Friday Focus: The Long Goodbye
A few weeks back, my 97-year old grandmother gave what she announced might be her last Kentucky Derby party. She was momentarily wistful, but very matter of fact… as if she were observing that the sun was shining that day and the track would be fast. She clearly sees the finish line and is not shy.
Half way through John’s gospel, the young Jesus is already talking about his burial. For chapter after chapter, he tells the disciples that he loves them, but must leave them. He is here on a mission. His time is limited. He must return to the Father. But not to worry, his race is a relay. The Holy Spirit will take the baton and stay with us to the end. On Trinity Sunday I find some comfort in this analogy. The Creator of the universe is the ultimate lead-off. The Redeemer then rallies God’s lost and struggling people. And running the anchor leg, the Holy Spirit carries us safely home to glory.
Thomas Jefferson went through his copy of the New Testament with a razor cutting out all of Christ’s miracles, claims of divinity and allusions to the Trinity. In John’s gospel, it’s like editing out all the consonants and leaving only the vowels. Without the divinity of Jesus and the mystery of the Trinity, we are left with meaningless gibberish. But from beginning to end, John gives us the whole gospel: vowels, consonants, miracles, a divine Jesus and a Holy Trinity.
To illustrate his theme, John gives great care to the connections and transitions of Father to Son and Son to Holy Spirit. The verbal and conceptual beauty of John 1:1 has never been surpassed: In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. It’s just as lovely in Latin: In principio erat Verbum... But whatever the language, the real beauty is inherent in its introduction of the mystery of the Trinity: Jesus, God and man, is, was and always will be one with the Father.
This sublime introduction to the divinity of Jesus and his continuity with the Father is a tough act to follow. No wonder Jesus takes almost eight chapters of John to make his long goodbye. And in his protracted valedictory, Jesus continues to reveal the mystery of the Trinity over and over. He is returning to the Father and invoking the Holy Spirit. The circle is unbroken. We are never abandoned.
We live always and entirely in the love of God. We are created by the love of the Father. We are redeemed by the love of the Son. We are preserved by the love of the Holy Spirit. In his long goodbye, Jesus previews the glorious welcome home that awaits us, united to the one loving God in three divine Persons. Alleluia