Holy Trinity May 30, 2021
Every year on this particular Sunday I struggle with preparing a homily. The “easiest” homilies to write are the ones in Ordinary Time, those Sundays on which we are not celebrating one particular aspect or doctrine of our faith. And so on Sundays in Ordinary Time priests and deacons often feel a lot more freedom to explore more diverse themes and such.
But on the big solemnities the “topic” is pretty specific. On Christmas we talk about the Incarnation. On Easter we talk about the Resurrection. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit. On Corpus Christi, the Eucharist. And each of those days poses a real challenge for clergy as we try to figure out exactly what to say. After all, those days are more about deep and profound mysteries. The focus of each of those days may, on the surface, be narrow and specific, but the truths they express have broad implications for us as people of faith.
And yet the ones I mentioned above don’t quite cause me as much difficulty as what we are gathered to celebrate this day – the Holy Trinity. Maybe the Trinity is not something you contemplate very often. You would not be alone. After all, the formal expression of this article of faith is pretty simple in its construction. God is Father, Son, and Spirit. That’s it. Easy to remember. God is Father, Son, and Spirit. We’ve heard it basically our whole lives, and have spoken those words probably thousands of times. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . . . . For all of us gathered here today, there really is nothing that is controversial about those words. Saying them and accepting them and believing them are truly second nature to us.
Common, Ordinary, and Routine. But should they be?
One of the difficulties that comes with the Church’s obligation to put into words the faith that has been handed down from generation to generation, is that once a belief has been articulated it may give the faithful the impression that the Church has somehow fully “explained” whatever it is they are attempting to say. Words can illuminate, certainly, and are essential in giving expression to what seems ineffable – but by their very nature, they are limiting. Words put boundaries on things that maybe shouldn’t have boundaries or maybe even can’t have boundaries.
And faith is precisely one of those very things, something that can’t be explained away in words. Our faith is so much more than that. More profound. More elusive. More confounding. More penetrating and more mysterious.
And so, we can’t simply give assent to faith statements, as if that is all our faith demands. Rather we need to go to a place that the words alone don’t always take us. We need to journey to the level of “meaning”. What do these articles of our faith mean for us? What do they mean for my life? What do they mean for the choices I make? What do they mean for the way I look at the world and every person in it?
Put it in another way, the words aren’t just “ideas” in our heads, but rather are doorways that can lead us deeper into the mystery – the mystery of who God is and who we are. But that will only happen if we step through that doorway, only happen if we truly open our hearts and minds and allow God to use these simple words of faith to transform us and take us places we’ve never been before, draw us deeper into communion with him.
Is it that “God created the world” all we need to believe about creation?
Is it that “Jesus was born in Bethlehem” all we need to believe about Christmas?
Is it that “Jesus rose from the dead” all we need to believe about Easter?
Is it that “Jesus comes to us in this holy meal” all we need to believe about what we do here each and every Sunday?
Is it that the “disciples received the Spirit” all we need to believe about Pentecost?
Or, do the things we believe mean more than that, that is, have real consequences and implications for each of our lives, for the choices we make, the attitudes we embrace, the things we value and strive to bring about?
That’s a really long introduction to a homily! Don’t worry – I’m not going to talk for another ten minutes. I promise. But I do want each of us to seriously think about and pray about and contemplate the profound mystery we are celebrating today -a mystery quite unlike any other – a mystery we could never have come up with on our own. Not in a million years. But God chose to reveal it.
But God doesn’t want us to simply give our assent to a few words. After all, that demands little from us. My guess is that he wants us to use the words the Church provides to go much deeper – deeper into the mystery of his very essence, his very life, his very love. And so, together we wonder about and give thanks to God for our incredible faith, a faith that teaches us that . . .
The God who created the entire universe and everything in it (including you and me) and who holds all of it in the palm of his hand . . . is the same God who . . .
Chose to not remain on the sidelines, but rather chose to become one of us – to heal a broken world, to save a fallen people, to show us what love truly looks like . . . and who is the same God who . . .
Dwells in every human person open to the grace he offers.
This is the incredible God we have. This is the incredible God we worship. This is the incredible God we give ourselves to. And our words can only scratch the surface.
So, let’s not just know the words, or even just believe the words (no matter how important that may be). But rather, let’s also strive to know what those words mean; mean for each of your lives and for mine.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . .