Homily for the Holy Trinity Sunday – June 11, 2017 Deacon Jim Hackett (Ex. 34:4B-6, 8-9; 2 Cor. 13:11-13; Jn. 3:16-18)
Well it’s THAT day again – the one Sunday every year that priests and deacons – even those who ENJOY the great responsibility of preaching take a pass and let someone ELSE preach. Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity – when we celebrate the great MYSTERY of the Trinity – Father – Son – and Holy Spirit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church not only refers to the Holy Trinity as a MYSTERY – but calls it the CENTRAL mystery of our faith! So OBVIOUSLY – it’s important!
But WHO wants to try and explain – or PREACH about – a MYSTERY?
So, once again, I have drawn that SHORT straw – and I get to preach on the Holy Trinity. So just how does one explain …a mystery?
Last year I mentioned one of the more famous images of the Holy Trinity, the shamrock, used by St. Patrick when he went to Ireland to bring the message of Jesus to the Celtic people living there. “How can three persons be one?” they asked. Patrick showed them how the three lobes of the leaf really make up just ONE leaf – the true embodiment of oneness AND threeness – the Trinity!
I also had the opportunity to sit down with our own Fr. Richard – and he gave me the powerful image of a giant oak tree as a symbol of the trinity– with its trunk being the CORE; its roots below offering support and nourishment; and its leaves above bearing fruit and the opportunity for growth and rebirth.
But in reality, it is of course impossible to picture GOD using any humanly created image using our puny human minds. After all, we are merely human. So today I want to focus more on the REVELATION of the presence of the Holy Trinity –Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
You may wonder why the Church gives so much attention to our human experience of community. In a nation built on rugged individualism, why is our worship experience focused so much on our common prayers at Mass – the Kiss of Peace – communal penance services, processing together – in communion – to receive Holy Communion, and so forth? Well, the answer has a GREAT deal to do with the very nature of God.
Today we rejoice in the revelation of the Holy Trinity. It is upon this REALITY that Christianity is built. One of the most radical revelations of Jesus is that God is in Himself community – that we are made in God’s image and likeness and that IN Christ we are to become like God. God is Three Persons – a community of Persons – a community that exists in LOVE. That is the inner nature of God – that is the life of heaven – and that is what we are called to live here on earth.
It is interesting to note that… in the Book of Genesis we find God saying: “Let US make man in OUR image”. God DID NOT say, “Let ME make man in MY image!
We are called into existence to be in and to live in a relational existence. We discover ourselves – we find the meaning of life – and we know who we are when we see and understand ourselves in the eyes of those who know us – those who love us. Do you have any really good friends who deeply know you? Have you experienced the joy of loving – and being loved – by a number of people? If you have, you’ve had already had a taste of heaven and the chance to experience the ultimate community of God – the communion of the THREE who are ONE.
Not only that, but when you live in communion with others – you become MORE than just yourself. Who you ARE is expanded, broadened and deepened. We praise God because He TOO – is a union of Persons – Persons who are absolutely in love and in total union with each other.
There are those who are troubled with the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It appears to them to be so unreasonable, so incredible, and impossible to comprehend! From where, they might ask, does this teaching come? Well, it comes from Jesus. It is uniquely His revelation to us. No other religion in history has anything like it. No philosopher ever reasoned to it. It is original to Christ while at the same time we find hints of it in the Jewish Testament – the Old Testament. This belief in the Holy Trinity rests upon Christ’s life and is found in His continual references to His Father in heaven – and to the Spirit of God.
Belief in the Holy Trinity does not come to us from the thoughts of MEN – nor is it a concept produced from deep within the psychological recesses of our human subconsciousness. What kind of a god God REALLY is – is beyond HUMAN speculations. What God might be LIKE – is beyond any HUMAN thought.
Yet it the Trinity is central and vital to the message of the Gospels – the faith of the Apostles – and consequently to OUR faith. Even a man like St. Paul – trained as a Jewish leader and acknowledging only the one God – when brought into the Christian world by Jesus such a man completely changed his ideas about God. We have so very often at Mass heard the result of Paul’s newfound faith – a Trinitarian faith.
Paul went on to frequently speak of the Holy Spirit, calling us to let the Spirit lead us. The Spirit of adoption who leads us, says St. Paul, to cry out: “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself, St. Paul writes, gives witness with our own spirits that we are children of God. “And,” says St. Paul, “we are heirs as well; heirs of God, heirs with Christ”.
So what does it all mean for you and me in our everyday living? Well, it means that our lives are geared to be relational. We find ourselves through our close relationships with others. We discover the meaning of life when we love others – and particularly – when we love a SIGNIFICANT other for life.
Our problems in seeing ourselves – our identity problems – are solved when we find ourselves in a communion with others – a communion that allows us to be who we REALLY are. In the recent years Christian philosophers have been doing a LOT of writing about that. For them, the Holy Trinity has much to say about our living authentic and meaningful lives.
Another – and much more important aspect is that Jesus’ teachings about the Holy Trinity allow us to begin to participate in the LIFE of God. This is what the Catholic Church teaches us in its concept of sanctifying grace that gift from God that sanctifies us – and makes us holy. When we become more like God in the way we live with others, THEN God’s presence, power, and love are made all that much more real for those who live around us. The more we live in a caring communion of love with those around us the more we become filled with God’s holiness, not only for our own sake but for the sake of others who know us and love us.
Yes, the Holy Trinity remains a mystery to us but it is not so mysterious that we cannot live with each other in a reality of life a life that reflects and shares in the reality of God’s life. It is the doctrine of the Trinity that is the foundation of Christian ethics, social justice and morality.
Upon IT rests the two great commandments: Love God – and love your neighbor as yourself.
Upon IT rests the Ten Commandments – and the teachings of our great saints. They all call us into right relationships – with others. What is good – and what is evil – depends upon how we relate to others – and the quality of love that we share with them.
Community life depends upon those commandments – commandments having their foundation on the Triune God – who is a community of Persons in union and in love. Loving others, you see, isn’t something that’s simply nice – it is ESSENTIAL! It is of the essence of being one with Christ. It is only in love and in deep relationships with others that we can understand what St. John is talking about when he says that God is love – and he who loves has found God and God lives in him.
To live a God-like life we must FORGIVE – rather than condemn.
We must BUILD UP and AFFIRM – rather than tear down.
We must see the BEST – not the worst.
We must be SELF-SACRIFICIAL – not self-centered.
We must be GIVING – rather than grasping.
We must offer HOPE – not despair.
We must HEAL – rather than wound.
So today, my brothers and sisters, rather than being puzzled at the teachings about the Holy Trinity and rather than trying to question with questions that will NEVER be answered in our earthly lives let’s, you and I, throw ourselves into life, throw ourselves into love – and experience the LIFE of the Holy Trinity in our own relationships with others. Let us share with each other a life in which we can be so much more of our TRUE selves. It is there that we can KNOW God. It is in loving others deeply, closely and with constancy that we can begin to feel the WONDER of life and the JOY of knowing who God is and what His life is like.
Jesus has told us that heaven begins HERE – on earth. He told us that the kingdom of heaven is HERE – among us. We are NOT far from it. The life of God – and WITH God – begins to be experienced HERE!
Heaven is not a carrot – dangled in front of us. Heaven is NOT the reward at the end of a long road of pain, trial, and suffering.
Heaven BEGINS when we discover ourselves – when we discover each other – when we begin to live a Trinitarian life with others, when we begin to live in the communion – with others – that is God’s communion.
After all, isn’t THAT what Holy Communion …is all about?