This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:5)
How would you describe a tiger to someone who has never seen one? You probably wouldn’t use this dictionary definition:
“Fierce Asiatic feline mammal,
tawny in colour, with black stripes.”
But whatever words you used couldn’t fully convey the beauty, power and energy of that magnificent creature.
A photograph taken at a family wedding portrays the people who were there and what they were wearing. What it won’t convey are the complex personalities and dynamic relationships, the sense of family history and shared experiences.
There are all kinds of things that we need to experience personally before we can understand what they’re like.
If this applies to tigers and families how much more will it be true of anything concerning God and our relationship with him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We can find a definition that tries to explain the Holy Trinity, for example:
“There is one God, eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. The three persons of the Godhead are co-equal and co-eternal.”
But words are inadequate. We can’t pin down an elusive mystery and restrict it in a lifeless form. We need to find ways of expressing our understanding of the Holy Trinity in terms of energy, relationship and creativity within the Trinity itself. Then we need to go beyond that to discover something of the dynamic energy that exists in the relationship between God in three persons and his beloved creation.
Our Gospel reading today offers us vivid word pictures of the love of God which dances between the three persons of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit and which seeks to draw others into that dance of love and delight.
Several times in his conversation with Nicodemus Jesus uses the image of being re-born: “born from above”; “born of water and Spirit”. It’s as if Jesus is trying to get across how completely different life with God is – so different it’s like entering a whole new world.
We’re also reminded that it’s always God who takes the initiative in the salvation of his creation. Jesus compares himself to the bronze serpent which God told Moses to make to heal all who looked up at it. He offers a picture of himself being lifted up to be the focus for healing and the source of eternal life, freely given to all who believe in him.
The Holy Trinity in action is like a loving Father, taking the initiative in sending his Son to save a world that may not know it needs saving.
The Holy Trinity in action is like Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man. He shows us what God and love look like in human form and identifies himself with human pain and suffering.
The Holy Trinity in action is the Holy Spirit, bringing new birth, new identity and the invitation to join in the dance of love and delight that is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God reaches out to each of us personally, inviting us to join in that holy dance. How are we to respond? .
Being born into a new life might sound scary – a journey into the unknown. Everything will be new and different and we will be totally dependent on the Being who has given us this new birth. Believing that that Being has given new birth out of love for us we can also believe that the family of the Holy Trinity will receive us with joy and delight and a faithfulness on which we can safely depend.
The words of Paul to the Romans give us further insight into our relationship with God. The Spirit, through which we receive the gift of eternal life, is not a spirit of fear leading us into captivity. It’s a spirit of adoption, a form of new birth, which draws us into the family of God, Father and Son, so that we too can call God “Abba, Father”. We are children of God.
Images of God as Father and the Holy Trinity as family may be painful for some. Sometimes words get in the way of truth and understanding. What’s important to say today about the Holy Trinity, God in three persons, is this:
God loves the world and acts to save it from its own folly.
God offers new life to all who seek it.
It’s for us to respond joyfully and join in the dance of love and salvation which is for all people for all time.
1. It is impossible to define the Holy Trinity in words only.
2. We need to see how the three persons of the Trinity relate to each other and with us and experience their love for ourselves.
3. God takes the initiative in reaching out to save the world from its folly and sin.
4. We are each personally invited to be born of the spirit into a new relationship with God and into eternal life.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Let us pray for the needs of God’s world and give thanks to him for his love so freely given.
Loving God we thank you for the beauty and wonder of your creation. Help us to love and respect all that you have made; to share your gifts with our brothers and sisters in need and to protect and nurture all that is fragile and vulnerable on this earth.
Loving God we thank you for the huge diversity of peoples who share this world. We pray for a renewed spirit of longing for peace and reconciliation wherever there is conflict, injustice and oppression. Help us to do what we can to bring peace into our own lives and to seek your ways of peace for the welfare of all your children.
Loving God we thank you for the love and fellowship of friends and families. Help us to be generous with our time, with our love and with ourselves to care for all who are lonely and in need of our support.
Loving God we thank you for all who work to improve care and treatment of those who are physically ill or mentally distressed. We pray that your loving and healing presence will surround all who are suffering today and that your Holy Spirit will comfort and uphold them throughout their troubles.
Loving God we offer you our prayers, trusting that in your love you will use them and us for the fulfilment of your purpose for your creation. Give us courage to be part of your answer to prayer and when you ask “Whom shall I send” free us from fear that we may answer “Here am I; send me!”.
 Numbers 21:4-9