Thứ Bảy, 10 tháng 6, 2017

JUNE 11, 2017 : THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Lectionary: 164

Reading 1EX 34:4B-6, 8-9
Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the LORD had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, "LORD."
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
"The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, "If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own."

Responsorial PsalmDN 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56
R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Reading 22 COR 13:11-13
Brothers and sisters, rejoice. 
Mend your ways, encourage one another,
agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the holy ones greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

AlleluiaCF. RV 1:8
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
to God who is, who was, and who is to come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 3:16-18
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.


Most Holy Trinity Sunday – Cycle A

Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that passage.

Introduction

The doctrine of the Trinity describes the unique ways that we experience God’s presence in our lives. It is a confusing doctrine, even for adults, because it seems to imply three gods who are yet One God. When we speak of the mystery of creator and creation, we can only apprehend that mystery by analogy, poetry, and symbolic language. What we describe with the doctrine of the Trinity is an experience of God.

First, we know God through His creation and through our own creative acts. When we make something, whether it be a piece of furniture or a special meal, we are in touch with God as we shape something into a different form. The intense fulfillment of childbirth is another example of creative time. When we are creative, we feel whole and fulfilled. God is creating through us, and we have a sense of being an instrument for the Divine. We call this way of experiencing God “Father”.

Secondly, we know God in the sense expressed in 1 John 4:16 “God is love, and He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” God is as close to us as the healing love that is shared among His people. It was Jesus who proclaimed this reality by the power of love He showed in His life, death, and resurrection. Using the metaphors of biblical language, we could say that we “meet Christ” in the acts of love and healing. We know God through the “flesh and blood” of His presence in our lives and through the power of love that leads us into deeper life. We call this way of experiencing and knowing God “Son”, since Jesus is called the Son of God.

Finally, we feel the spirit and are “turned on” to God’s power. We know God through the inspiration that comes to us. Our secular use of the word “spirit” describes very well the experiences of God we feel through spiritedness and inspiration. When I say that certain words “came to me” in a moment of crisis, I feel I am describing the experience of receiving inspiration. As Christians we simply add the word “Holy” to the everyday word “Spirit” to define the spirited way of knowing God in our lives. Thus we can say that we know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The dogma of the Trinity has not always been clearly defined. In fact, the word “trinity” does not appear in Holy Scripture (neither does the word “pope”, “purgatory”, or “catholic” for that matter – as our fundamentalist brothers and sisters will be quick to point out). It is not even clear how the doctrine was understood in the time of the apostles. The oldest doctrinal formulation of the Church’s belief in the Trinity is in the Apostle’s Creed, which, in the form of the ancient Roman baptismal symbol, served as the basis of catechumenical instruction and as a baptismal confession of faith since the second century.

In the early Church, Christians began to ponder the mystery of God’s unity and the Trinity and attempted to explain more precisely the relationships among the persons of the Trinity. These efforts led to many errors in the early years, and most of those who tried to describe the relationships ended in heresy. Even the great theologians Tertullian and Origin stumbled into error in their attempts to explain the relationship between the Father and the Son. Arius, around the year A.D. 300, concluded that the Word (logos) of God was created by the Father to be the instrument of all other creation. The Word, or God the Son, was a perfect creature to Arius, but a creature nonetheless. Were this account true, then only the Father would be truly God, and the Son and Holy Spirit would then be divine only through adoption by the Father. In such a case, the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity would become merely a descending hierarchy with the Father extending His grace to the Son and the Holy Spirit, rather than a communion of co-equal and co-eternal persons, who together are the one, true God. Arianism finally died out almost 500 years later at the end of the 7th century. Arianism has been revived by the Jehovah’s Witnesses who deny that Jesus is God.

The creed which we call the Nicene Creed originated at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. It was probably introduced into the western liturgy by the regional Council of Toledo in A.D. 589. That text however, was a Latin translation of the Greek original and came to include a small addition which resulted in major theological disputes: namely that the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from the Father and the Son, rather than only from the Father. This matter continues to divide Catholic and Protestant Christians from Eastern Orthodox Christians.

1st Reading - Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

Our first reading for today describes our Three-in-One God as “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity,” who pardons our wickedness and sins and receives us as their own. This is what the Trinity does for us.

The events leading up to today’s first reading are as follows:

Moses has led the people out of Egypt and through the desert to Mount Sinai. This journey took about three months during which time they have encountered bad water which Moses, at God’s command, sweetened by casting a tree into it; they have run out of food and God has provided manna and quail; they have no water and Moses, at God’s command, strikes a rock with his staff and water flows forth.

Upon arriving at Mount Sinai they set up camp and Moses receives from God the words to speak to the Israelites: “Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. That is what you must tell the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5-6). Moses told the people, through their elders, all that God had told him and the people replied “Everything the LORD has said, we will do.” (Exodus 19:8). Moses told this to God who further instructed Moses who then consecrated the people and they washed their clothes (purified them) and they were instructed to abstain from sexual relations for three days at which time God would come down upon the mountain and they will hear Him speaking to Moses.

Three days later, God comes down upon the mountain in thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud and the people are afraid to approach (the inference is that they have not abstained from sexual relations). God then gives Moses the ten commandments orally along with other instructions and then summons Moses alone to ascend the mountain. Moses ascends and remains on the mountain for forty days during which time he receives the ten commandments in stone.

Toward the end of his stay on the mountain, the people prevailed upon Aaron (Moses’ elder brother) to fashion the golden calf. God became angry and was set to destroy the people and raise from Moses a great nation but Moses reminded God of His covenant with Abraham and God relented. Moses then descended the mountain, caught the people in their revelry, and smashed the stone tablets. The Levites then ordained themselves by slaying three thousand of their kinsmen and neighbors (those who had been partaking in the revelry before the statue). God then commands Moses to make two new tablets and bring them up the mountain.

4b Early the next morning he went up Mount Sinai as the LORD had commanded him, taking along the two stone tablets. 5 Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with him there and proclaimed his name, “LORD.” 6 Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out, “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

The missing verse is “Continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children and grandchildren to the 3rd and 4th generation for their fathers’ wickedness!” This omitted verse echoes the last part of the first commandment which the people have violated (Exodus 20:4-6; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9-10).

8 Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship. 9 Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.”

When God had recalled His covenant with Abraham, He had relented in His punishment but had said that He would no longer accompany the people but would send an angel to lead them (Exodus 33:2-3). Again Moses interceded and asked God to accompany them and God relented (Exodus 33:15-17). The last two sentences of our reading reiterate that request.

2nd Reading - 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Our reading today comes from the final three verses of Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. These final words form a greeting and an exhortation to the hearers.

11 Finally, brothers [and sisters], rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Saint Paul often ends a letter in this way, perhaps transporting to his epistle the liturgical gesture which was used at the Lord’s Supper according to Justin Martyr, or adapting the customary method of greeting a rabbi (1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Peter 5:14).

“What is a holy kiss? It is one that is not hypocritical, like the kiss of Judas. The kiss is given in order to stimulate love and instill the right attitude in us toward each other. When we return after an absence, we kiss each other, for our souls hasten to bond together. But there is something else which might be said about this. We are the temple of Christ, and when we kiss each other we are kissing the porch and entrance of the temple.” [Saint John Chrysostom (A.D. 392), Homilies on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians 30,2]

All the holy ones greet you.

Most Protestant translations (and the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition) number this sentence as verse 13, resulting in one more verse than the other Catholic translations. The “saints” or “holy ones” are thought to be the members of the Macedonian churches. This letter is thought to have been composed in Macedonia in the autumn of A.D. 57 after he had left Ephesus. Generally, more persons are associated with Paul in his final greetings than in his words of address. For example, only Timothy is addressed in this letter.

13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you.

In all of the Pauline epistles, this is the richest and most instructive final blessing. Paul explicitly wishes everything necessary for the Corinthians’ salvation. The Trinitarian distinction of Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit is noteworthy, as is the co-location of the Spirit with Jesus and the Father, who are clearly persons. The naming of Jesus first is probably due to the familial Pauline blessing “May the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Corinthians 16:23; Romans 16:20; Galatians 6:18; Philippians 4:23; etc.).

