Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Family's Love - Homily on the Most Holy Trinity (2015)

Throughout the Church’s liturgical year, we have many wonderful celebrations and feasts. Currently, we are enjoying a little blitz of celebrations one after the other. Last week, it was Pentecost; this week, it is the Holy Trinity; and next week, we celebrate Corpus Christi. It is truly a wonderful and glorious time—and a great opportunity to reflect on these most basic and yet most profound mysteries of our Creed.

The Holy Trinity - 15th Century icon by Rublev
depicting the three angels [prefiguring the Tirnity] who visited Abraham in Genesis 18.
Notice: the iconographer leaves a space in the middle... for you.

At the heart of the Holy Trinity, we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each is a person such that there are three and yet we say “I believe in one God.”

I have always wondered: why three persons? Why not just one person?

Imagine just one. There is an alone-ness there and seems to contradict the whole notion of a person. When we speak of a person, we naturally think of relationship; a person who is forever alone would be a sad person, I think.

Most people think of God simply as alone—as simply one person (perhaps an old man with a long beard sitting on top of a mountain). The problem with that is, love doesn’t seem to be integral to that. It is easy to allow that thought (of God being alone) to devolve to where we see God not as a person, but as an impersonal force: nebulous, condescending, and unapproachable.

So, perhaps God is two persons…

Two persons would make more sense. Love could be there. There would be a sharing and a giving and a receiving.

But even this would leave something to be desired. I think of teenage love here. Oftentimes in the infatuations of teenage love, the young man and woman seek out time to be alone with each other. They enjoy each other’s company, but the temptation is for their love to be self-contained—like an island. Their friends start to wonder where they have gone, why they are always together, and what happened to the greater circle of friends.

In much the same way, love—if it is truly love—does not become an island, individualistic even if comprised of two. Love always seeks to go out and to bring in. A truly loving couple will not simply love themselves, but will want to bring friends into this developing “home.” The highest expression will be when the couple gets married and seeks not their own lifestyle as an island, but will want to lavish and bestow this deep love upon another—by having children and by participating in community.

Two is not enough—there must be another, a third.

In the case of the Trinity, the love of the Father and the Son is so perfect, so united, so all-encompassing, so forever and eternal and godly that this love is another person: the Holy Spirit.

Together—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—are one. We can say they are in communion. Or, perhaps to put it more plainly: they are a family. A family whose very life is love.

Please hear me correctly, though. They are not “like” a family; nor are they similar to our families; nor am I saying that they are a family metaphorically. No, the Trinity is The Family from which all of our families are simply an image. They are the communion of which our communities are only shared reflection.

I like thinking of God like this, to pray to Him in such a way that He is not an impersonal force, but is the quintessential reality of what it means to be a person and a community, to be a loving family all at once.

What blows my mind even more is when I consider that I am made in His image and likeness. Do you remember the book of Genesis. In the beginning, before God creates us, it says, “Let us make man in our likeness.” Notice the pronouns there: Let US make man in OUR likeness. That’s the first person plural.

God, even as He was creating us, was beginning to reveal His innermost secret: that He is three in one, a communion, a family.

It is in this image that we are created: in our innermost self, there is not only the longing for communion—we are indeed made for it. Hence God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

This communion within us reaches a high point when, in the Sacrament of Holy Marriage, two persons—the man and the woman—while still remaining two persons (each with their own body, mind, heart, soul) become one. This sacrament is a radical share in the very unity of the Trinity: that two should be one and, more, in that union there is the call of a third—such that Marriage is not a clear icon of God until it embraces life, children.

The Holy Spirit, we say, is the Lord, the giver of life!

Modern Icon of the Holy Family

Is your mind blown yet? Well, hold on for more.

God reveals Himself as Triune not simply so that we can be more motivated to join hands and sing “We Are Family.” In reality, God doesn’t simply want us to be in communion with one another. He does, of course, but that’s not enough. He wants us to be in communion with Him.

As St. Peter says, “to make us partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4)—deep and very great mysteries! (See Eph 1:3ff)

In other words, God wants to draw us into His very communion, His very divine life, His… family.

We became members of our human families by birth. But when we were baptized—in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit—we became partakers of God’s innermost life: who He is, His Family.

This is the Father’s whole plan—and notice, we call God Father (there is relationship there, family there). God the Father wants to bring us back to the family and so He sends His Son. Jesus Christ announces and inaugurates the plan. When Jesus ascends, He and the Father send the Holy Spirit who effects the plan and makes it possible: therefore, the Church and Her Sacraments.

The Church and the Sacraments exist not as a community organization that does good charitable work with meetings on Sundays. The Church is the means and the instrument by which the Trinity brings humanity into Its very life—indeed, the Church is the visible manifestation of that.

This is so real and so profound that God Himself—Jesus Christ—in his last words to us (and last words are important!) commands us to “Go therefore and teach… baptizing in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

This isn’t a command to make more Christians per se. When Jesus says, “All power has been given to me” and then He sends us out, what is going on there is that He is giving us the power—the ability to cooperate—in the awesome, tremendous, mind-blowing, and earth-shattering design of His love that seeks not to be content in being Father, Son, and Spirit—but that we—all of us, all the world!—might be brought into the innermost life and love, family and home of God Himself.

There is a profound intimacy here that I cannot began to express nor begin to fathom. It is enough of a depth that will last our eternity to explore.

Do you see, brothers and sisters?

Do you see why there are commands? Every family has traditions and rules that guard it’s home life. Do you see why there are Sacraments? They are not simply something “we do” or simply “rites of passage.” They are powerful encounters with the innermost life of God which in turn changes us. Every Sacrament involves the Trinity. Do you see why there is a Church? And do you see why communion with her is so important?

How pitiable those souls who do not reflect upon any of this—or worse, discard it because they don’t like “organized religion”! Organized religion, they say. A euphemism. They have failed to see The Family.

What is our task, then?

First, to relate to God as Father and as Son and as Holy Spirit. Talk to Him as three in one. Encounter the communion there, the family there. Ask for a deeper entry into this great and wonderful (and mysterious, mystical) life.

Second, let us seek to bring many into this life. Be explicit. Evangelize. Bring people to the Sacraments. This is not simply my job—it is firstly yours.

Third, let us be united in the commandments, in the teaching of the Church, and in the love of God. Let us clearly reflect the union and communion of God! And let this communion also extend itself as love does: in warmth, welcoming, joy, hospitality, fellowship, and celebration!

Our parish church and our homes will only arrive at their true potential and spirit to the extent that we enter more deeply into the profound and loving embrace of the God who is Family in His very essence. For us to be anything but family and seeking communion—well, I don’t even wish to say it!

So, let us pray for this grace. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Holy Trinity, you who have lavished us with your love and brought us through the Sacraments of Holy Church into your very life, we beg you, draw us more deeply into your mystical union; purify us of division and anything that undermines our union with you and our neighbor; strengthen us that we may in love be so bold as to bring many into your family; help us to be affectionate, welcoming, and hospitable. And so, at the end, we may all enjoy you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the great family of all believers united together in love and in praise of you in heaven. Where you live and reign forever and ever. Amen!

Sister Carly Arcella (Daughters of St. Paul) alerted me to his beautiful picture... humanity entering into the Trinity's embrace as seen in Mary (below), Jesus (left), Holy Spirit (top), Father (right). Quoting Blessed James Alberione: 
"Mary, through her divine maternity, becomes part of the Divine Family and thus contracts many and admirable relations with the Blessed Persons of the Divine Trinity. She becomes a mother, sister and spouse of God."  #DoubleFeastDay #Visitation #TrinitySunday #AlberioneQuote #HolyEpic

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