Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday Homily - The Most Holy Trinty, God's Life and Us (and a Farewell Message)

As I am due to leave my parish in the next week, my homily this Sunday includes a bit of a farewell message; it's a farewell to the parish, not to the blog, just to clarify.

Well, we are come to my final discourse this weekend.  I will still be with you for another week and a half, but next Sunday our soon-to-be-ordained-deacon John Redmond will be offering us his first homily as an ordained clergyman, and so this will be the last Sunday homily of mine which you will be able to enjoy, or have to endure as the case my be.

The Most Holy Trinity, it is one of those mysteries of our faith which seems to cause so much consternation to anyone who takes the time to reflect on it.  In fact there's a joke told at the seminary, that after you have taken the course in Trinitarian theology, you will leave with:  five notions, four real relations, three person, two processions, one essence, and ZERO comprehension.  This feast day, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, or as we often call it, Trinity Sunday often causes a great deal of consternation for preachers.  After all, how can one possible take something as abstract and theological as the Trinity, and make it applicable to our lives, how can you do the subject justice in the short space of a homily?  There's a story told of one of the priests of our diocese, this was many years ago now, and this priest was just newly arrived from Poland.  He was a young curate in a parish, still learning English, and one Sunday morning the pastor suddenly took ill.  So this young curate, with his tenuous grasp of the English language, and no time to prepare, was forced to give the homily, and it was Trinity Sunday.  He got up into the pulpit, and this is the homily he gave, "Trinity is great mystery.  If I speak about it, will be even greater mystery."  Thus ended the homily.

Understanding the Trinity, how it works really isn't important for us to understand this feast though.  In fact, for us human beings it is impossible to ever fully understand how the Trinity works anyway.  There is an account told from the life of St. Augustine, he was walking along the seashore, contemplating the mystery of the Trinity, in the midst of writing his work on the Trinity.  As he walked along he saw a young boy digging a hole, then running to fetch water from the ocean and pour it into the hole.  St. Augustine stopped and inquired what the boy was doing, the boy told him that he was attempting to put the ocean into the hole.  The saint replied that it would be impossible to put the ocean into a small hole, at which point the boy revealed himself to be an angel, who told Augustine, that just as it is impossible to fit the ocean into a hole, so it is impossible for the mystery of the Trinity to be contained in the human mind.  So it really is impossible for us to fully understand this great mystery, but as I already said, to understand this feast it's not important.

The Trinity ultimately is the life of God, the inner life of God, the life of God that we are called to share in, to participate in; that is what's important for us, this sharing in God's life, in this life we call it Grace, in the next life we call it Heaven.  This inner life of God is a relationship of love; theologians will tell us that the Holy Spirit is the love that exists between the Father and the Son, a love so perfect and so great, that He is Himself a person.  This is key for us, and for how we relate to our God.  If we look to many of the ancient religions, to the pagan religions we often find that the people created a whole pantheon of gods for themselves, because if you think about it, the idea of a single, solitary god is a rather scary thought.  A lonely god, who created us for the sake of having some companionship; how could we, limited, weak human beings that we are, how could we ever adequately return the affections of an all-powerful god?  But our God is not alone, our God is a community of persons, a relationship of love.  God does not need anything from us, God is perfectly content and perfectly complete in Himself, but like any relationship of true love, that love went beyond God, to us, God created us out of love.

So often though, as our first reading makes clear, we reject that love, that life that God offers to us, because we are a "stiff-necked" people as Moses says, a stubborn people.  We turn away from God in our sinfulness, we look at all that we have received from God, and we forget who it comes from.  But our God, in his love for us continues to give us opportunities to come back, to share in His life.  He even sent his Son into the world to offer Himself as a sacrifice to save us from our sins, to break down the barrier between us and God, that we might once again have that opportunity to share in his life.  Again though, so often we forget that everything we have comes from God, all of our possessions, our relationships, our gifts and talents, even the good works we do are by the grace of God.  We look at our possessions and we want more, we look at our talents, our good works, and we puff up our pride, we forget that they are all gifts from God, freely given out of love.  As many theologians would tell us, the only thing that we human being can do or achieve without God, is sin.  That is why we come here each and every week, to this Holy Eucharist, because this is the perfect way to offer our thanks to God for his love and his gifts.  By sharing in the sacrifice of the Son, we renew our relationship, and our resolve to persevere in the life of grace, so that by constantly living in that life of grace in the here and now, we might share forever in the life of the Holy Trinity, in the kingdom of heaven.

Just before I conclude, I do want to offer just a few short words of farewell.  There will still be opportunities for individual good-byes, but since this is my last opportunity to address all of you, I have just a few words of thanks.  First and foremost I must give thanks to God for all of the blessings I have received over these last two years, I thank God for all of the highs, the lows, and everything in between.  I wish to express my thanks to all of you as well, for your kindness, for your friendship, and for your prayers.  I will certainly continue to pray for all of you as I continue on to my new assignment in Hamilton.  Finally, I can think of no better parting words than those which St. Paul offers to us today, "Finally, brothers and sisters, put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."

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