“If there is one grace, one peace, one love and one fellowship on the part of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, surely there is one operation, and where there is one operation, certainly the power cannot be divided or the substance separated.” [Saint Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 381), The Holy Spirit 1,12,13]

Gospel - John 3:16-18

Our reading for today comes from the much larger story of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. Nicodemus is mentioned only in John’s gospel (in chapter 3 and also in 7:50 and 19:39); however, the name was a common one. Although the Sanhedrin (the Jewish governing body that was recognized by the Romans), was composed mainly of Sadducees, it also contained Pharisees among its members (Acts 5:34). John 3:1 calls him a “ruler of the Jews” which probably means he was a member of the Sanhedrin. John 19:39 says he accompanied Joseph of Arimathea (also a member of the Sanhedrin according to Mark 15:43) to claim and bury Jesus’ body. As a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a rabbi (John 3:10 calls him a “teacher of Israel”), he represents the quintessential Jew. Jesus is addressing Nicodemus in our gospel reading for today as we hear Saint John give us the essence of the Trinity’s work for us: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life. God sent the Son into the world that it might be saved through Him.” This is how much the Trinity loves us!

16    For God so loved the world

The only explanation that we shall ever have of the gift of eternal life made possible for us in the redemption achieved in Christ is the incredible love of God for the world. Although alienated from God, the world is not evil in itself, and remains the object of divine compassion. The “world” for John is the world of men and their affairs, which is a world subject to sin and darkness.

that he gave his only Son,

Saint John expresses the gratuity of God’s love, extending even to this extreme.
 so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

The question of Christ may be resolved only in belief and eternal life, or in rejection and destruction; there is no third alternative.

17    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Christ has been sent into the world to bring eternal life.

18    Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,

Belief is not merely acknowledging Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, but living out that belief by doing “whatever He tells you” [Mary’s last words in Scripture, (John 2:5)] no matter how bizarre they may sound [“You must eat my flesh and drink my blood” (John 6:51-58)].

but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The “name” in Jewish society is more than an artificial tag that distinguishes one person from another – the name has an identity with the bearer and is capable of acting or receiving in his place. When baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the person becomes a member of God’s family and is invested with the power and authority of that family. He who rejects the name rejects all that it entails and already stands condemned.

The Trinity is our truth and holiness, our mercy, kindness and fidelity, our grace and fellowship, our love, our eternal life, and our salvation. What wonderful works the Trinity does for us!

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org


Meditation: God's incredible gift of love for the world
What does Scripture tell us about God and how he relates to us? When God met with Moses on Mount Sinai and made a covenant with the people of Israel, he revealed the nature of his character and his personal love for them:
"The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness'" (Exodus 34:6).
God is all-loving, faithful, merciful, and forgiving by nature. God's love is supreme because it directs, orders, and shapes everything he does.
Love and judgment
Scripture tells us that God is all just and all loving. How does his love and justice go together? God opposes sin and evil with his just wrath (his righteous anger) and right judgment - and he approaches sinful people and evil doers with mercy ("slow to anger" and "ready to forgive") and discipline ("fatherly correction" and "training in righteousness"). John the Evangelist tells us that the Father sent his Son into the world - not to condemn but to redeem - not to destroy but to heal and restore. Paul the Apostle tells us that "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" 
(Romans 6:23). God does not desire the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:23,32, Ezekiel 33:11, Wisdom of Solomon 1:13). Instead he gives us the freedom to choose between life and death - good and evil.
When we choose to sin and to go our own way apart from God, we bring condemnation upon ourselves. Sin draws us away from God and leads to a spiritual death - a death that is worse than physical loss of life because it results in a hopeless life of misery and separation from God's peace and joy. Jesus was sent on a rescue mission to free us from slavery to sin and death and to bring us the abundant life which will never end. His death brought us true freedom and abundant new life in his Spirit - as well as pardon, reconciliation and adoption as sons and daughters of God.
Jesus took upon himself all of our sins and nailed them to the cross (Colossians 2:14). His death was an atoning sacrifice for our sins and a perfect offering to the Father on our behalf. We can find no greater proof of God's love for fallen sinful humanity than the cross of Jesus Christ. "To ransom a slave God gave away his Son" (from an early Christian hymn for the Easter vigil liturgy). Jesus' mission was motivated by love and obedience. That is why he willingly laid down his life for us. Jesus told his disciples that there is no greater love than for a person to willingly lay down his or her life for a friend (John 15:13). Jesus loved us first - even while we were captives to sin and Satan - in order to set us free and make us friends and beloved children of God.
Believing in the Son of God
Do you believe that Jesus personally died for you - for you alone - simply because he loved you? Scripture tells us that God knew each one of us even before we were knit in our mother's womb
 (Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5). We were created for a purpose - to be united with God and to share in his love and glory now and forever. Augustine of Hippo wrote: "God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love." God's love is complete and perfect because it is wholly directed towards our greatest good - to make us whole and to unite us in a perfect bond of love and peace. That is why God was willing to go to any length necessary to save us from slavery to sin and death.
How does God's love bring healing, pardon, and wholeness to our lives? God's love has power to set each one of us free from every form of bondage to sin - whether it be bondage to fear and guilt, pride and greed, envy and hatred. We can only know the love of God and experience his healing power to the degree that we put our faith in him and surrender our lives to his will. Faith is the key that opens the door to Christ and to his healing power in our lives. But for faith to be effective we must act and do our part. That is why faith requires repentance and obedience - turning away from unbelief  and disobedience - and turning to the Lord with a believing heart and listening ear. That is why Jesus said, "whoever believes in me is not condemned" (John 3:18).
To believe that Jesus is the only Son of God who died for our sins is the key that opens the door to his presence and work in our lives. Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). The Lord Jesus knocks at the door of your heart - will you listen today and open at once?
Triune nature of God
The Lord Jesus has revealed to his disciples the great mystery of our faith - the triune nature of God and the inseparable union of the eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus' mission is to reveal the glory of God to us - a Trinity of persons - God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and to unite us with God in a community of love. The ultimate end, the purpose for which God created us, is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the blessed Trinity.
The Jews understood God as Creator and Father of all that he made (Deuteronomy 32:6) and they understood the nation of Israel as God's firstborn son (Exodus 4:22). Jesus reveals the Father in an unheard of sense. He is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son, who, reciprocally, is Son only in relation to his Father (see Matthew 11:27). The Spirit, likewise, is inseparably one with the Father and the Son.
The mission of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit are the same. That is why Jesus tells his disciples that the Spirit will reveal the glory of the Father and the Son and will speak what is true. Before his Passover, Jesus revealed the Holy Spirit as the "Paraclete" and Helper who will be with Jesus' disciples to teach and guide them "into all the truth" (John 14:17,26; 16:13). In baptism we are called to share in the life of the Holy Trinity here on earth in faith and after death in eternal light.
Clement of Alexandria, a third century church father, wrote: "What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos (Word) of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her 'Church'."
We can know God personally
How can we grow in our understanding and experience of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It is the Holy Spirit who reveals the Father and the Son to us and who gives us the gift of faith to know and understand the truth of God’s word. Through baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Lord renews the gift of the Spirit in each one of us as we open our hearts with expectant faith and yield to his work in our lives. Jesus promised his disciples that he would send them the Spirit of truth who would be their Teacher and Guide. Ask the Lord Jesus to renew in you the gift of the Holy Spirit who strengthens us in the seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence, and holy fear in God's presence (Isaiah 11:2-3).
"May the Lord Jesus put his hands on our eyes also, for then we too shall begin to look not at what is seen but at what is not seen. May he open the eyes that are concerned not with the present but with what is yet to come, may he unseal the heart's vision, that we may gaze on God in the Spirit, through the same Lord, Jesus Christ, whose glory and power will endure throughout the unending succession of ages." (prayer of Origin, 185-254 AD)
Daily Quote from the early church fathersThe pledge of the Holy Spirit, by Ambrose of Milan, 339-397 A.D.
"Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with His sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed His pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts" (excerpt from De Mysteriis 7, 42).

SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY
SUNDAY, JUNE 11, JOHN 3:16-18

(Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; Psalm: Daniel 3; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13)

KEY VERSE: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (v.16).
TO KNOW: It is essential for our Christian belief to know that it was God's love, not condemnation that was the motivation to send the Son to redeem the world. Each person has a choice to respond to the grace God offers or to turn away from it. Condemnation is brought upon a person by rejecting God's love. Those who believe in God's Son have the indwelling light of the Spirit to guide them to all truth (Jn 16:13). Our belief is in the One God who is revealed in three divine Persons ̶ Father, Son, and Spirit ̶ the creative, the redemptive, and the sanctifying love of God. The Trinity is about relationship. The Son is obedient to the Father and the Father does whatever the Son asks. The Father and the Son send the Spirit and the Son is obedient to the Spirit. Although the word "Trinity" is not found in Scripture, Paul concluded his letter to the Corinthians, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2 Cor 13:13). Our concept of the Trinity has scriptural roots in the variety of ways we understand the one God in three persons who the creeds later defined.
TO LOVE: How does Trinitarian love manifest itself in me?
TO SERVE: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore and worship you.

NOTE: The first Sunday after Pentecost celebrates the great dogma of the Christian faith, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, which was declared a feast of the universal Church in 1334. During the first thousand years of Christianity there was no special feast honoring this mystery (mystery, in this sense, means a supernatural fact revealed by God which transcends the power of human reason). The word "Trinity," first used by Tertullian (145-220) to describe the nature of God, was only defined by the Church councils in the fourth and fifth centuries. In the fourth century, the Council of Nicaea addressed the doctrine of the Trinity in response to the Arian heresy that taught that Jesus was only a created being like others. Through the Spirit, Jesus is the "only-begotten" son, consubstantial with the Father. In baptism, we are baptized in the name of God, not the "names," for we hold that there is only one God, the Father, his beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity (CCC 232).


Sunday 11 June 2017

Trinity Sunday. Week I Psalter
Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9. Daniel 2:52-56. 2 Corinthians 13:11-13. John 3:16-18.
Glory and praise for ever! — Daniel 2:52-56.
‘No one comes to the Father except through me.’
How happy we should be in knowing this, for it means that God has a very special love for us. It is a sign of special friendship to introduce someone into our family, to share the most intimate familial things, and the love and communication that exists between the members.
So too with God. God has unveiled to us the inmost reality of the divine nature, the ‘family’ of the divine Persons. But we are not merely spectators of this life, for God has made us sharers in the love and communication which flow between the Three.
‘No one’, says Jesus, ‘comes to the Father except through me.’ It is through the Spirit of Jesus that we come to Jesus himself through whom we come to the Father.
Hence we pray: ‘Come, Holy Spirit and form me in the likeness of Christ so that the Father may see and love me for it.’

ST. BARNABAS, APOSTLE

Catholics will celebrate the memory of St. Barnabas on June 11. The apostle and missionary was among Christ's earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church. Though not one of the 12 apostles chosen by the Lord, Jesus, he is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ and most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves.
St. Barnabas was born to wealthy Jewish parents on the Greek-speaking island of Cyprus, probably around the time of Christ's own birth. Traditional accounts hold that his parents sent him to study in Jerusalem, where he studied at the school of Gamaliel (who also taught St. Paul). Later on, when Christ's public ministry began, Barnabas may have been among those who heard him preach in person.
At some point, either during Christ's ministry or after his death and resurrection, Barnabas decided to commit himself in the most radical way to the teachings he had received. He sold the large estate he had inherited, contributed the proceeds entirely to the Church, and joined Christ's other apostles in holding all of their possessions in common.
Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul, approached Barnabas after the miraculous events surrounding his conversion, and was first introduced to St. Peter through him. About five years later, Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, building up the Church community whose members were the first to go by the name of “Christians.”
Both Paul and Barnabas received a calling from God to become the “Apostles of the Gentiles,” although the title is more often associated with St. Paul. The reference to the “laying-on of hands” in Acts, chapter 13, suggests that Paul and Barnabas may have been consecrated as bishops on this occasion.
Barnabas and Paul left Antioch along with Barnabas' cousin John Mark, who would later compose the most concise account of Christ's life and be canonized as St. Mark. The group's first forays into the pagan world met with some success, but Mark became discouraged and returned to Jerusalem.
The question of Mark's dedication to the mission would arise again later, and cause a significant personal disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. For many years prior to this, however, the two apostles traveled and preached among the Gentiles, suffering persecution and hardships for the sake of establishing Christianity among those of a non-Jewish background.
The remarkable success of Barnabas and Paul led to one of the earliest controversies in Church history, regarding the question of whether Christian converts would have to observe Jewish rites. During the landmark Council of Jerusalem, recorded in the book of Acts, the assembled apostles confirmed St. Peter's earlier proclamation that the laws of the Old Testament would not be mandatory for Christians.
Barnabas and Paul finally separated in their ministries, while remaining apostles of the one Catholic Church, over Paul's insistence that Mark not travel with them again.
In death, however, the “Apostles to the Gentiles” were reunited. Mark is said to have buried Barnabas after he was killed by a mob in Cyprus around the year 62. St. Paul and St. Mark were, in turn, reconciled before St. Paul's martyrdom five years later.
He is said to have been stoned to death in Salamis in the year 61.
St. Luke described Barnabas as 'a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith' (Acts 6:24), and he was known for his exceptional kindliness and personal sanctity, and his openness to pagans.


