Trinity S. 2021: Trinitarian Love

Today’s homily is for Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Today is Trinity Sunday. The Sunday after Pentecost that celebrates the inner life of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A few years back there was a book that circulated, largely in Protestant circles, called The Shack. It was creatively written and tried to help explain how God is three…but one. The value of the book for me was that the Mystery of the Holy Trinity was explained through relationship and experience. The Trinity has never been an easy thing to understand, of course. Christians gloss over it rather quickly as though it makes perfect sense. “Yes, we believe in one God–Yahweh, Jesus, and the Spirit. See, one God! Easy enough!” we say and on our way we go! 

But it really is quite complicated. So complicated, in fact, there were two great councils of the Church that would give us the precise language we need to explain our understanding of God. No sooner had the Edict of Tolerance been signed in 313 AD, did the Christian Community gather first in Nicaea in 325, and then again at the Council of Constantinople, in 381, to agree on the language Christians would use to explain the mystery of the inner life of God. We know it simply as “The Creed,” our statement of faith. We say variations of it at baptisms, at confirmation, before we pray the rosary, and we say it each Sunday right after the homily. It is the faith that we, and countless generations before us, believed. We’ve heard it so many times that we may have forgotten just what a shocking thing this must have been for those followers of Jesus in the first century.

A wonderful variety of attempts to find earthly examples to employ to better understand, each of them helpful, and yet still failing to grasp the mystery. The triangle–three sides, one triangle. The shamrock–three leave, one clover. H2O–one substance that manifests itself as either steam, water, ice. It’s this last one that I find most moving because it speaks of not just the thing, H2O, but rather the way that we experience it demands a new term to capture the experience. 

Jesus was Jewish, his disciples were Jews, as were others who followed him. They believed in God, their Father in Heaven. Moses told the Israelites, “The LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” (DT 4) But Jesus of Nazareth came along, and revealed the power of God, called God his father, and said the Father and He were one. And after the resurrection it became perfectly clear to the disciples that whatever made God God, God’s Goddedness, well that’s what Jesus had. There was no denying it. The Greek word they used at the council was homoousius (same in essence). You know, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.” So God is one, the Father and Jesus are obviously of the same stuff, namely, God, but yet they are distinct in person. When the disciples experienced Jesus, they experienced the God they knew since their youth, right in their midst. 

And then no sooner had they wrapped their minds around God the father and son, did Pentecost arrive! We celebrated that last week. The Spirit descends into the hearts of those faithful that day, and everyday since. God is Father, Son, and Spirit! Whaaat?! But wait, that makes sense because Jesus said in MT 28, “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.” And they believed it. And they did. And we are here because of it. Not because they totally understood it, but because they believed it and shared it. The disciples, “Worshiped but they doubted it.” 

The takeaway for us, however, is that images are important, and language is important, but all the words that have ever been said and all the images ever used have but one end, to invite us to wrap our mind around the experience of the heart. It’s not about words or pictures, it’s about love; it’s about relationship. It’s the reason for the Incarnation and then for Pentecost. God does not want to be far off, far and away. He came to earth to dwell among us. And his desire was not to be with but one generation sitting around the campfire, but instead entering into each person sharing the most intimate movements of God, igniting a fire within their heart for love of God. 

God is love. All of creation is God’s beloved–the object of his immeasurable love. And love desire’s intimacy; not desiring to be far off but very close. sharing the thoughts and desires of the heart. That’s what Trinity Sunday is all about. It’s about God holding nothing back, giving every part of Himself to his beloved. And the only response that is required is to love in return. Love God. In our heart, in our prayers, in our worship, in our life, in our families, and in our friendships, love Him. He’s right there in the very center of our being calling to us in the Spirit, through the Son, that we might be forever united to the Father. That’s Trinitarian love.

Pentecost Sunday 2021: Be Amazing!

Today’s homily is for Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Years ago, I remember watching a beer commercial for Red Stripe Lager, from Jamaica. With Reggae music playing in the background, a very happy Jamaican man said, “Red Stripe, helping our white friends dance for over seventy years!” Now, I don’t know how true that is (Deacon Steve has some pretty sweet moves without Red Stripe), but what I do know is this, the Holy Spirit has been helping our Christian friends be AMAZING for over 2,000 years! That’s what the Spirit does—It makes me, It makes us, It makes the world amazing.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to us. Out of love, God gave us his Spirit to change us into Christ’s body, and then gave us the gifts we need to transform everything and everyone we encounter to make the world amazing!

After Jesus’ resurrection he promised his disciples that he would send the Advocate, the Spirit of God, and then on the fiftieth day (Pentecost) Jesus made good on that promise! The Holy Spirit came rushing in and Jews from every nation under God were confused, astounded, and utterly amazed! The Spirit gave ordinary men the gifts they needed to share the truth of Salvation in Jesus Christ. And about three thousand people were baptized and saved that very day. Pretty amazing stuff.

