Saturday, June 06, 2009

Homily / Sermon for Trinity Sunday

There’s a slightly irreverent line in the song American Pie by Don MacLean: ‘The three men I admire the most, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, they were leaving for the coast, the day the music died.’

Well its not blasphemous, though it is a bit irreverent and it is certainly wrong. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not ‘three men’ not even ‘three people’, though we do say they are three persons and we often tend to think of them as if they were different individuals.

You know sometimes we might have the idea that the Father is the God of the Old Testament, Jesus God in the New and the Spirit lives in the Church - wrong. Sometimes we might think that the Father did the creation of the world, the Son redeemed the world and its the Spirit who is about today. Children, when they write prayers, often speak about ‘God and Jesus’, as if they are two different people. When the Trinity is taught, the images used often emphasise the differences between the Three - such as ice, water and steam - or one person having three different jobs. All wrong - well at least, not good enough.

And the problem with these kinds of ideas is that they seem to suggest that when one person of the Trinity acts, he acts on his own. And this confuses us. We ask silly questions like ‘When Jesus was on earth who was looking after heaven?’ and ‘Was there a Holy Spirit before Pentecost?’ And we might also wonder why only three - why not four - or seven or nine - after all, God has so many things to do, why not.

The truth of our Faith is rather different.

The Church teaches that God is one Nature, in three persons, and while the language may be complicated, it makes two very important points.

First, no one person of the Trinity acts alone. When one acts, all act together, because God is one. At the creation, the Father spoke his Divine Word and created through the power of the Spirit. The Father breathed his Spirit into Man to make him in his own image. The Spirit spoke God’s word through the prophets. The Angel visited Mary with the message of the Father so that she conceived the Word by the power of the Spirit. St John tells us ‘the Word (with God from the beginning) became flesh and dwelt amongst us’. At his Baptism, the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove as the Father speaks from heaven. At his Crucifixion, the Son says ‘Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit’. And when the Son ascends to the Father he sends the Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete, to lead us into all truth. We pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. At Mass, we pray to the Father that he send the Spirit on the bread and wine that they become the body and blood of his Son. Again and again and again it is Father, Son and Spirit who move together, who operate together.

And notice that in all these examples I give, and in many others, the movement of the Trinity is about entering into the created world, about reaching to humanity. It is about involvement, action. It what is called Grace. The Trinity is about drawing human beings into the life of God, in creation, in redemption, in prayer, in sacraments. The best description of this Grace is of course love - because love always involves another, and God is love because he lives love in himself, and extends his loving hand, his loving word, his loving Spirit, to embrace all humanity.

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