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June 7, 2000

The Glory of the Trinity in the Living Human


1. In this Jubilee Year our catechesis has concentrated on the theme of the glorification of the Trinity. After having contemplated the glory of the three divine persons in creation, in history, and in the mystery of Christ, we now look to the human being in order to gather to ourselves the luminous rays of God's action.

"In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being" (Job 12:10). Job's evocative declaration reveals the radical ties that unite human beings to the "Lord, lover of the living" (Wis 11:26). Rational creatures carry within themselves an intimate relationship with the Creator; a profound chain made up first of all by the gift of life. It is a gift lavished upon them by the Trinity itself and it is composed of two principle dimensions, which we will now try to illustrate by the light of God's Word.

2. The first fundamental dimension of the life given to us is the physical and historical dimension, that "heart" (nefesh) and "spirit" (ruah) to which Job refers. The Father enters the scene as the source of this gift from the very beginning of creation when he proclaimed with great solemnity: "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness... so God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" (Gen 1:26-27). With the Catechism of the Catholic Church we can draw this conclusion: "The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves" (CCC 1702). In this communion of love and in the generative capacity of the human couple there is a reflection of the Creator. In matrimony man and the woman continue the creative work of God, participating in his supreme fatherhood, in the mystery that Paul invites us to contemplate when he exclaims: "One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all" (Eph 4:6).

The effective presence of God, whom the Christian addresses as Father, is already revealed at the beginning of every human being's life, then expanding itself over his days. An extraordinarily beautiful line from Psalm 139 attests to this, which can be rendered in a form closest to the original: "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb... My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my embryo (golmi). In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed" (vv. 13, 15-16).

3. The Son is also present with the Father in our facing of existence; he who assumed our very flesh (cf Jn 1:14) even to the point of being able to be touched by our hands and heard by our ears, seen and contemplated by our eyes (cf 1Jn 1:1). Paul, in fact, reminds us that "for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor 8:6). Every living creature is also entrusted with the breath of the Spirit of God, as the Psalmist sings: "When you send forth your spirit, they are created" (Ps 104:30). In light of the New Testament it is possible to read these words as a pre-announcement of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity. The source of our lives is, therefore, a Trinitarian presence of blessing and love.

4. As I alluded to earlier, there exists another dimension in the life offered to human creatures. It can be explained with three theological categories from the New Testament. The first of these is zoe aionios, that "eternal life" celebrated by John (cf 3:15-16; 17:2-3) and meant as a participation in the "divine life". Secondly, there is the Pauline kaine ktisis, the "new creature" (cf 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), produced by the Spirit who erupts into the human creaturality, transfiguring it and giving it a "new life" (cf Rom 6:4; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:22-24). It is the Easter life: "For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ" (1Cor 15:22). Finally, there is the life of the sons of God, the hyiothesia (cf Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5), which explains our communion of love with the Father, following Christ, in the strength of the Holy Spirit:

"And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir" (Gal 4:6-7).

5. This transcendent life infused into us by grace opens us to the future, beyond the limits of our fallen state as creatures. This is what Paul affirms in his Letter to the Romans, recalling once more the Trinity as source of this Easter life: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you" (8:11).

"Therefore Eternal Life is the very life of God together with the life of the sons of God. Ever-new wonder and limitless gratitude cannot fail to take the believer before this unexpected and ineffable truth that comes to us from God in Christ (cf 1Jn 3:1-2)... Thus the Christian truth about life reaches its apex. The dignity of life is not tied only to its origins, to its coming from God, but also to its end, to its destiny of communion with God in the knowledge of love of him. It is in light of this truth that St. Ireneus specified and completed his exaltation of man: the 'glory of God' is, yes, the 'man who lives', but 'the life of man consists of the vision of God'" (Evangelium Vitae n. 38; cf Ireneus, Adversus Haereses IV, 20:7).


Let us conclude our reflections with the prayer of an Old Testament sage to the God who lives and who loves life: "For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living. For your immortal spirit is in all things (Wis 11:24-12:1)."

(ZENIT Translation)

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