“Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, in whom we believe and whom we await to come back to us in the near future, is Lord and God.” ~ Saint Patrick
In Today’s Gospel (John 5:17-30), Jesus delves more deeply into the intricacies of his relationship with God the Father. He does so much to the chagrin and subsequent ire of those in his midst who saw this as a blatant and misguided attempt on Jesus’ part to claim equality with God, something we know he never south or desired (Philippians 2:5-11).
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed.” He goes on further to explain that “...just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.”
These were of course very radical teachings from this enigmatic and mysterious healer, the one who routinely broke the sabbath, ignored age-old washing rituals and dined with tax collectors and prostitutes. But if they thought that these words were shocking, it’s hard to imagine what went through their collective minds when Jesus shifts gears and begins to speak about eternal judgement.
“Nor does the Father judge anyone,” Jesus goes on to say, “but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” Furthermore he adds “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgement, because he is the Son of Man.”
Lest these words be interpreted as a heavy-handed sort of power play on Jesus’ behalf, all we need do is reflect upon today’s Communion Antiphon ~ “God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17) ~ to truly understand God’s loving motive, and the Son of Man’s as well. It’s clear that Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel were an effort to more fully explain the Trinitarian relationship he shared with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Legend has it that Saint Patrick, whose Feast Day is of course celebrated on this day ~ most often with great enthusiasm I might add ~ used the ubiquitous three-leaved Shamrock as a metaphor to illustrate and explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish during the 5th Century. This uniquely Christian concept of three perfect persons ~ the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit ~ in the one and only God, is in fact rooted in Deuteronomy 6:4, which states there is but one God, and Matthew 28:19, wherein Jesus commands His followers to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As children of God equipped with finite brains, we take these teachings on faith, for it is impossible to fully explain or comprehend an infinite God. In our efforts to more fully understand this complex notion, perhaps we can follow Saint Patrick’s lead and pray for the spiritual gifts of knowledge and understanding. In doing so, he explained, “The Lord, in time, opened the understanding of his unbelieving heart.”
I leave you with a quote from Saint Patrick’s Confessio, wherein he reflects deeper on the Trinity and his desire to share this seminal teaching to all those he encountered.
“In the knowledge of this faith in the Trinity, and without letting the dangers prevent it, it is right to make known the gift of God and his eternal consolation. It is right to spread abroad the name of God faithfully and without fear, so that even after my death I may leave something of value to the many thousands of my brothers and sisters – the children whom I baptized in the Lord.”
Saint Patrick, pray for us.