Circles of Love

Go only "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” was Jesus’ firm instruction to the disciples when he first sent them out on mission (Mt 10:6). Later, when a Canaanite woman pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter, he again declared that he was sent "only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (15:24). His concern was to feed his own people (15:26), and he did not see her as one of them. Her respectful and insistent response in word and gesture, however, helped trigger a profound change in Jesus’ understanding of the scope of his mission. At the end of the Gospel, he commissions his disciples to go everywhere, making disciples of all nations (28:19).

A similarly profound shift occurred in the life of the apostle Paul, who went from persecuting Christians who were reinterpreting the parameters of the family of God, to being the most ardent proponent of the inclusion of all. By the time Paul writes to the community in Rome in the late 60s, he is able to say that all who are led by the Spirit are "children of God.” This same expression had been used of the Israelites (Dt 14:1). Paul presses the metaphor further, insisting that all these varied children of God are not just appendages to the family, but are full and true heirs. Being a full member of the family and an heir means inheriting the pattern of life set by Jesus: a life of loving service that is costly, but which ends in glorious transformation.

The relationship between parents and children who are full heirs is only one metaphor by which to speak of the mysterious love of the Trinity. Augustine liked to speak of the three persons as "Lover, Beloved, and Love.” Hildegard of Bingen favored "Fire, Burning, and Flashing Forth.” One might name them "Eternal Giver, Receiver and Outburst of Joy.” There is no limit to the ways we can speak of the profound mystery of the Three in One. The three persons are a communion of love that interweave each other in endless patterns of saving activity.

The first reading today assures us that the mystery of the divine love is not something that remains nebulous and intangible. Rather, the saving activity of God is concrete and visible both in great moments and in the routines of everyday life. Jesus’ promise "I am with you always” (Mt 28:20) assures all God's Spirit-led children in every race and nation that the divine presence continues to create, save and vivify whenever we allow it free rein to draw us into the Trinity's ever-expanding circles of love.


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