Saturday, June 10, 2006

'What difference does the Trinity make?' (Sunday Homily)

Today we focus on the "Holy Trinity."

We might wonder,
"what difference does ‘the Trinity’ make?"

This is something only we, Christians, believe:
Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus,
do not believe God is a trinity.

We believe God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit—
Three Persons—and yet, as St. Athanasius said,
God is not three gods, but one God.

Now, when we try to explain this,
we find it hard.

What do we say? "Oh, it’s a mystery"—
meaning, "go away,"
or "ask me something else"!

So, why does this matter?

One reason it matters because we follow Jesus—
and this is what he told us about God.

No, Jesus never used the actual word, "Trinity."
That’s our word for the reality he revealed to us.

But if God is not a Trinity, that means:
While the Father is still God, Jesus is not God.

And if that’s true,
then we have a huge problem:
We can’t trust what Jesus said;
we can’t trust
what we think we know about Jesus.

The New Testament makes clear
that Jesus is God—
Paul believed it,
the Apostles taught it.
So, if he’s not…
toss out the New Testament.

Jesus himself makes clear, he is the Lord—
he calls himself "I AM"—
that’s the name God revealed to Moses.
Jesus accepted worship, as "Lord and God."

So if Jesus is not God,
then set him aside.

In other words, no Trinity? No Jesus!

Many try to say,
"oh, but he was a good man,"
"he was a prophet."

All right, but: he claimed to be God;
he said,
"leave everything behind and follow me";
he said, "lay down your life—for me"…

And if all that wasn’t true…

That makes him a false prophet—
and a very bad man!
Why would you want to follow him then?

So, I’ll say it again:
no Trinity? No Jesus!
Jesus is a fraud, a liar—he can’t save us!
Why follow him?

Here’s another reason it matters:
If God is not a Trinity,
then, there is no Holy Spirit.

Jesus teaches us, as does the Church,
that the 3rd Person of the Trinity,
the Holy Spirit,
is how God gives himself to dwell in us.

When we receive the Holy Spirit,
we’re receiving more than some good feeling.
If you eat chocolate,
a chemical in it makes you feel good.

Religion can do that—
prayer, going to church,
can make you feel good.
Is that all it is?
A kind of spiritual comfort food?

It all depends:
is there really a Holy Spirit?
When you were baptized:
did something change…or not?
are we redeemed from the curse of sin,
to live by the power
of the Holy Spirit—or not?

Does God really come down,
in the confessional,
so that our sins really are forgiven?

Does God really come down,
and through our sharing in the sacraments—
through marriage, confirmation,
especially the Eucharist—
and lift us up to share in God’s own life?

It all depends:
is there a Holy Spirit?

No Trinity—no Holy Spirit;
No Trinity—no Jesus;
No Trinity, God is alone…unreachable.

You might say—but Jews, Muslims, others,
believe in life after death. Yes, they do.

But for many of them,
life after death is either,
a lot like this life,
or it’s basically unknowable.

Buddhism says, we become less and less.
Islam says, we are never more than a creature,
groveling at the feet of God.

Judaism—now, that’s complicated.
Judaism promises something more,
but has a hard time explaining what it is,
and how we gain it.

And that is where Jesus fits in:
Jesus answers that question:
I AM the something more!
Jesus says,
my Holy Spirit is how you share it!

So we believe in a Trinity:
what does that change?

It changes whether our decisions,
our choices, matter!
Day by day, we wrestle with choices:
Stand by your family;
be faithful to your commitments;
Stand strong,
even when your friends go another way.
Do we live for today,
or do we live for the future?

That depends on whether we have a future!

Jesus came to show us our future:
Life in God—life in the Holy Trinity!

The reason God the Son became a man like us
is to cross the gulf between God and us—
and to bring us back to God’s side of the gulf!

So we may not be able to understand,
or explain, the Trinity;
but we can understand this:
No Trinity means,
no Jesus, no Spirit, no future:
"we’re on our own."

Trinity means, God for us, God in us:
that's our future--that's our hope.


Rich Leonardi said...

Brilliant, Fr. Fox. Thank you for sharing it. I've heard some explain that God's love for the Son was so strong, so powerful, and so lifegiving, that it manifested itself as a divine person, the Holy Spirit. And thanks to the Incarnation, we too can share in that love.

Anonymous said...

As usual - great homily, Father. I read the previous blog - about your week - so if you get this kind of homily from being rushed - hope your rushed every week!! :)

I, like Rich, have heard the family and the Holy Trinity compared (and to be clear - the Trinity came first!!) but the other idea I really like to think about the Holy Trinity is that if God is love (and He is) and God existed from all eternity - before He created time (and He did) - that if there is no Trinity - God loved Himself and that is selfish which is a sin. So - since God can't sin and He didn't - then the Trinity makes perfectly reasonable sense out of God is love and existed from all eternity!! I just love thinking about that and how Faith and Reason are some complimentary.

Thanks again, Father.

Anonymous said...

Excellent. The transition from the reasons for the Holy Trinity to everlasting life is so well done. Makes it all so real to the 'man on the street'.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard the Trinity approached like that, but it works very, very well.

Anonymous said...

Jumping from a homily to the most current topic. Lack of attendence at Mass. You have been given a golden opportunity to turn things around in Piqua. We all know the main reasons people quit supporting the churches. I am a 5th generation member of St. M, and it looks like the last generation who cares.
When the church quit taking care of the people they quite taking care of the church - simple enough. When will the two church board quit trying to be turf protective and clergy protective and WHEN will they understand money is not what makes a church success? Then you will perhaps have packed masses.
I gave my money until there was no more to give, then I offered my talents, not just to St. M, also St. B and I was flat told my talents didn't count, just write another check. There is no moeny to write another check. When a family member died quite unexpectedly and I needed someone to help me from the church, I heard silence and got a sympathy letter a week after the funeral. What a shame! So I moved on, and I foregt but I also sharply remember my talents have no value to a church driven solely by the cash motive. What is the cash value of my soul? You can have the most success churches around here but you must first know the name of the lowliest Catholic, which means you have to be a better salesmen making regular field calls to everyone.