We are entering into the summer season, a season of backyard barbecues, family picnics, outdoor gatherings like concerts, and of course celebrations like weddings. It is a season that has it’s own ‘party atmosphere’; often we send out invitations to different events, and we ask and hope people will reply so we can make the appropriate arrangements in terms of numbers for seating, food, etc.
It is in the midst of this ‘atmosphere’ , as we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, that our Gospel today seems to throw a wet blanket on everything with the word , ‘condemn’.
Condemnation is not really a word that we associate with the word ‘celebration’, but with your kind indulgence, I will offer a link to consider between those two words in connection with today’s Gospel passage from St. John.
Often, those who criticize the Church, and claim no religious affiliation, point to passages such as this and complain how it is all about condemnation; that this is all religion and worship of God is about – fear of punishment; it’s all negative, as if God is some kind of cosmic Santa Claus who looks for reasons to punish His children.
They focus on that word – condemn – without looking at the circumstances or the context its use in this teaching of Jesus’. The fact that one sentence in this passage says, ‘the one who does not believe is already condemned’, seems to provide an excuse to say , ‘See? Organized religion promotes judgement and condemnation. That’s why I don’t belong to the Church.’
How easy it is to blame God when we don’t have a desire or interest in entering into union with Him.
This is where I like to use the image of a celebration or party. If we host an celebration, it’s an occasion for joy – and we want to share that joy with others. We invite others in. We give them our address. We provide directions to our home. We tell them when to be there. We even stand at the door and wait to welcome them in.
We can’t control if others decide they don’t want to be part of our celebration, our joy. If they choose to go to a different address, or drive in the opposite direction that we gave them, we can’t control that either. If they don’t want to come to our home when we have the party, that’s up to them. Even if we stand at the door and watch for them, we can’t force them to come in.
They have chosen to exclude themselves – we haven’t shunned them. They chose otherwise. Imagine if they then blamed us for their decision not to come to the party.
It’s similar with God, but on a much, much grander scale. God invites all people into relationship with Him, and He provided His Son, Jesus, as the means through which all people could enter into His joy. God stands at the doorway, watching, waiting, inviting. He calls people to enter through Jesus, the doorway to His home. He sends His Holy Spirit out to inspire His messengers to continually call to others inviting them into this eternal celebration.
The working of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, does not ‘force’ anyone to come to this celebration. It’s an invitation. And if people refuse, that’s their decision – their own ‘condemnation’ of themselves.
This feast of the Holy Trinity provides us with the reminder that God, three persons in one God, is always working in all aspects of our lives, opening that doorway, inviting us into it, waiting for us to become part of that eternal celebration of the Kingdom, which begins here an now in this life, and carries on into eternity. In fact, this passage stresses how the Son came into the world not to condemn the world, but rather to save it. The condemnation comes from our own actions.
The question for each of us is, how will we respond to God’s ‘party’ invitation?
Do we plan on attending, or do we have somewhere else we would rather be?
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!