Homily for the Solemnity of Trinity Sunday
Many years ago, an elderly Bishop visited a parish of his diocese for Confirmations. Even though he was losing his hearing, he still continued his custom of quizzing the children on their catechism before the Confirmations.
He asked a young girl to define the Blessed Trinity. The girl was rather nervous and shy, and she softly said: “The Blessed Trinity is one God with three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
The Bishop could not hear her answer, so he said: “Speak up, I can’t understand you.” The girl turned to the Bishop and said: “You can’t understand, it is a mystery.”
“The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 234).
God is mysterious. We must accept this fact. We cannot think that we can completely understand God.
St. Augustine was once confronted by a pagan leader who showed him his idol and said, “Here is my god; where is yours?” Augustine replied, “I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see him.”
However, although we cannot even begin to fathom the mystery of God, we do know that he is always with us. The gift of faith that we have received at our baptism helps us to live in his presence and know that he is always with us.
My dear friends, since the Blessed Trinity is a mystery that we cannot understand, I would like to focus our attention this Sunday on how we should live out our relationship with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I would like to consider with you the experience of joy of those believers who have a radical relationship with God.
By radical, I am referring to the use of this word as it relates to the Latin word radix, which means root. Thus, a radical relationship with God refers to those whose friendship with God goes to the very core of their being. Their relationship with God is a personal relationship. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28).
What is joy?
The dictionary defines joy as an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. It is also defined as a state of happiness or felicity. In Catholicism, joy is a state of soul equated with happiness and it is also defined as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Joy is not to be understood as something superficial or immature. The person who is filled with Christian joy possesses an immense treasure because the true Christian can smile and laugh even in the middle of the most terrible adversities and sufferings.
Saint Thomas Aquinas listed eight Capital or Deadly Sins rather than our list of seven. He maintained that sadness was the worse one of them all. The famous Italian poet Dante, in his Divine Comedy, placed sadness at the lowest level of hell.
The celebrated English convert to Catholicism, G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “The Catholic Church is like a thick steak, a glass of red wine, and a good cigar.”
Hilaire Belloc, Chesterton’s contemporary, echoed these same sentiments when he wrote: “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (March 8, 1841 – March 6, 1935) was a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years. His mind, wit and work earned him the unofficial title of “the greatest justice since John Marshall.” At one point in his life, Justice Holmes explained his choice of a career by saying: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”
The God that we celebrate this Sunday has created us for joy.
The experience of joy, however, depends upon our spiritual diet.
What spiritual food are we eating?
Let us examine three spiritual diets.
First, there is the starvation diet. Three types of people eat this kind of diet. These people are the Omelet People, the Merit Badge People and the Jury Duty People.
Just imagine an amazing chef standing at the front door of the church after Mass. He is wearing a big white chef’s hat and a cool looking chef’s coat. He is cooking with a new gas burning stove and the best pans anybody can imagine.
He is standing there, by the door, preparing the most amazing omelets you can ever think of accompanied by the most amazing homemade tortillas, and despite the amazing smell of the delicious omelets, Omelet People just walk by without even realizing that the amazing chef is even there.
This is the starvation diet of the Omelet People.
Secondly, let us consider the Merit Badge People. These are the people who identify their relationship with God through visible externals. They insist on being baptized and receive their First Communion, but that is usually as far as they go. Once they have received a sacrament, they just disappear. Some of them come back for the Sacrament of Confirmation, but then they usually do not appear in church until their own funeral.
Merit Badge People usually complain about everything, they are the most demanding and they usually do nothing to help the parish survive.
This is the starvation diet of the Merit Badge People.
Thirdly, let us consider the starvation diet of Jury Duty People.
No one likes doing jury duty. When the notice comes in the mail that you are requested to appear for jury duty, you usually become quite upset. Moreover, you are glad when you are not chosen for a jury.
Jury duty is doing something that we are forced to do. Some people see God, church and religion in this way – I have to do this or that. Religion is seen as an obligation.
Jury Duty People fill the pews on Sunday, but there is no life in them because there is very little love. These are the people who put a dollar in the basket when they could be helping much more. For them, God is a task master and they simply go through the motions of religious practice.
This the starvation diet of the Jury Duty People.
Obviously, people who are starving, do not experience any joy at all. They are consumed by an obsessive sadness.
The next diet that we need to consider is the fast food diet. The fast food diet consists of immoral sexual behavior, excessive alcohol consumption and drugs.
Fast food diet people genuinely seek purpose and meaning in life, but rather than eating at the banquet, they insist on eating of the garbage cans.
There is no joy here either, simply because habitual mortal sin does not provide any joy at all.
Finally, let us consider the only real diet that provides joy. Here I am referring to the banquet diet. Here we find the best food of all.
To describe the banquet diet, I would like to refer to an excellent book written by Christopher West. Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing provides an amazing account of the banquet diet.
“We often think of the Christian mystics as those saints who experience phenomena like bodily levitations or the bleeding wounds of Christ. That’s extraordinary mysticism, and few are called to that. But there is an ‘ordinary mysticism’ to which we are all called, an ongoing encounter with the ‘Mystery’ in and through the normal day-to-day circumstances of life…
A mystic is someone who is able to ‘taste and see the goodness of the Lord’ in all of life’s circumstances and events, and in all of his creation, even amidst trials and sufferings. A mystic is someone who has been captivated by the fragrance and beauty of divine love, and nothing can thwart his or her desire for ever deeper intimacy with the Divine Lover…
In short, a mystic is someone who has entered God’s love song, hears it everywhere, and can’t help but dance because of it… (page 34 – 35)
The banquet diet is where the believer’s radical relationship with God is nourished. It is only at the banquet that joy can be experienced.
What is the banquet? The banquet is intimacy with God through prayer and the sacraments. The banquet is the joy of family life and friends. The banquet is your passion for life.
Augustine says it best with these words: “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”