The Way of Beauty Stay with Us

The songs of Irving Berlin have woven their way into the fabric of American life.  They’re a national treasure.  Occasionally, the lyrics can raise our minds heavenward. Take for example, the song, “I’ll be loving you, always.” 

In St. Matthew’s gospel for Trinity Sunday, Jesus speaks his final words to the disciples:  “I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.” In other words, ‘I’ll stay with you always . . . ‘I’ll be loving you, always, for I-AM-LOVE.’ 

The Plan of Salvation

With the feast of Pentecost, the Easter season has officially come to a close.  Pentecost leads directly to the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the central mystery of Christendom. From now until next Advent season, the Church settles in to Ordinary Time, the extended time when the Church basks in the love of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit. The plan of salvation acts dynamically and continues in creation, in current events, in the mission of the Church, and in every individual. 

The Indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity

The feast of the Most Holy Trinity is mystery so wide, expansive, and boundless to ponder, for it is the gift of God’s very own Self to the world. God’s grace encourages me in moments of distress.  It prompts me to develop my gifts and root out my particular faults. Whatever I have received is placed at the service of others.  My vocation is to love God into the world, one day at a time.  Nothing less will do.

Jesus assured his disciples:  “If any man and woman love me, they will keep my word, and my father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with him.”  This awareness makes the sacrament of the present moment all the more vital.  Exhorting the catechumens in Constantinople, St. Gregory the Theologian (4th c) tells them:  “I give the Most Holy Trinity to you as the companion and patron of your whole life.”   

St. Paul’s Favorite Metaphor

The Christian vocation is lived out not in isolation but with one another, the Body of Christ. St. Paul’s use of the body-metaphor comes into play most vividly in his letters to the Corinthians:

• “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?”

• “The temple of God is sacred, and you are that temple.  You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to you.”  

• “Get rid of all the old yeast and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread.” 

• “You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for.  That is why you should use your body for the glory of God” (1 Cor 3; 5; 6ff).

“Do you love me more than these?”

At the close of St. John’s gospel, Jesus turns to Peter with an edgy question: “Peter, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” he answers.  Jesus repeats the question, and Peter answers. Didn’t Jesus hear him the first time?   But a third time?  The Master’s gentle jab, or is it teasing—whatever it is upsets Peter, and rightfully so.  He grasps the point.  His threefold denial has been seared in his memory. He will weep over that betrayal all his life.

“Do you love me more than these?” This question to every Christian does not lose its edge. Peter is Everyman—Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier,  Teresa of Avila, Edith Stein, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Oscar Romero, the martyred missionary women in El Salvador, the martyrs in Syria, Nigeria, Nagasaki.  Then there are the hidden and nameless:  the homebound and suffering praying for special intentions of the Church, our wounded veterans and those suffering in hospitals, the dedicated teacher, physician, nurse, and other caregivers, the politician and government official, the spouse and mother keeping the family together and praying that it stays together.  The question pricks; it needles.  It will never lose its edge. It’s always before us.

The words of Jeremiah anticipate those of Jesus:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3), and the lyrics of Mr. Berlin echo Jeremiah’s:

More in The Way of Beauty

“I’ll be loving you, always,
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.” 
In Sunday’s gospel, Jesus clinches it all: “I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.”

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