Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Homily Trinity Sunday, Year C

    I've been involved in many youth and young adult groups over the years. One of the most effective ways I have seen for causing the group to be quiet was for the leader to make the Sign of the Cross. You could have 20 or 30 talking, joking, clowning teenagers but when the leader said, "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," the whole group, with its Catholic instinct, immediately made the Sign of the Cross and quieted down. All of you teachers and parents here today can feel free to use that one!

    While this is sort of a gimmick and we should be careful not to make the Sign of the Cross frivolously, I think it speaks to something very true. The Sign of the Cross was for most of us, the first prayer we ever learned. It is ubiquitous to Catholics, we make it all the time. The pervasive presence of the Sign of the Cross in the life of a Catholic serves to root his entire life in the mystery that it expresses. But it can also have an unfortunate effect. It is so common that we can easily take it for granted and not give it, or our one God in Three Persons that it names, much thought. When we dip our fingers in Holy Water and make the Sign of the Cross as we enter the Church, do we think about what this really means? When we bow to the altar or genuflect to the tabernacle before entering one of the pews, do we make the Sign of the Cross with purpose and meaning? When we make the Sign of the Cross after receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, do we make it with reverence and awe at Who we have received?

    Many of us do make the Sign of the Cross well, but today, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is the perfect day to focus all the more on Who God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, really is. God, the Holy Trinity, is the most supreme Truth of our Christian faith.

    The Feast of the Holy Trinity comes now at the beginning of Ordinary Time, I think, because it is the pinnacle of all of the great feast days we have celebrated so far: of Christmas, of Mary, Mother of God, the Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord, Lent, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, the Ascension, and Pentecost. They all culminate in the Holy Trinity. In fact, every feast day, every Sunday, every liturgical act is a celebration of the Holy Trinity, of God who is one in nature, but three in Persons. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. These three are not merely aspects of God, or names, or manifestations, or functions of God. This is why it is important that we never make the Sign of the Cross "in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier," as it is the practice in some circles, because these are merely functions of God, they describe what he does, rather than name three distinct persons. These three are numerically one, for there is only one God. There is only one, single, undivided God. This God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    I hope you'll excuse me for a little bit of teaching there, because it is so important that we strive more and more to be as clear as we can about Who God Is. This is a great mystery that we will never fully understand until we reach heaven and are able to see God face to face. But just because God is a mystery, doesn't mean we simply resign, nod our heads and move on. The meaning of life itself is the lifelong pursuit of this mystery. We must not give up on it.

    Scott Hahn, a popular Catholic author, has an interesting approach to this that I like very much. He explains that we often throw up our hands when it comes to mystery because we approach mysteries like math problems. The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that three Persons are One God, but we know in math that three does not equal one. It can seem that problems like this are so abstract, so hard to figure out, that all we can do is accept that fact that we are unable to solve them. But, as Scott Hahn puts it, mystery is better understood like a marriage, or any profound human relationship. "We cannot ever 'figure out' a spouse, but we can certainly grow in love, knowledge, and understanding of that person. The Trinity is the loving relationship we hope to know forever in heaven. If we are not growing in our love of that mystery, we are not growing any closer to heaven. And if that is so then our faith is superficial."

    The image of marriage helps us to understand mystery, but especially the mystery of the Trinity. God is not an in solitary confinement in heaven. The Godhead is a community of love. The Father loves the Son from all eternity. The Son receives and returns this love from all eternity. And the love that they share is divine and so intense that it is a third Person, the Holy Spirit, proceeding forth from them from all eternity. This image of the Holy Trinity as the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love They Share is the image St. Augustine used to illustrate the Holy Trinity. And this image is most vividly portrayed on earth in marriage and family. There we see a husband who loves his wife so much that he gives his life and all he has to her. She receives this love completely and loves him completely in return. And the love they have is so intense that proceeding from their love is a third person, a child. Love is the essence of the family, as it is the essence of God. Deus Caritas Est – God Is Love.

    This is what John's Gospel means when Jesus says, "Everything that the father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he, [the Holy Spirit], will take from what is mine and declare it to you." The community of love that is God is so complete and eternal that everything the Father has, the Son has, and everything the Son has, the Father has. And everything they share, the Holy Spirit has. This generosity of love is the essence of God and is the standard for what our families should be. It is the Holy Spirit who declares this to us, who invites us into the love of God, and empowers our families to be icons of this love to the world.

    But, unfortunately, broken families and divorce have touched all of us here in one way or another. If the family is supposed to be an image of the love shared between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and we come from or have been hurt by a broken family, how are we supposed to know God? We can still know him because the Holy Spirit makes his love forever attractive to us, even if we do not see it lived well in our circumstances. This love is the basis for all of our desires and all of our pursuits for happiness. If we can remain confident that this love is true, then it can empower us to reconcile, rebuild, and restore our relationships and families wherever this is possible. If this is not possible, we can find comfort and hope in the fact that we are already a part of this love. At our Baptism we were brought into the inner life of the Trinity and made sharers in God's eternal exchange of love. This love heals all wounds and divisions, overcomes all obstacles, makes all things possible and new and is beyond any love we can imagine. This is a love we can rely on even if everything else crumbles down around us. This love will never fail us, will never let us down, will always fill us with peace and joy. As St. Paul said, "the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." And this love will be poured out anew into our hearts at this very Mass in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, in the Holy Communion that we will share. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Listen to this Homily: Recorded mp3 

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