Homily for Sunday, 19 June 2011
Trinity Sunday (Solemnity on June 19): Ex 34:4-6, 8-9. 2 Cor 13:11-13. Jn 3:16-18.
This Sunday we celebrate the fact that our God isn't one individual, but three. God is family! We worship the Trinity itself, and especially the fact that they call us to participate in their 'family'. The second reading of St Paul is encouraging the people of the community (Corinthians) to help each other.
We've learnt since childhood to bless ourselves in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but let's reflect today on how marvellous it is to have a God that isn't an individual, but a family. It's beautiful because LOVE by nature is communitarian. It's calling us to join them. Jesus spoke about his Father, but he taught us to pray to 'our Father'. We can be little brothers and sisters, and our three divine leaders 'bend over backwards' to make us decent members of the family too.
Do we really appreciate that God sent his only Son to save us? Moses asks in the first reading: "Please Lord recieve us as your own". Some think that the Christian faith is just another list of 'rules' and 'duties', but the beloved son of God didn't come with a list of rules! He came offering us his heart of love - even on the cross - “This is my body given up for you”. That convinces me. It must be that God really loves us! He doesn't impose himself on us, as he could have done, but he advises us for our own good. It reminds me of how often in hospital I had to advise patients with bad lungs to give up cigarettes. It would have been much easier to tell them a joke, but loving means more than that. God doesn't send to condemn but to help (Gospel - Good News). It may call us to 'risk a lot' - but it's worth it.
It says today that Moses had to lead a people of 'hard hearts' (1st reading), but it's just as well for us that he did so! - and God keeps doing it. Sometimes we stop putting in the effort to read and meditate- and to seek what the will of God is for us, but the call to Moses to go up Mount Sinai today, is a call to us all. It's challenging our fixed customs, and our easy ways of life, but we should ascend whatever mountain is necessary, in search of contact with the Word of God. And we will do so humbly because we want to 'Mend our ways' (2nd reading). I don't know what I should change, and that's why I want to climb 'Mount Sinai' to find out. Jesus has shown the way to us. There are plenty of 'saints' along the chain that have given us example, but do we really respect the marvels that God has done through them? (1st reading). Many had hard hearts like us at some stage, but that's precisely where the Trinity work their 'marvels'. The radio tells plenty about the bad things that humanity does, but we should open our eyes to see the many good things that many saints have done. Then let's follow their example, and maybe some day some will want to follow yours!
I think that what I'm doing from my wheelchair is very little, but I trust that God has his reasons. And God isn't an individual - they are three! The very nature of God is a family. And they want you and I to be in the family too! They don't call us to be obedient weaklings, but to be like Mary: beautifully strong in her humility. We don't deserve to join in the family of the Trinity, but they are 'bending over backwards' to call us. And they ask us to put effort into calling others. The Trinity long for the homecoming of many that are still far away. I hope that the words at mass today will ring a bell: “This is my body and blood which will be given up for you AND FOR ALL”! God sent his Son, and today he sends you and I, because we're all part of Christ - in the tremendous family of the Trinity.
Will you let them transform your life into a living Gospel? The best way to praise them is to imitate them. That means becoming a loving family, so let's reach out and help each other. The Christians of long ago included some 'hermits', but the Church didn't fully approve of that, and it soon recommended that all should have some participation in community. The cenobitic orders of Christian monks first began living in community between the years 500 and 1000.
One of the huge differences between the Bible and ancient fables and myths, is how the Bible links people. From Adam and Eve on, God is linking. He doesn't say "I will create man in my image", He says "let us create man in our image". That 'let us...' is plural (as is The Trinity). We're called to participate in Christ - in his mystical body, and that means participating in the whole family... of God and man.
It may seem strange to some that my community (Verbum Dei) has three branches (missionary males, females and married couples) forming one religious community, but think of the prayer of Jesus to his Father in John 17: "May they all be one - as you and I are one". He's referring of course to the whole human family and the whole Church but we're all called to help it come true. As Jesus was calling Peter (Simon-Peter) who fished to earn a living and overcome the difficulty of taxes he also called Mathew the 'tax collector'! They became companions following Christ. That teaches us that the call to be community excludes no-one and engenders a surprising companionship. If we're Christians but not doing what we can to form community then we're not really following Christ. Remember the symbolism of what happened at 'Pentecost', when the Holy Spirit came over the community, people from different places started understanding each others language! But that needs the help of us all.
According to writings of people of Greece and Rome in the early centuries, what really struck people about that strange bunch called Christians was “See how they love each other”. The so-called c3 Epistle to Diognetus (of the 3rd century) puts it like this: 'The Christians live in their own countries, but simply as visitors . . . to them every foreign land is a fatherland, and every fatherland foreign. . . . They have a common table, yet it's not common.
On Trinity Sunday one year, as an Irishman in Spain, I was seated next to an English guy, a Jamaican and an ex-soldier from Singapore. The homily of the community mass was given by a Pole with a translator! We can all go together! The Christian community is formed of distinct individuals and the individuality of each is respected and admired but with the knowledge that it's the same Lord acting in each member of his body. I realize there are a lot of things that I don't know and a lot I can't do.. That's a good realization that makes us need each other as a community and as a Church. St Paul wrote this: 'Complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. 3 Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others.' (Phil 2:2b-4).
Since our origin is God, then our origin is a family. Many artists have pictured God as an individual 'in the sky' but that's very misleading. God is 'trinity' - community and we're called to be with Mary within the 'family'. The man who decides that he's not part of 'community' is denying his own identity as a child of God.
The modern world teaches everyone to 'be them-selves' but what a pity we don't realize what we ourselves are - we're all part of each other! When a man refuses the call to form community, he's denying his own self. "I have the right to be myself" - but do we realize who our 'self' is? As it says in psalm 16: 'God has put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful ones who dwell in his land'. The love of the Trinity is part of what enables us to love all people - including the most unfaithful! The first letter of John in the bible puts it clearly: 'If I'm not in communion with my brother then I can't be in communion with God'. Of course that doesn't mean we stand by and never correct each other. Fraternal correction is what the real Christian community means: correction isn't the same as 'criticism' and far from dividing us, it increases our communion.
This Sunday we centre on the divine Trinity, but the marvel is that they have wanted our humanity to have a place with them, so I include a 'thanks' to our leader in that: Mary!