Gospel Commentary JJune 12, Jn 16:12-15
The ancient church told a famous story about Saint Augustine, that he once walked along the seashore trying to clearly understand how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could be one God in three people.
As he walked, he saw a small child running between the sea and a hole he had dug in the sand, carrying water from one to the other in a shell. Augustin asked the child: “What are you doing?” The child replied, “I’m trying to pour the whole ocean into this hole in the sand.” Augustine, laughing, said to the child, “There’s no way on earth you could ever accomplish such a gargantuan and absurd task.
The child, suddenly becoming serious, said to the wise bishop: “Neither will you, O Augustine, succeed in bringing the unlimited Trinity into your frail spirit,” and with that he disappeared.
This short story shares some similarity with the words of Christ in today’s Gospel, as he tells the apostles: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. The Lord, at this moment, is unveiling his mind and his heart to the apostles. This evening of the Last Supper, he teaches them more clearly than ever about the closeness he shares with the Father, about the coming of the Holy Spirit, and about his desire to lead the disciples into the glory of heaven, that gave him the Father before everything was. He has already given them more than they could ever have understood, especially before experiencing the risen Christ of Easter, but now He reminds them that there is “much more” of the mystery that remains beyond. beyond their comprehension, which they “cannot bear”.
While the story of Augustine and the words of the Lord may appear as simple encouragement to intellectual humility before the mystery of God, perhaps on this Sunday we can also find a joyful message there.
When Christ tells the apostles that much remains to be understood, he also promises that the Holy Spirit will come, without fail, “to guide them into all truth.” Thus, the present misunderstanding of the apostles is not only a barrier, but a promise of where they must go. Likewise, Augustine may not have incorporated in his mind the mystery of the limitless and infinite God, but he knew that if he remained faithful, he would nevertheless see the Trinity face to face in heaven. The intellectual reprimand of the child was almost a way of saying to the thinker Augustine: “you will not thus arrive at perfect knowledge, but through love, you will know the true God”.
All of this remains true for us today. The Trinity is as much a mystery to the Church today as it was to the ancient Church. We know what we cannot say and what we must say about the Trinity – that there is only one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all equal in eternity, power, honor, knowledge, sharing one nature, one will and one love – but none of this necessary doctrinal clarity unravels the mystery perfectly. We still have “a lot more” to know, even if we “can’t bear it now”. But rather than be discouraged by the impossibility of understanding God clearly here and now, we can consider this same mystery as a hopeful promise of a time when, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will know by sight , and know “all truth” by the power of heaven’s love, we shall not only be satisfied, but perfectly happy forever.
Pr. Rampino is parochial vicar of the Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria.