August 21, 2019

Striving To Imitate God’s Self-Giving Nature

A businessman returned from a trip to France, and one of the souvenirs he brought back for his wife was a matchbox that was supposed to glow in the dark. Upon giving it to her, he turned out the light—but nothing happened. “I’ve been cheated!” he said, but when the wife later on looked more closely at the box, she found some writing which said, in French and in English, “If you want me to shine at night, keep me in the sunlight all day.” That’s what she did the following day, and that evening, when she turned out the light, the matchbox glowed brilliantly. “What did you do?” the husband asked, and she explained, “I discovered that before the box can shine in the dark, it must be exposed to the light” (Michael Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, p. 397).

In a similar way, we must live in the light, warmth, and power of the Holy Trinity in order to fulfill our mission in life. Someone once said that, using poetic imagery or metaphors, the sun can be considered a great friend in the sky, smiling at us in three different ways, with each smile resulting in a blessing for the human race. The first smile sends out rays of light, thus illumining our planet. The second smile sends out rays of heat, giving us warmth. The third smile sends out rays of power, energizing our planet. All three of these gifts are necessary for human life to exist, and all three come from the same sun. Likewise, God can be said to smile upon us in three different ways. When God the Father smiled upon the earth, human life came into existence. When God the Son smiled upon us, it took the form of His coming down to earth to live and die among us for our salvation. When God the Holy Spirit smiled upon us, it meant that He has taken up residence within us, filling us with grace and making us spiritual temples (Mark Link, Illustrated Sunday Homilies, Year B, Series II, pp. 65-66). Both the sun, and the Holy Trinity, can be said to bless us in three different ways—and God asks us to share the spiritual light, warmth, and power we receive from Him.

The readings for Trinity Sunday tell us that it’s God’s nature to give of Himself—and that this must be our nature, as well. Moses reminds the people that God had blessed Israel in a unique way; no other nation had been the beneficiary of so many signs and wonders. The Israelites, for their part, were called to keep God’s commandments; this would ensure their continued prosperity and security. St. Paul expands this idea of blessing, saying that all who are led by the Spirit are children of God, not only the Jews. God’s love cannot be limited or contained—and thus, our loving response must also continually grow and expand. In the Gospel, Jesus tells His followers to go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them everything they had learned from Him. Jesus came to bring salvation not for an elite minority or a privileged few, but for all who would accept it—and an essential part of His plan involves the effort, commitment, and example of all His followers, including each one of us.

How can we be evangelizers—how can we follow the Holy Trinity’s example by giving of ourselves?

Very simply, by using the spiritual gifts God gives us: gifts of light, warmth, and power. The gift of light, for instance, means that we have been enlightened by God; our faith helps us see the proper path through life, in spite of the darkness of sin that surrounds us. Light means that we’re capable of having proper priorities, and of seeing what’s truly important—and if we act accordingly, our light can benefit others. Our good example can attract other people to Christ, including coworkers, neighbors, friends, relatives, and even strangers; our efforts to live out our faith can encourage other Christians to do the same.

Secondly, we have the gift of warmth, which means that Christ’s love is present within us. Our acts of caring, our expressions of concern, and our demonstrations of support for others, especially those who suffer, can make a difference; people who are emotionally and spiritually touched by one of Christ’s followers are very often willing and even eager to come to know Jesus Himself. Concern and compassion for other people can not only warm their lives, but also deepen and renew our own experience of love; our everyday influence on the people around us can help make this world a better place.

The third spiritual gift God gives us to share with others is power, which means that the Holy Spirit is present and active within us. Through the gifts of the Spirit, we can receive the courage to do what’s right, even when it means going against the crowd; we can receive guidance on how to handle difficult life situations; we can receive strength to bear our burdens and to make sacrifices for God’s glory. Because the Spirit is within us, we know we are not alone; we can receive and use spiritual energy, making our faith real and attractive to others.

Light, warmth, and power form a threefold gift which we receive from the Holy Trinity, a gift meant to be used, shared, and multiplied. As Christians, we are required to believe in the Trinity, even though we can’t begin to understand this central truth, or explain how there can be Three Persons in One God. What we can do, however, is strive to imitate God’s self-giving nature. God the Father created us; God the Son redeems us; God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. Through Them, we have spiritual life; with Them, we must share this life with others.

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Written by
Fr Joseph Esper

REVEREND JOSEPH M. ESPER is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Anchorville, Michigan. He received his Master of Divinity degree from St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. Through the years, Father Joe has lectured at Marian conferences, appeared on EWTN, spoken on Catholic radio, and written more than a dozen articles for This Rock, The Priest, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and other publications. He is also the author of numerous books, including Saintly Solutions, More Saintly Solutions, After the Darkness, Lessons from the Lives of the Saints, and Why Is God Punishing Me? In addition to Amazon, many of his most recent books are available through Queenship Publishing.

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Written by Fr Joseph Esper
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