7 minutes reading time (1369 words)

Homily - Most Holy Trinity - Bishop McKeown

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Sunday, 30 May 2021 

Since Easter, we have celebrated many liturgical feasts, all facets of our Christian faith. Today's celebration of the Most Holy Trinity brings together the roles of Father, Son and Spirit, united in one God and united in their passion for the world's salvation. In some ways, today's feast is a resume of the core elements of our faith. So, what can we learn at this stage of the Liturgical Year as we move away from the big feasts into the Sundays in Ordinary time?

Firstly, the teaching about Father, Son and Spirit is not merely a medieval theological conundrum that modern minds can ignore. It is at the heart of our faith. Jesus taught about the Father and the Spirit since the beginning. Indeed, at his own Baptism, the Spirit is seen as a dove and the voice of the Father is heard. As Jesus says before he leaves his disciples, baptism into relationships with the persons of the Trinity is the starting point for our faith journey. And that God is active, not merely sitting somewhere in heaven, listening to harps all day! Pope Benedict spoke of the love story between God and humankind, told in the Bible. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. And Jesus sends the Spirit. God is at work to save you and me, so that we can enjoy eternal life with all the saints. Thus, knowledge of God goes far beyond catechism answers. Knowing the Father means believing that you – in all your dimensions - are made in God's image and likeness. No matter how you came to be or how to have been treated or how you have acted, you are precious to God whom you call Abba/Father. Jesus calls you a friend and offers to take away all that burdens your life. And the Holy Spirit dwells in your body where God wants to be Lord of your whole life. Christian faith is not just knowing the right teachings. It is also knowing the God who knows and love you. Faith means knowing God and not merely knowing about God. It is based in the heart and not primarily in the head.

Pope Francis referred to Jesus as 'the face of the Father's mercy'. The world is as full now as it ever was of those who – as Jesus saw it - 'harassed and dejected like sheep without a shepherd' (Mt 9:36) Jesus knew this and had to speak into a religious context where just keeping the laws was seen as being religious. He was harsh on those who did not realize that faith meant loving God with our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves. Christian faith is intensely personal because it is about who God is and who you are. It is about finding God in the bits and pieces, the relationships and mistakes, the memories and dreams that make up each individual's unique life. Trinity Sunday calls us to believe in a God who works to heal this fractured world – and who wants to begin with you and me and all our relationships.

Faith means an adult acceptance that life is difficult rather than a childish fantasy world that every problem can be solved by buying something. Faith and reason are not enemies but twins.

Secondly, faith is not just a strange old-fashioned world of childish emotions and imagination. For some people, faith has remained stuck at the childish stage and has not yet grown into a deeper, maturing adult relationship with God. But in a modern heavily scientific world, Christian faith has to be able to engage with the human search for meaning. St Peter wrote to some of his converts, Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you (1 Pet 3:15). Great philosophers wrestled with showing that faith was a reasonable way to live your life. Many great scientists were perfectly able to have a deep religious faith. They knew that science can give provisional answers about what exists and how the universe appears to work. But faith deals with the question of meaning and mercy, love and belonging. Faith pushes us to tackle the deep issues such as the first question that Jesus asks his disciples in St John's Gospel "What do you seek?" (Jn 1:38). Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychotherapist who spent three years in a Nazi concentration camp put is a different way, saying that our society can give us the means by which to live - but not a meaning for which to live. A one-dimensional merely scientific approach to life means that too many people are dying for want of a reason for living. Faith means an adult acceptance that life is difficult rather than a childish fantasy world that every problem can be solved by buying something. Faith and reason are not enemies but twins. Trinity Sunday challenges all of us to be ready to make our defence to anyone who demands from us an account of the hope that is in us.

Thirdly, Christian faith has spread because there were those who dedicated their lives to saying that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:11) That has often been an unwelcome message. A crisp phrase of Fr Herbert McCabe said something like, If you love, you will get hurt and possibly killed. If you do not love, you are dead already. Fr Dan Berrigan, the American peace-activist, quipped, If you want to follow Jesus, you had better look good on wood!' Faith in the Trinity has always been a challenge to the strong in every age. Modern society can live with those who have a reasonably vague sense of spirituality and who keep that as a private hobby. The powerful will say what it is appropriate to be idealistic about. They make room for the important message that 'Black lives matter'. But it is seen as socially reprehensible to insist that 'unborn lives matter'. It is acceptable to proclaim the dogma of free choice – but it is less mainstream to defend the dignity of those who have few choices or who have made bad choices. Jesus knew that his teaching would unsettle the powerful of his day. Adult faith in the Trinity ought to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable in every generation.

Today, we are asked to contemplate the mystery of God who is not just a problem to be reduced to science or reduced by science. We are pushed by modern culture to admire the immensity of the universe but to limit our own openness to the transcendent. That narrow consumerist approach tells us that we are irrelevant and without meaning in a vast creation. In our faith we are invited to rebel against the globalisation of superficiality which shrivels the imagination. The Trinity tells us about the glory of God, the immensity of the universe and the dignity of each individual. The mystery of Trinity challenges us to not reduce everything to formulae and bank balances. God - Father, Son and Spirit - dares us to rebel against those who would trap us in a lonely bubble that will soon burst and vanish. Timothy Radcliffe wrote that we shall only be able to share this Good News if people can see that our communal faith journey promotes Christian communities that are nurseries of maturity. The only God that you can share is the one who has touched your life. The journey towards sharing divine life and sharing your faith with others begins here and now.

+ Donal McKeown


Scripture Saturday with Bishop Donal  

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In this week's episode Bishop Donal focuses on Chapter's 18:24 to 26:32 of the Acts of the Apostles and the third part of Paul's missionary journey.

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