My friends, the Holy Spirit has not gone anywhere! The Spirit is still alive in God’s Church. It is still alive in the world. God continues to renew the face of the earth! As Christians we still receive the Spirit at Baptism, It is still strengthened at Confirmation, and It’s gifts can still, through us, make the Glory of God visible to the world by caring about and working for justice. By caring about schools and hospitals, food shelters, and ministry to the poorest. By concern and support for immigrants in every land, by building bridges and creating unity, the Church continues to make the world a more amazing place! We need to be on board with the ministry and mission of Jesus and the Church. And the Spirit gives us gifts to do it!

The Teams of our Lady have been on retreat this weekend; it has been my joy to lead them as they learn more about how to live a life of virtue. A life of power and discipline. We spoke about the seven gifts of the Spirit: knowledge, understanding, wisdom, counsel, fortitude, fear of the Lord and piety. Pope St. Gregory the Great said, “The Holy Spirit gives knowledge against ignorance, understanding against dullness, wisdom against foolishness, counsel against rashness, fortitude against fear, fear of the Lord against pride, and piety against hardness of heart.” 

And with those gifts, we in turn produce the fruit of the Spirit! Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. We produce this fruit for a world that is hungry–starving even. Friends, without the Holy Spirit we cannot do anything! In fact, that’s what St. Paul told the Corinthians in today’s second reading. He said, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is amazing! He is the Lord the giver of life, proceeds from the father and the son, is adored and glorified, and has spoken through the prophets! (Sound familiar?) The Spirit made Christ present in Mary’s womb, makes Christ present in the Eucharist, in the Scriptures proclaimed, and in the Priest through whom God continues to forgive sins, welcoming sinners home, and making us amazing again. 

The Spirit makes water holy, oil holy, and moly holy! I’m not even sure what moly is but I bet it’s amazing! Holy Moly, holy cows, holy smoke, and holy mackerel are just a hint about how God is transforming the world. The truth is that Pentecost is a reminder that each of us has received God’s Spirit and It’s gifts, and have been made holy. We are called to join God each day in His work of renewing the earth. 

Red Stripe may or may not help men dance, but the Spirit of God does indeed make his Church and all it touches, amazing. Each day when we rise, we pray the words of the Psalmist, “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth,” and He does it with us…through us…through me…starting today. Go out there and be amazing! Bring love and light and goodness and truth. The world is still dark. Bring them the light. Bring them the transforming fire of God’s love. 

Ascension Sunday 2021: Be His Witness

Today’s homily is for Ascension Sunday, May 16, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

I once heard about these two Christians arguing over which was the true follower of Jesus. One finally offered a solution, he said, “The Lord said, ‘These signs will accompany those who believe: they will drink any deadly thing, and it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” He said, “Here, drink this poison. If you’re a true believer it won’t harm you.” The other man said, how about this, you drink it, and when you die, I’ll lay hands on you to bring you back to life.”

Jesus is not saying to pick up serpents or drink poison! Jesus is telling his disciples to be courageous! Do not be afraid! Right before Jesus ascended to the father he told his disciples, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” He said they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.” This is the Christian mission: to be his witnesses. To proclaim the Gospel to every creature! Tell the whole world the Good News that the Lord has conquered the grave, death could not hold him, and that God has reconciled the world to himself in Jesus Christ by the forgiveness of sins! We have NOTHING to fear…not snakes…not poison…not death or disease. Do not be afraid!

St. Francis even preached the good news to animals. He believed they needed to hear the good news too! Jesus did say to proclaim the Gospel to every creature, didn’t he? Saint Francis believed that God’s desire was that all of creation–not just people–be renewed in the Lord. That’s why Catholics don’t just care about justice for people. We care about justice for the environment: land, air, and water. And justice for animals, wild and tame, on land and sea, and in the air. Catholics care about ALL of God’s creation and all of God’s creatures. 

Good news for some must be good news for all. That’s why we care about Racism, and Poverty, Abortion, and Euthanasia. We care about the Bible and about Sacraments, but also about Immigration, Human Rights, and Human Trafficking. Catholic Social Teaching helps us to understand, live, and teach how the good news of the Ascension is about all people and our world ascending to a higher plan, a better place. 

Ascension Sunday isn’t just about Jesus ascending to the Father, it’s about his disciples not standing there looking up in the clouds, but instead getting out there and proclaiming the Good News and transforming the world and our society one person, one creature, one law at a time. Catholics make the world a better place. We make the environment better, governments better, people better, and souls better. 

We cannot claim to be Catholic and care about Jesus and the Church but not the environment. We cannot care about abortion, but not clean air. We cannot fill ourselves with the Eucharist but remain unconcerned about those who starve to death in the street. We cannot both hail the prince of peace while at the same time advocate for war and support policies enforced by violence. We cannot love our neighbor but at the same time disregard laws or policy that have our neighbor’s health and safety in mind. 

I am not saying that any of these issues are simple. They are not. They are complicated, difficult problems that require real commitment, real care. We need the best minds, the biggest hearts, and the greatest lovers of God and his creation on board. Who better for the task than disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s little wonder Catholic Social teachings are used by the United Nations and governments of goodwill around the world when creating law. Making the world better has never been easy. Do not be afraid. As Matthew Kelly is fond of saying, “Be Bold. Be Courageous. Be Catholic.”