Lectio Divina

Trinity Sunday (A)

"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:

John 3, 16-18- 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.

 
 
 
 
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Last revised: 21 May 2002