John 3:16-18
Question of Life
Rev. Richard A. Miserendino

Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

What is the answer to life's deepest questions, the key that unlocks the mysteries of the universe?  Given the current fascination with artificial intelligence, we may be tempted to ask ChatGPT for an answer.  However, fans of Douglas Adam's sci-fi comedy series "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" know better.  In those stories, an enormous supercomputer was created specifically to weigh all things and draw a conclusion.  "What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything?"  It thought for 7.5 million years and after all that pondering, proclaimed the solution: 42.  We laugh because it's a ridiculous answer, but the question remains in our minds and hearts: What does it all mean?

Today, on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we celebrate a much better answer to those questions, the answer revealed by God.  As we contemplate the mystery of the Trinity, we understand that God has communicated perhaps the deepest truth of the universe to us, something we could have never discovered on our own and something far beyond the calculations of even the most powerful supercomputer.  God is a communion of persons, one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This essential truth illuminates who we are and what our life and existence ifs all about.  How so?

At face value, it is possible to dismiss the truth of the Trinity with a cold, worldly, supercomputer reasoning: The Trinity seems like a wonky math problem or logical contradiction.  Three does not equal one.  Astute Catholics, however, will note that "person" and "God" are different words, signifying different things.  The term "person" speaks to "who" something is, "God" speaks to "what" something is.  What we mean when we talk about the Trinity is just that God is the type of being who is three persons.  This strikes us as unusual as we're used to one person per being but then again, God should be unusual.  He's the only one there is.  We should expect God to transcend our expectations.  And while the Trinity doesn't defy logic, we can see why we needed God to reveal this about himself.  It's not something you'd reason to on your own.

Still, all of this can be seem a bit abstract until we consider the reminder given in our Gospel reading for today (Jn 3:16-18).  The famous "God so loved the world ..." passage immediately reminds us that  God isn't just a Trinity, but that God is a communion of person who is love.  God is complete self-giving love.  Put another way, the root of the universe, the definitive meaning of all things, the beating heart of existence is the self-giving love of God.  That's a much better answer to the secret and meaning of the universe than 42.

Better still, our Gospel reminds us that God loves us.  God wills us into being by the act of his love, creates us in his image and likeness, sustains us in being constantly by that love, and even when we sin, redeems us in love, making a gift of himself to us in Christ.  All we have to do is receive the gift and respond in faith, loving God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.  As we make that response, we're swept up into the very life and love of God that is eternal perfection itself.

So: What is the ultimate answer to the question of life, the universe and everything?  Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, no supercomputer has tabulated that answer.  However, the doctrine of the Trinity and our Gospel show us the eternal truth: God is love, an eternal communion of self-gift.  God loves us, too, because that is who God is.  We are made in the image of that love.  Moreover, the meaning of our life and true perfection, our perfection is God's divine perfection, is found in our making a gift of ourselves in love: First to God in prayer and then to our neighbor in charity.  As we live that way, we'll find that meaning to be clearer and clearer, not just in our minds, but in our hearts and souls as well.