Bottom line: Our origin is family, the Trinity, and our goal is family, the Communion of Saints for ever united to the Persons of the Trinity.
Today - the Sunday after Pentecost - we celebrate the Holy Trinity: Three persons in One God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This homily is about the Trinity as origin and goal. For a lead-in, I would like to begin with a humorous story:
It's about the American who gets lost in Ireland. After driving around the Irish countryside, he finally encounters a native, "Please," he says, "can you tell me how to get to Balbriggan?"
"Well," says the Irishman, "If you take the first road to the left...no that wouldn't do...drive about four miles and turn right...no that wouldn't do either." Finally the Irishman scratches his head and says, "You know, if I was going to Balbriggan, I wouldn't start from here at all."
As the story illustrates, you got to know your starting point if you hope to arrive at your goal. This is true not only about getting to Balbriggan, but to get to our ultimate goal. This Sunday - Feast of the Trinity - we hear about our starting point. We are not the product of blind evolution. For sure, we are part of an evolving universe, but it does not develop blindly. It has a spiritual reality beneath it all.
You can know that reality by natural reasoning. Aristotle, for example, argued that there must a "Prime Mover," a First Cause - a fundamental Fact. By using natural reason, a person can come to the conclusion that God exists.
Still, today's Feast speaks about much more than the simple existence of God. It is about something we could not know unless Jesus had revealed. God is a "threeness" - a Trinity of Persons: the Father who eternally begets the Son, the Son (Jesus) who knows and obeys the Father. And a Third - who is the Love between Father and Son. We heard about him last Sunday - the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Trinity is the origin of the universe - and of you and me. Because of this origin, it means that we are here not so much for self-development, but for something much deeper: relationship, family.
We are made in the image of the Trinity. We are made for family. Our work is to form, protect and nourish families. Now, this might seem obvious, but we need to remind ourselves, especially today. Pope Benedict address this issue when he visited Croatia a few weeks ago. He particularly challenges the most common substitute for marriage: cohabitation, living together, what used to be called "shacking up." Here is what the pope said:
"Dear families, be courageous! Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person!"
After challenging young people to make the commitment of marriage, he speaks about the fruit of marriage:
"Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them!"
What the pope is saying here is that we are made for family. As humans, created in God's likeness, we have within us the image of the Trinity - that eternal family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Marriage and family are fundamental - to our faith and to our society as well.*
You know, the Mormons have a good instinct when they talk about "marriage for time and eternity."** But they miss something: marriage is a sacrament - a sign of a deeper reality, namely, the marriage of Jesus, the bridegroom, with his bride, the Church. When the Bible describes heaven, it say, "Alleluia...the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready." The Lamb, the bridegroom, is Jesus. The Church is his bride. Marriage is a sacrament because it points to that final reality - the eternal union of Jesus with his bride. Someday all that we now see - our buildings, our cars, our computers - they will turn to dust. What will remain? The Bible makes clear what will last: the Communion of Saints - the unending union of Jesus with his Church.***
We acknowledge that Communion of Saints when we pray to the Father through Jesus his Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. The unity of the Holy Spirit is the Communion of Saints. Our origin is family, the Trinity, and our goal is family, the Communion of Saints for ever united to the Persons of the Trinity.
*We often hear about praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Today we also must pray for vocations to marriage. We have a priest shortage, for sure, but also a people shortage - a dearth of families and children in our parishes. In Light of the World Peter Seewald mentions that today there are more priest per people in pew than in 1960. I wonder if we do not have something similar here in the United States regarding ratio of priests to practiciing Catholics.
**Marriage is profoundly holy. It is blasphemous to use the same word for the sinful joining of two men or two women.
***St. Philip Neri has a couple of nice maxims about our present relationship to the the Communion of Saint:
"The best preparation for prayer is to read the lives of the saints, not from mere curiosity, but quietly and with recollection a little at a time. And to pause whenever you feel your heart touched with devotion."
"Imagine yourselves to be spiritual beggars in the presence of God and his saints. You should go round from saint to saint, imploring an alms with the same real earnestness with which the poor beg." (Quoted by Bert Ghezzi, Voices of the Saints
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From Archbishop John C. Nienstedt
If big, intrusive government can re-define the most basic, accepted, revealed truth that marriage simply means one man + one woman + (hopefully) children, in a loving family, then, I’m afraid, Orwell’s works will no longer be on the fiction shelf. As someone commented to me the other day, “Wouldn’t it be better for our government to work on fixing schools than on redefining marriage?”