This is Trinity Sunday, but far be it from me to try to make any thoughtful comments on the complicated doctrine of the Trinity in less than 500 words. Suffice it to say, though, that it is this doctrine that most fully brings to the forefront the role of the Holy Spirit in spreading the divine continually throughout the world.
In that light, let’s focus on just two aspects of today’s readings.
1) For the second time in less than three months, the Gospel reading includes the famous John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son….” But unlike a few months ago, today we are asked to read more verses before the famous one, namely the entire first part of John’s chapter 3, through verse 17. What this adds is the questioning by the pharisee Nicodemus, which leads to the famous saying in John 3:16. What bothers me about the Gospel is that we don’t learn for quite some time how Nicodemus reacted to Jesus’ teaching. John seems just to drop Nicodemus. Are his eyes ever opened? Does he comprehend, finally, what Jesus was saying, after at first being confused?
It is only later, in chapters 7 and 19, that we see Nicodemus appear again. But both times he proves to be a man of great decency, and a man who wants to do right by Jesus. First, he tried to convince other pharisees not to condemn Jesus without a fair hearing. Finally, he assisted Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’ dead body for burial and placing it reverently in its tomb. Obviously, Nicodemus had been moved by his encounter with the Lord, and he tried to live up to God’s mission of acting with love and justice within God’s creation.
2) This leads to the second point on which I’d like to focus. The first reading, a vision of God attended by seraphim as recounted by Isaiah (chapter 6:1-8), ends with one my the most important questions ever asked of us by our God: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!'”
This is the most succinct imaginable expression of how we should respond to God. As in the refrain from a popular hymn based on Isaiah 6:8, we should say “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard You calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.”
This is what Nicodemus did, in response to his encounter with the Lord: He heard, he followed, and he stepped forward with justice, compassion, and love.
Here we are, Lord. Send us. Send all of us. And, guided by the Holy Spirit, may we love and serve You with gladness and singleness of heart.