This reflection is for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle B, 5/27/2018.
I think most parents remember playing “peak-a-boo” with their babies. I just saw a young mother playing with her daughter a few days ago and it brought back a flood of wonderful memories. I remember how much fun I used to have with my boys playing that game. Simply cover your own eyes with your hand, remove it quickly, say, “boo!” and wait for a little jump and giggles galore! So much fun! I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, actually, my sons or me. That’s probably why I played it so much. They loved being surprised and I loved surprising them!
Not a lot has changed for us now that my boys are nine and eleven, actually. They still love surprises and I still find so much joy in doing the surprising! I think most people love surprises, and I’m always sad when I hear someone say that they don’t like surprises! I think some of the greatest joys in life catch us by surprise.
People do love surprises: Christmas gifts, unexpected flowers, wedding proposals, birthday parties, and surprise endings. We love to discover something new and unexpected. It’s proof that we don’t have all the answers, we don’t know all the possible outcomes, and you never know what might be just around the corner!
You know, God likes surprises too! I like to speak of God as the God of surprises. How many times I have said, “Man! I would never have imagined that! Amazing!” Haha!
That’s exactly what Isaiah discovered about God thousands of years ago, when God surprised his faithful people by ending their exile in Babylon! Surprise! King Cyrus of Persia has defeated the Babylonians, and has returned the Judah-ites to their land–and even gave them money to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem! Surprise! (‘Betcha didn’t see that coming!)
Isaiah proclaims of God, “you worked awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as had not been heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you working such deeds for those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:2-3)
St. Paul actually uses the words of Isaiah when talking about Jesus to the Corinthians. He says, “as it is written: ‘What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.’” (1Cor 2:7-9)
Isaiah and Paul rediscovered what Moses discovered far earlier, but the people had forgotten! God loves surprises! Believe me, you can just imagine Paul’s surprise when while heading off to persecute Christians, Jesus appears in a bright light and says, You’re not going to kill Christians! You’re going to become one, and proclaim my name to the gentiles! Surprise!
In today’s reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses helps the Israelites to be people of faith who never doubt the awesome power, love, and blessings of the God of surprises!
You’ve been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, but it’s time to go! Surprise! And look, Pharaoh is even giving you camels, gold, and silver for your trouble! Moses gives the people a laundry list of surprises from God.
“Moses said to the people: ‘Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the LORD, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” (DT 4:32-34, 39-40)
And then, in the fullness of time, God visits His people! The Incarnation! God really surprised Mary and Joseph, right?! The angel says, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High…The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (LK 1:31) Yahweh is God–but Jesus is too! Surprise!
And no one loved surprises more than Jesus! You can’t find me, mom, I’m in the Temple with the Elders! Surprise!
You’re out of wine and your wedding is ruined! Surprise! Party on!
You guys are horrible fisherman whose nets are empty! Surprise, your nets are breaking!
There’s not enough food to feed 5,000 people! Surprise, everyone is full and there are leftovers!
Your hand is healed! Surprise!
Get up, you can walk! Surprise!
You are cleansed of leprosy! Surprise!
Lazarus is not dead! Surprise!
You are a condemned sinner but now you’re forgiven! Surprise!
Apparently Judas learned something about surprises from Jesus because Judas had a little surprise of his own, right? You claim to be God but I’m handing you over to be crucified! Surprise!
And then Jesus had a little surprise for Satan! You thought I was dead and gone, I am risen! SURPRISE!
And finally, just when you thought God was all out of surprises, God sends His Holy Spirit into the hearts of His faithful that they might know Him, think like Him, and become like Him. Surprise! Yes, by His Spirit God restores His children to His likeness and image that was lost “in the beginning.” Freedom is ours. Original holiness is ours. Salvation is ours. Surprise!
St. Paul tells the Romans today, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (ROM 8:14-17)
OMG! God is three! Surprise! Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; to God who is, who was, and who is to come. (RV 1:8) Today we celebrate the most Holy Trinity. We celebrate what could only have been known because the God of the universe chose to reveal something about His inner self, something closest to Himself to people He loves very much.
The God of love, who never ceases to surprise us, wants to love and surprise others too. God does not want our joy to be contained within us, but instead to be shared with others. We share our life, our love, and our joy with those around us! As His children, we must be full of surprises too!
The truth be told, I have a confession to make: I still play “peak-a-boo,” but with other people’s baby! With friends, or family, and sometimes with complete strangers, I always take the time to teach the importance and joy of surprise. (Disclaimer: Get permission first with stranger’s children!) Don’t keep it to yourself, Jesus says!
In today’s gospel, “Jesus approached and said to [the eleven], ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'” (MT 28:16-20)
God is our Father. God is risen. God is Spirit. God is one and three. He is with us forever. What an amazing surprise! Happy Trinity Sunday. Go be like God, surprise someone you love. Surprise someone who needs to know they are loved.