LECTIO DIVINA: TRINITY SUNDAY (A)
Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, June 11, 2017

"God so loved the world!"
The Trinity is the best community
John 3, 16-18
1. OPENING PRAYER
 Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
2. READING
a) A key to guide the reading: 
- These few verses are part of a reflection of John the evangelist (Jn 3: 16-21), where he explains to his community of the end of the first century, the meaning of the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus (Jn 3: 1-15). In this dialogue, Nicodemus finds it difficult to follow Jesus’ thinking. The same happened to the communities. Some of them, still under the influence of the criteria of the past, could not understand the newness that Jesus brought. Our text (Jn 3: 16-18) is an attempt to overcome this difficulty.

- The Church too has chosen these three verses for the feast of the Blessed Trinity. In fact, they are an important key that reveals the importance of the mystery of the Triune God in our lives. When reading, let us try to keep in mind and in our hearts that in this text God is the Father, the Son is Jesus and love is the Holy Spirit. So, let us not try to penetrate the mystery. Let us halt in silence and in wonder!
b) A division of the text to help with the reading:

Jn 3:16: Says that the love of God that saves manifests itself in the gift of the Son.
Jn 3:17: The will of God is to save not to condemn.
Jn 3:18: God demands of us that we have the courage to believe in this love.
c) The text:

16:
 For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17: For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.
18: No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God's only Son.
3. A MOMENT OF PRAYERFUL SILENCE
so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.
4. SOME QUESTIONS
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What pleased or touched you most?
b) After a careful examination of this brief text, which are the recurring key words?
c) What is the central experience of the community by the evangelist that reveals itself in the text?
d) What does the text tell us about the love of God?
e) What does the text tell us about Jesus?
f) What does the text tell us about the world?
g) What does the text reveal to me?
5. A KEY TO THE READING
for those who wish to go deeper into the text.
a) The context within which the words of Jesus appear in the Gospel of John:
* Nicodemus was a doctor who thought he knew the things of God. He watches Jesus with the book of the Law of Moses in his hand to see whether the new things announced by Jesus were in accordance with the book. In the conversation, Jesus points out to Nicodemus (and to all of us) that the only way one can understand the things of God is to be born again! The same thing happens today. Often, we are like Nicodemus: we accept only those things that agree with our ideas. We reject all else, thinking it contrary to tradition. But not all are like this. There are those who allow themselves to be surprised by events and who are not afraid of saying to themselves, "Be born again!"
* When recalling the words of Jesus, the evangelist has before his eyes the situation of the community towards the end of the first century, and it is for them that he writes. Nicodemus’ doubts were also those of the community. Thus Jesus’ reply was also a reply to the community. Quite probably, the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus was part of the baptismal catechesis, because the text says that people have to be reborn of water and the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:6). In the brief commentary that follows, we focus on the key words that appear in the text and that are central to the Gospel of John. They serve as key words for the reading of the whole Gospel.
b) Commentary on the text:
* John 3:16: To love is to give oneself for the sake of love. The word love, first of all, points to a deep experience in the relationship between persons. It includes feelings and values such as joy, sorrow, suffering, growth, giving up, giving oneself, realisation, gift, commitment, life, death, etc. In the OT these values and feelings are summarised in the word hesed, which, in our Bibles, is usually translated as charity, mercy, fidelity or love.
In the NT, Jesus revealed this love of God in his meetings with people. He revealed this through feelings of friendship, kindness, as, for example, in his relationship with Martha’s family in Bethany: "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus". He weeps at Lazarus’ tomb (Jn 11:5.33-36). Jesus faces his mission as a manifestation of love: "having loved his own….he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). In this love, Jesus reveals his deep identity with the Father: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you!"{Jn 15:9). He also says to us: "Love one another as I have loved you!" (Jn 15:12). John defines love as: "This has taught us love – that he gave up his life for us; and we, too, ought to give up our lives for our brothers" (1Jn 3:16). There was no other commandment apart from this for the community, "living the same kind of life as Jesus" (1Jn 2:6). Those who live love and reveal it in their words and attitudes, become Beloved Disciples.
* John 3:17: He loved the world and gave his life to save the world. The word world is found 78 times in John’s Gospel, but with different meanings. First, "world" may mean the earth, the space inhabited by human beings (Jn 11:9; 21:25) or the created universe (17:5.24). In our text, "world" means those who inhabit this earth, the whole of humanity, loved by God, who gave his Son for its sake (cf. Jn 1:9; 4:42; 6:14; 8:12). It may also mean a large number of people, in the sense of "the whole world" (Jn 12:19; 14:27). But in John’s Gospel the word "world" means, above all, that part of humanity that is opposed to Jesus and so becomes his "adversary" or "opposition" (Jn 7:4.7; 8:23.26; 9:39;12:25). This "world", contrary to the liberating practice of Jesus, is dominated by the Adversary, Satan, also is called "prince of the world" (14:30; 16:11), who persecutes and kills the communities of the faithful (16:33), creating injustice, oppression, kept up by those in authority, by those who rule the empire and the synagogue. They practise injustice in the name of God (16:2). The hope that John’s Gospel offers to the communities is that Jesus will conquer the prince of this world (12:31). He is stronger than the "world". "In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world" (16:33).
* John 3:18: The Only Son of God who gives himself up for us: One of the most ancient and most beautiful titles that the first Christians chose to describe the mission of Jesus is that of Defender. In Hebrew it is Goêl. This term used to indicate the closest relative, the oldest brother, who had to redeem his brothers who might be threatened with the loss of their properties (cf. Lev 25:23-55). At the time of the Babylonian exile, every one, including the closest relative, lost everything. Then God became the Goêl of his people. He redeemed his people from slavery. In the NT, it is Jesus, the only son, the first-born, the closest relative, who became our Goêl. This term or title is translated diversely as saviour, redeemer, liberator, advocate, oldest brother, consoler, and so on (cf. Lk 2:11; Jn 4:42; Acts 5:31, etc.). Jesus takes on the defence and the redemption of his family, of his people. He gave himself entirely, completely, so that we, his brothers and sisters, may live again in fraternal love. This was the service he gave us. It was thus that the prophecy of Isaiah that announced the coming of the Servant Messiah was fulfilled. Jesus himself said, "For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom (goêl) for many!" (Mk 10:45). Paul expresses this discovery in the following phrase, "He loved me and sacrificed himself for me!" (Gal 2:20).
c) The mystery of the Trinity in the writings of John:

* Faith in the Most Blessed Trinity is the beginning and end of our belief. Whatever we say today with so much clarity about the Most Blessed Trinity, may be found in the New Testament. It is found there in seminal form and was developed over the centuries. Of the four evangelists, John is the one who helps us most to understand the mystery of the Triune God.
John emphasises the deep unity between the Father and the Son. The mission of the Son is to reveal the love of the Father (Jn 17:6-8). Jesus comes to proclaim, "The Father and I are one" (Jn 10:30). There is such unity between Jesus and the Father, that those who see the face of the one see also the face of the other. By revealing the Father, Jesus communicates a new spirit "the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father" (Jn 15:26). At the Son’s request (Jn 14:16), the Father sends to each one of us this new Spirit to stay with us. This Spirit, who comes from the Father (Jn 14:16) and from the Son (Jn 16:7-8), reveals the deep unity that exists between Father and Son (Jn 15:26-27. Christians looked to the unity in God in order to understand the unity that should have existed among them (Jn 13:34-35; 17:21).
Today we say, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apocalypse says, He who is, who was, and who is to come, from the seven spirits in his presence before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the First-born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth (Ap 1:4-5). With these names, John tells us what the communities thought about and hoped for from the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit.
Let us see:
i) In the name of the Father: Alpha and Omega, Is, Was, Will be, Almighty.
Alpha and Omega. We would say A to Z (cf. Is 44:6; Ap 1:17). God is the beginning and end of history. There is no room for another God! The Christians could not accept the pretence of the Roman Empire that divinised its emperors. Nothing that happens in life can be interpreted as simple coincidence outside the loving providence of this God of ours.
Is, Was, Will be (Ap 1:4.8; 4:8). Our God is not a distant God. He was with us in the past, is with us now, will be with us in the future. He guides history, is in history, walks with his people. The history of God is the history of his people.
Almighty. This was an imperial title of kings after Alexander the Great. For Christians, the true king is God. This title expresses the creative power with which he guides his people. The title strengthens the certainty of victory and urges us to sing, even now, the joy of the New Heaven and of the New Earth (Ap 21:2).
ii) The name of the Son: Faithful Witness, First-born among the dead, Prince of the kings of the earth.
Faithful Witness: Witness means the same as martyr. Jesus had the courage to witness to the Good News of God the Father. He was faithful until death, and God’s answer was the resurrection (Phil 2:9; Heb 5:7).
First-born among the dead: First-born is like saying oldest brother (Col 1:18). Jesus is the first-born who rises again. His victory over death will also be ours, his brothers and sisters!
Prince of the kings of the earth: This was a title given to Roman Emperors as official propaganda. The Christians gave this title to Jesus. To believe in Jesus was an act of rebellion against the empire and its ideology.
These three titles come from the messianic psalm 89, where the messiah is called Faithful Witness (Ps 89:38), First-born (Ps 89:28) The Most High above the kings of the earth (Ps 89:28). The first Christians took their inspiration from the Bible in order to formulate their doctrine.
iii) The name of the Holy Spirit: Seven lamps, Seven eyes, Seven spirits.
Seven Lamps: In the Apocalypse 4:5, it is said that the seven spirits are the seven lamps burning before the Throne of God. There are seven because they represent the fullness of the action of God in the world. There are seven burning lamps, because they symbolise the action of the Spirit who enlightens, refreshes and purifies (Acts 2:1). They stand before the Throne always ready to respond to any request from God.
Seven Eyes: In Apocalypse 5:6, it is said that the Lamb has seven eyes, symbol of the seven spirits of God sent throughout the earth. What a beautiful image! Suffice it to look at the Lamb to see the Spirit working there where the Lamb looks, for his eyes are the eyes of the Spirit. It is he who always looks at us!
Seven Spirits: The seven evoke the seven gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the prophet Isaiah and that will rest on the Messiah (Is 11:2-3). This prophecy comes true in Jesus. The seven Spirits are, at the same time, of God and of Jesus. The same identification of the Spirit with Jesus appears at the end of the seven letters. It is Jesus who speaks in the letters, and at the end of each letter we read, He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. Jesus speaks, the Spirit speaks. They are one.
6. PSALM 63, 1-9
O God, my soul thirsts for thee
O God, thou art my God, I seek thee,
my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee,
as in a dry and weary land where no water is.
So I have looked upon thee in the sanctuary,
beholding thy power and glory.
Because thy steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise thee.
So I will bless thee as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on thy name.
My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat,
and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips,
when I think of thee upon my bed,
and meditate on thee in the watches of the night;
for thou hast been my help,
and in the shadow of thy wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to thee;
thy right hand upholds me.
7. FINAL PRAYER
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.