Fr. Paul's Homily
Sometimes when I am planning a funeral, I will ask the family to share with me a story that tells me something about the character of the person. Often they will then share a story that reveals a side of the person that was not very well known. When my mother passed away one of my sister-in-laws shared a playful side of my mother. When my sister-in-law, Janet, visited our home for the first time (at the time Janet lived in New Orleans and my brother, Kevin, lived in Mississippi), my mother had heard that my sister-in-law eat “like a bird,” but she loved Oreo cookies.
A few minutes after my brother and his future wife arrived at our home, my mother pulled Janet aside and showed her a drawer where there was a fresh container of Oreos! My Mom said quietly, “They are a secret, only for you and me!”
I love this story because my Mom reveals a playful, teasing, funny side…a side that we didn’t always see when she was raising us nine kids!
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Sounds like a pretty heady feast day, doesn’t it! But rather than trying to understand the theological nature of the Blessed Trinity (we would not be successful anyway), let us approach this feast as representing the three ways that God has chosen to reveal himself to us. As the “Oreo” story reveals a side of my Mom, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reveals the three persons (sides?) of God. Let’s talk.
We find the Blessed Trinity referenced in the Scriptures in many places. In the reading from Romans we see that we “Have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” So, St. Paul identifies the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. Later it says, “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” All three Persons of the Holy Trinity are mentioned in this short reading from St. Paul.
First, God the Father. In the Creed we pray at Mass, we say, “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, all things visible and invisible.” So, we see the created world around us as a self-revelation of God the Father. For each of us, anytime we see a part of God’s Creation, we are coming to know something about God the Father.
This past week, we put a new roof on the Little Ramsies Daycare. During the week the kids in daycare were moved to our nursery here in the West Vestibule and upstairs in the Parish Center. See we had kids around us all week! It was a delight to walk by the nursery and stop for a few moments with the one year olds; sometimes we might hear a cry or two; sometimes we would hear a children’s song or lullaby coming from the nursery. The two year olds would sometimes make a trip into the office area where they would head straight for Suzy McLaughlin’s room where there is always a jar of candy!! Kids are smart! Sometimes, one or more would stop in my office and tell me something important (most of the time I could not figure it out!!).
All these kids are amazing products of God the Father’s creative power, working through parents, genetics and the divine soul. Each child is a sign of God the Father. Where do you find God the Father through the created universe? A child? A mountain scene? A sunset over the ocean? A Brown County overlook? Each moment of the created world reveals the Presence of God the Father.
We then go to God the Son. As we hear in John’s Gospel, “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word is often a title for the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Our belief is that God chose to become a human being and the Son of God became flesh in the person of Jesus. Thus, Jesus was fully divine and fully human.
The first thing Paul says about this in the second reading today is that we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Thus we understand Christ’s role as one of reconciliation; Jesus opens us to a relationship of peace with God. We need to remember that when Paul talks about justification/salvation his focus is on God’s activity through Jesus and the Spirit.
So, when we think of the second Person of the Trinity, we usually think of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. We have some many titles for Jesus, each expressing something about Jesus…and about God: Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, Savior, Redeemer are a few of those titles. Jesus Christ reveals God to us as a loving, merciful God. The Incarnation is the name we give to God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ, and the Incarnation tells us that God does not want to remain distant and cold, but wants to be fully a part of our lives, even to the point of experience suffering and death for us and with us.
Recently I was talking to a grandmother who was telling me the story of her granddaughter’s First Communion and following Communions. Her granddaughter, Hannah, was born with serious health issues which have been greatly addressed through modern medicine. What struck this grandmother was how Hannah was approaching each subsequent Communion following her First Communion. Each time she approaches the Eucharistic Minister, she is very focused and serious. With upmost reverence she receives the Body of Christ and then approaches the Communion Chalice with the same reverence. She is counting each Holy Communion, being up to four, when the grandmother told me the story. Hannah is experiencing God the Son through her Communion with Jesus.
God the Son came to earth as our redeemer, revealing the divine Love of God to us and reconciliation each of us to God. Amen, Alleluia!! We are so blessed in being believers in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
And then we come to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit. We also refer to the Spirit as Advocate, Paraclete and sometimes, Wisdom. Jesus tell us that it will be better for him to leave so that he could send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Why? Among other reasons, as long as Jesus was with us in a physical sense, his Presence was limited by the one, human body that he had. But, if Jesus left and set us his Spirit, then the Spirit could dwell in each human heart and the power of God could work in every corner of the world through the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, Jesus was now working THROUGH us!
The Spirit is how God works in our hearts. The Spirit gives us insights; provides us with strength to carry our crosses; gives us consolation in our sorrow; works for healing in our communities; stirs us with the Love of God. The Spirit is how we experience God within us and through the Church.
The Spirit is free, uncontrollable, always available to us through faith in Jesus Christ.
As we continue with our celebration today, I ask you to think about how you prayer? When you pray to God, do you pray to God the Father? God, the Son? God, the Holy Spirit? Each prays to God differently. For me, I pray primarily to God, the Son, Jesus Christ my Lord. How do you pray?
Allow me to end with a story. This week I had Mass at one of our retirement communities and I asked the residents which person of the Trinity they pray to. One lady shared with me she always prayed to God the Father. But recently she has had a great-grandchild who has many health problems and is clinging to life. One day as we prayed the Creed at Mass, she was amazed when we said, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life!” Immediately she began directing her prayer to the Holy Spirit that the Spirit might give her great granddaughter the gift of life!
Father, Son and Holy Spirit: God revealing Himself to us!