  • Right from the start (Mat 10:4; Lk 6:10) where the names of the apostles were mentioned, Judas was mentioned with a negative adjective to describe him. Through the rest of the gospels, his name was always associated with something negative such as “traitor”, “thief”, “betrayer”. Several times, Jesus gave him subtle warning signs, but he either did not notice or he simply chose to ignore them. Eventually, fired up by his greed, he betrayed his master and lost his exalted position. Sometimes, we too behave like Judas. God gives us a privileged position and we abuse it because of greed. Even when we have allowed greed to take root in our hearts, God often sends us warning signs, but oftentimes, we choose to ignore the signs. Many people have met a shameful end because they were blinded by their greed. In 1 Timothy 6:10, the Bible says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Many families too have been destroyed and marriages wrecked because of the ‘lustful greed’ of one of the spouses which drives them into adulterous relationships. The greatest undoing of Judas was his greed and today, we remember him with a negative feeling. Given the opportunities and privileges that we have from God, how shall we be remembered when we are no more? Kill your greed before it kills you!
  • When Judas lost his position, there was the need to fill it; hence, Peter addressed this need with the other disciples as we heard in the first reading. To find a suitable candidate for this exalted position, only one criterion was put forth by Peter: the person must have faithfully followed Jesus right from the time of his baptism up to the time of his ascension. Mathias and Joseph met the qualifications. This implies that even when Jesus chose the 12 Apostles from among his many disciples in Luke 6:12-16, Mathias and Joseph were there, but Jesus did not choose them. Yet, they were faithful to Jesus and still followed him everywhere! So he who was not chosen at the start was elevated because of his faithfulness. Indeed, God is a faithful God and he rewards faithfulness; that is why the Bible says in Proverbs 28:20 that “A faithful man will abound with blessings” and in Proverbs 3:3-4, scripture says “Do not let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you…for that is how you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”

Sometimes, we may just be the cause of our own misfortunes; we may just be the very reasons why the blessings of God keep passing us by because we are not always faithful. Some people are not persevering enough to wait on God for their elevation; they move from church to church, job to job, business to business, relationship to relationship, never stable, never patient, never faithful. Before God will finish packaging his blessings for them, they have changed base, they have moved, so they start all over again. The nature of God is stable, unchanging. God is faithful to his nature (cf. Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8) and he expects us too to be faithful, consistent, persevering, unwavering. The faithfulness of Mathias to Jesus, even when he was not chosen to be among the 12 Apostles, finally merited him a place in the ranks of the apostles. We too must learn and practice faithfulness. Remember, faithfulness will find you favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

STAY WITHIN NETWORK (5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B)

By: Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22; I John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

Let us do some little thinking. Think about the mobile phones which we use. The primary functions of the mobile phone are to make and receive calls, to send and receive messages. Besides these however, there are other things that the phone can do such as taking pictures, showing time and date, provide calculator functions and do voice recording. But those are non-essentials because nobody sets out to buy a phone for those functions. There are other devices which are meant specifically for those purposes. For the phone to have full functionality, that is, perform its primary functions as enumerated above, it must be connected to a network and must also stay within areas of network coverage. Outside of network, it still remains a phone, but more or less, we can say it is sort of dead and becomes just like any other device. But apart from staying within network, the phone must be constantly recharged with airtime and also with data (for internet enabled phones). When these are present, then we can say the phone lives its life to full capacity.

This illustration is meant to help us understand the words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading when he says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). As far as our spiritual life is concerned, Jesus is the network that gives us full spiritual capacity to function. To live our lives apart from Jesus therefore, is like a mobile phone moving out of network area. To fully live out the purpose of our creation, which the petty catechism teaches as knowing, loving and serving God in this life so that we will be happy with him in the next, we need the spiritual vitality, the spiritual network which only Jesus can give. We are like the phones, Jesus is like the network. To fully and truly live, we need Jesus. If we live apart from Jesus, we become like the phone that cannot make or receive calls, send or receive messages; we become like the phone that is used only as calculator, or torchlight, or calendar, or voice recorder or camera.

Just as with the phone also, we need to constantly be recharged with the airtime and data of love. This is what the second reading tells us: “He who lives in love lives in God and God lives in him” (1 Jn 4:16). Love of God and love of neighbor therefore, is what renews our subscription to continue to stay within the divine network of Jesus Christ. And Saint John says that this love is not mere talk; it is concrete, tangible and actively real. So he says, “let us love, not in word or speech, but in deed and in truth (1 Jn 3:18). Every true love involves action. In most cases, this action is expressed in giving. A true lover gives of his/her time, energy, emotions, care, compassion, ideas, and material resources. God showed us an example when, out of his love for humanity, he gave us his son to die for us (cf. Jn 3:16). So, every true lover gives of something, and any love that does not involve giving is fake! Thus, the spiritual airtime and data of love is what we need to stay within God’s network. For Saint Paul to fully function as an apostle, the First Reading tells us that he had to be brought into the network of believers whose lives were filled with divine love, for they all loved one another.

As we also know, when a phone line stays for too long without recharging, after some time, the network providers block the line. That SIM card becomes useless. However, the line can still be reactivated by the network providers. But a line that is always actively in use, sometimes, the network providers even give them bonuses. In the same vein, Jesus tells us that if we stay away from his network connection, we will be disconnected and become useless like the deactivated SIM card, but if we stay within his network and actively recharge our souls with true love, we shall grow in garce. Jesus says, “Every branch that bear no fruit, my Father cuts away, but every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn 15:2). So, the more we stay connected to God and the more we love God and love our neighbours, the more God’s grace and mercy and favours increase upon us. On the other hand, the more we stay away from God and the more we lack true love in our hearts, the more we become spiritually stale, putrid and eventually, spiritually dead for all eternity.

Dear friends, the word of God for us today is very clear and simple. If we must live our lives to full spiritual capacity and spend eternity with God in heaven, then we must stay connected to the network of Jesus Christ. Also, to avoid disconnection, we must always recharge our souls with the airtime and data of love of God and love of neighbor. We pray in this Mass that the grace of God will always keep us close to himself. Amen