‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son’
Trinity Sunday Year A
This week’s reading challenges us to embrace what is good and shun what is bad, telling us that if we reject goodness, it is not God who condemns us: we condemn ourselves. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
16 Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. 17 For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. 18 No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.’
Other readings: Exodus 34:4-6,8-9 Daniel 3:52-56 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
The Easter season has come to an end, and we might have expected that the Sunday after Pentecost would be simply one of those Sundays of the year ‘in ordinary time’. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday, gives us the opportunity to reflect on the mystery of God, the God who has been revealed to us above all in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In our gospel reading Jesus teaches Nicodemus, who is searching for the truth, about the basic motivation of God in sending us the only Son. This motivation is love. In creating us God also makes it possible for us to accept the love of God with complete freedom, for we can refuse this love. Believing in ‘the name of God’s only Son’ means acknowledging the reality of the love of God for each of us. We are challenged to allow the love of God into our lives again and again in the daily decisions we must make to embrace what is good and to shun what is evil. If we reject goodness, it is not God who condemns us. We condemn ourselves.
The essence of God’s attitude towards human beings is clear already in the first reading from the Book of Exodus, when the Lord is revealed as a ‘God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, and rich in kindness and faithfulness’. These qualities of God are illustrated as the story of salvation progresses and most fully when, in the fulness of time, God sends the incarnate Son to live and die for us, and pours out the Holy Spirit to be the constant presence of God’s love in the world.
St Paul’s final greeting to the people of Corinth in the second reading sums up our prayer on this feast: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’
Have I accepted in my heart that God is ‘a God of compassion’?
Do I understand that faith is essentially trusting in God who loves and saves me?
Pray for a renewed sense of the awesomeness of God.
Pray for those who struggle with the notion of a God who loves them.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy