Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trinity Sunday

            The teaching is fairly simple on the face of it: we believe in one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: 1 God, 3 persons.  Though it is simple, it is hard to comprehend, in fact we never fully comprehend this mystery.  For us personhood and individuality go hand in hand: every person is also a separate substance.  But, when it comes to God, this is not the case.  Rather, God is one substance, but three persons in a loving communion of persons.  This is the teaching, but where does it come from?  When I was in the seminary I had the good fortune to take a full 3 credit course on the Trinity.  During this course I was able to learn exactly how this doctrine has unfolded in the history of humanity. 
We begin with the faith of the people of Israel, who, beginning with Abraham, believed in only one God.  In the face of the polytheism of the ancient world, Israel came to know the one true God.  This was not a discovery of reason, rather God revealed himself to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  This one God continued to be in relationship with his people, speaking to Moses in the burning bush and face to face on the mountain.  He continued to guide his people through the words of his holy prophets.  Christianity is based upon the faith of the people of Israel.  So, we inherited this faith, this revelation the God is one and that there is only one God.  The gods of the heathens are naught!  They don’t even exist.  So Judaism is a monotheistic faith, and so is Christianity.
However, the birth of Jesus does change things.  It doesn’t really change God!  We hear in the first reading that the Wisdom of God was with God from the beginning.  Since the early days of the Church, Christians have seen the Wisdom of the Old Testament as a type referring to Christ, who is the Word, the Logos, of God.  So Jesus, the divine word, existed for all time, even before the incarnation.  Yet, when God becomes Man it furthers the revelation of the nature of God.  God reveals more about himself to us.  We maintain our faith in the unity of God: God is one.  But Jesus is God!  Not only that, but the Father sends us the Spirit through the Son.  Last week we celebrated Pentecost, so it is fitting that we celebrate Trinity Sunday on the following Sunday, since the coming of the Holy Spirit is the last revelation of the mystery of the Trinity.
So this is how we arrive at the teaching of God as Trinity.  We inherit the faith of the Old Testament, which held that God is one.  The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus reveal to us the Son.  And with the coming of the Holy Spirit the revelation of the mystery is complete.  There is one God, who is the Father who sends the Son so to give the Holy Spirit.  God is one, but three persons.
It is certainly true that the Trinity is a mystery.  But, this doesn’t mean that we cannot say anything about the Trinity.  Rather, it means that we can say many true things about the Trinity even though we can never get to the fullness of the Truth about God’s existence.  So, it is important to study and pray as a way to bolster our faith.  I want to challenge everyone to do a little reading on the Trinity this week.  Get out your catechism (if you don’t have one, go buy one).  Read, pray, and study a little bit about the Holy Trinity.
Even this Mass is like a great catechism lesson on the Holy Trinity.  The whole Mass is a prayer to the Father in heaven, where we glorify God the Father, in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Notice that most of the prayers of the Mass are addressed to the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  So, the mass is a prayer that lives in and through the whole blessed Trinity. 
This should be a reflection of our whole lives.  The sacrifice of the Mass teaches us not only the Trinity, but also how we are to live!  Our lives should be directed to the glory of God, through our communion with Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  In closing, let us pray to the blessed Trinity: Glory be…

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Christ takes us with him

Ascension 2016 Year C:
Think of the last time you went on a trip.  Did you bring anything back with you?  I’m betting most of you took lots of pictures.  It’s so easy now with our cell phones to record moments and keep them with us.  Or maybe you brought back a souvenir.  Maybe you brought back a shell from the beach.  When I go to a new golf course, I like to buy a hat.  Maybe you buy a t-shirt from one of those tourist traps.  You know the ones that say: I went to the Grand Canyon and all I got was this crummy T-Shirt.  We like taking pictures on vacation and buying souvenirs because it helps us to stay connected to that place, it helps us to remember that time we spent.  It’s like we are carrying that vacation around with us.
I was thinking about all of this because today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of the Lord.  It’s like Jesus is ending his earthly vacation and is returning to the right hand of the Father.  And what did he bring back with him?  Us… 
God the Father sent his only son on one amazing trip.  It begins with the annunciation.  The angel says to Mary: will you welcome God?  Will you be the mother of the savior?  She says yes and the word becomes flesh.  The eternal son of God becomes the son of Mary.  The eternal is born in time as our savior and redeemer.  9 months later he is born in humble circumstances.  We celebrate his birth every year on Christmas.  After his childhood, the spirit descended upon him at his baptism and he preached the good news, he healed the sick, he told people of the Father’s love.  To show that love he dies on the cross, but he goes into the realm of the dead to bring with him all those imprisoned by the power of death.  40 days ago we celebrated his resurrection.  He rose from the dead to bring new life to those who believe in him.  And now, 40 days later, he makes his return to the Father.  But, what an amazing adventure he was on.  And notice something really important: the bible never says: and the word stopped being flesh.  The eternal son of God does not remove his humanity when he returns to heaven.  Rather, he takes his humanity with him.
That is why I said we are like Jesus’ souvenirs.  Jesus takes us all with him to the heavenly realm.  Just like we take pictures and souvenirs so that we can stay connected to the great trips of our lives, Jesus takes us with him so that his time on earth is not ended.  Just because Jesus has gone to heaven does not mean he has stopped loving us, it does not mean he has stopped giving himself for us, it does not mean he has stopped being human.  Rather, Jesus’ pilgrimage on earth might have ended, but it started a new voyage.  The pilgrimage of the human race to heaven.  For us, this journey starts right here and now, but it will last forever.  Because of the Ascension, our lives have a new direction.  The journey we are on begins here on earth, but will last forever in heaven. 
Think a little bit this week about the incarnation.  Think about God and humanity being united in the person of Jesus.  Think about the fact that Jesus did not stop being human just because he went up to heaven.  Rather, he remains united to us now and forever.

Jesus’s ascension is not a departure, he didn’t betray us and leave us behind.  Rather, he is leading us to where we all want to go.  But the journey can seem long and difficult.  This is why the Lord gave us the Eucharist.  This holy Eucharist we celebrate and receive is food for this great journey, this great adventure.  Just as Jesus journeyed to the Father, so we are on a journey to heaven.  Today we receive this Holy food so that we might have the strength to follow where Christ our savior has gone today.