Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Trinity

Homily for the Feast
of the Holy Trinity
Salesian Family Celebration in Washington, D.C.

This past weekend (May 21-22), members of the Salesian Family from all over the Northeast and eastern Canada gathered at the St. John Paul II Center and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the altar of Mary Help of Christians there. Yours truly was there to photograph the events and report for the province newsletter. Here’s the homily given at the noon Mass in the Shrine church by Fr. Timothy Zak, SDB, our vice provincial.

In the recently published book Dear Pope Francis, the Holy Father answered questions from children from around the world. The question-answer exchange shows the closeness of the Pope to the children. One review says that the book “feels akin to sitting in on a series of intimate conversations.” Here are a few samples of the questions:

“If God loves us so much, why didn’t he defeat the devil?”

“Will my non-Catholic grandfather go to heaven?”

“If you could cause one miracle, what would it be?”

These questions reveal what is in the heart of the young today—their interests, worries, and hopes. With simplicity they are asking about complex realities. The Pope answers with respect for the sincerity of the children, and he doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of the issues. Using familiar images like soccer and dancing, Pope Francis is able to write about profound spiritual and social concepts. More than a teacher addressing students in a classroom, however, the Pope is like a father offering comfort and advice to his children or maybe his grandchildren.

What a wonderful example for us on this solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity! Each one of us being invited into an intimate relationship with God, whom we can trust with all our dreams and insecurities, like his dear children, knowing that God loves us.

The Trinity by Franz Anton Maulbertsch (1724-1796)
The Trinity is the most sublime theological truth of our faith: far beyond our understanding, far greater than anything we could ever hope for or imagine. We can never fully comprehend God’s eternal holy Trinity and undivided Unity—the infinite majesty and eternal glory of the Godhead, revealed as an intimate exchange of love; three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—but only one God.

Although we cannot comprehend this mystery with our finite, human minds, we can profess this truth and adore God in majesty. At every Mass we join our voices with those of the angels and all the heavenly host as we sing, “Holy, holy, holy.” With this song of praise and wonder, we acknowledge our unworthiness to be in God’s presence, yet at the same time we are aware that we are always in his presence. Even when we are not attentive to God, and sometimes try to ignore him, God is always watching over us. Remember the simple lesson Johnny Bosco learned from Mama Margaret, and which he had written in the Oratory playground: God sees you and loves you. This is a grace, a gift. We don’t deserve it, and we can’t earn it. But God delights in bestowing his grace upon us because God is Father, and we are his children.

It is Jesus, the Word of truth sent into the world by the Father, who has perfectly made known to us what it means to be a daughter or son of God. He is the eternal Son. In today’s gospel (John 16:12-15), we see the intimate unity that the Father and the Son share: “Everything that the Father has is mine” (v. 15). The Father holds nothing back for himself, but in love gives himself as Father to the Son. At key points in the Gospels, we are able to listen in on the conversations Jesus has with the Father. These reveal a complete trust in the Father, even to the point of abandoning himself to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation. In love and trust, the Son empties his heart out to the Father, freely expressing all his troubles, fears, and joys. Just before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus raises his eyes and says, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). See how Jesus has complete trust in the Father, and how the Father has given everything over to the Son! They are united in love.

Thus Jesus has revealed to us what it means to have God as our Father, and what it means to be a child of God, loved into being by the Father. The bond of love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. The marvelous intimacy shared by the Father and the Son is given to us too, “because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). These amazing words of St. Paul to the Romans are an encouragement for each of us to come before God with childlike trust, opening our hearts to God’s love and giving ourselves back to God in love.

We are in the month of May, a month traditionally dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church. On Tuesday, May 24, the Church honors Mary under the title Help of Christians. She is a model and a help for us to live full of grace, in intimate relationship with the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mary was chosen by God the Father to be the mother of his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is daughter, mother, and spouse. This is a unique grace she received, with which she cooperated. It is God’s plan of salvation that we too should receive the grace to call God Father, and have the fullness of life in Christ as God’s children filled with the Holy Spirit. But God will not force this gift upon us; it is a gift we must humbly accept; it is a grace with which we must choose to cooperate.

The Annunciation by Giuseppe Andreis (1822-1880), showing the Father
and the Spirit at work as Mary receives Gabriel’s message
When we invoke Mary under the title Help of Christians, we get a sense of a mission that has been given to her. She shares in the mission Christ gave to the Church to go forth and announce the Good News, to draw all people together as the family of God, to reach out with a special concern for the forgotten, marginalized, and wounded, to care for the little ones and the poor. The grace of being chosen by God was not for her glory, but so that she could further God’s plan of salvation. Once again, she is teacher and guide for the pilgrim Church on the journey of faith. She teaches us that God has bestowed upon us all abundant gifts and many blessings, but not for our own selfish interests; not to be closed in on ourselves, but open—open to God, open to encountering God in our neighbor, open to surprises. God delights in blessing us so that we can go forth and share the Good News and God’s gifts with others. Mary guides us as we seek out the lost, raise up the fallen, and go out to the existential peripheries offering consolation and hope.

During this Jubilee of Mercy, we are being given a special opportunity to learn carefully from Mary’s teaching and faithfully follow her guidance, as we open ourselves up to be filled with God’s grace. Our devoted mother, she seeks the well-being of her children; she wants to see us experience the joy of being united with God. It is not a joy we keep to ourselves, but a joy that is meant to be given away. And when we give of ourselves, the joy grows. The Pope showed his practical wisdom when he recommended that we perform the works of mercy during the Jubilee Year. In the care we offer our neighbor, we share the mercy we have first received from God. Remember the ancient antiphon, “Where there is love, there is God.” By practicing the works of mercy, we are helping others be aware that God is present in their lives.

Even if we cannot fully understand the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, we boldly profess it as a revealed truth of our faith. Even if our songs of praise are inadequate in expressing the majesty of God, we still adore God clothed in glory. Well aware that we are unworthy, we testify to the experience of being loved by God, of being drawn into the intimate relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Recall the simple and sincere trust of those children who wrote about their concerns to the Pope. It was not because they could really be able to understand the Pope’s answers to their profound questions that they wrote to him, but because Pope Francis has given clear witness to God’s love and concern for all, especially the little ones. With filial confidence, we come before God, not because we could ever be able to understand him, but because we have experienced the personal love of God. We have been drawn into the intimate exchange of love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With the psalmist, our hearts cannot contain themselves, and we repeat, “O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8:2).

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