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Homily - Trinity Sunday 2022 - Bishop McKeown

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Sunday, 12 June 2022 

Over the last weeks, we have been praying about different aspects of our faith - Christ's suffering, death and resurrection; his departure and return to the Father at the Ascension, and then the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Today invites us into the central mystery of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What does today's feast challenge us to believe?

Firstly, the Trinity is presented to us a mystery to be savoured, rather than as a puzzle to be solved. After all, if we think we have understood the God who made the sun, moon and stars and who loves every individual, then we are fools. It is not unreasonable to believe in God – but that does not mean that we reduce the divine to something that we can comprehend and control. Belief in God invites us to take the leap of faith which brings us beyond the one-dimensional earth-bound outlook. Faced with the enormity of the universe and its mysteries, it is foolish to think that our limited knowledge is the measure of everything. A long-standing definition of theology is 'faith seeking understanding'. Faith is a leap that comes from the heart that has glimpsed God. In theology, we seek to understand what it is we are experiencing. If we reduce faith to what we understand we destroy everything good. In fact, the cultural drift towards non-belief in God has not heightened our respect for humans. The focus on everything being in our control has led us to disregard everything that does not suit my own little agenda and comfort. Far from raising our esteem for human life, atheism has reduced human life to little more than an irrelevant accident of history. The infallibility of my wants has become the new article of faith. Truth is reduced to blindly following whoever can advertise their wares or beliefs most successfully. In a world where every adult human becomes god and defines the world in a way that is limited by our narrow imagination, we become our own worst enemy, measuring the value of life before it is born and before it can die. When faith opens us up to the mystery of God, we are invited to see life here and life hereafter with the eyes of wonder. Faith in the Trinity frees us from becoming our own worst enemy and a prey to the loudest, most powerful voices in society who want us to believe in them. Belief in the mystery of God and respect for the mystery of human life are two sides of one coin.

Secondly, the Trinity offers us, not just the idea of God who exists but the image of a God who is in relationship. Jesus speaks often of the love of the Father for him and for all humans. There are those who see God merely as a great Creator who has created the universe and then left it to its own devices. The God of the Bible is quite different. God loves the world where human beings are made in the divine image and likeness. Jesus, who existed from the beginning, takes flesh and dwells among us. A God, who is in relationship, asks us to build communities which are held together by love and welcome. Unless the love of God for us is visible in how we live together, unless our faith communities reflect how Jesus encountered often sick and confused people, then we are not reflecting the Trinity that we celebrate. Jesus rejected the intense cold-hearted piety of the Pharisees. In every generation we need to learn from the Trinity and recognise the temptation to build the church around our needs rather than on the foundation of God's abundant grace.

Our task as missionary disciples is to be open, not to recreating a world of decades ago but to reaching the people of our time and place. Unless our synodal conversations focus on our mission as Church, we will be getting the wrong answers because we are asking the wrong questions.

Thirdly, the Trinity frees us from another temptation. At a time when Church is widely attacked and condemned, it is easy to believe we must defend the institution, its reputation and its power in society. But the only plan the Trinitarian God has is to heal the world. A defensive mentality is concerned about us. A missionary heart shares the divine concern for other people in their need. A navel-gazing Church is not capable of revealing Jesus to those who suffer and cry out for mercy or love. Pope Benedict talked about the love story between God and humankind, told in the Bible[1]. We were made in the divine image and likeness. Even when we abused out freedom, on Calvary God wanted to bring us back to what we were created for. We wait in joyful hope for the coming of Jesus when all things will be reconciled in Christ. That is a story, not of the Trinity sitting in heaven like the Greek gods on Mount Olympus but of a God who is constantly at work for the salvation of the world. Our task as missionary disciples is to be open, not to recreating a world of decades ago but to reaching the people of our time and place. Unless our synodal conversations focus on our mission as Church, we will be getting the wrong answers because we are asking the wrong questions.

Trinity Sunday brings us back to God as mystery who wants us to enter into the divine mission of mercy. As the Second Vatican Council taught, the Church is a sacrament of sign of intimate union with God and of the unity of all humankind.[2] In word and sacrament, we celebrate the Trinity at work in the love of the Father, the forgiveness of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit. In all forms of prayer, we adore the loving mystery of God at work. This week, give thanks to the Father, who welcomes you with open arms. Give thanks for the Son, who offers forgiveness through his open arms on the Cross. And be open to the Holy Spirit who sends us out with open arms to reveal divine love to the hurting of the world. The Holy Trinity is a mystery of love. We can only offer that mystery if we have come to know it. Pope Francis defined Jesus as the face of the Father's mercy[3]. Only a church that knows this loving face can share it where it is most needed. The mystery of the Trinity invites us into the mystery of who we are. For that liberating mystery we never cease to give thanks and praise.

+ Donal McKeown


[1] Deus Caritas Est, para 17

[2] Lumen Gentium, para 1

[3] Misericordiae vultus, para 1

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Diocesan Offices
St Eugene’s Cathedral
Francis Street, Derry
BT48 9AP | Tel: 028 7126 2302

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