Homily for Sunday, June 9, 2017Published:
Today we celebrate and worship God, the most holy Trinity. As we know and profess in our faith, there is only one God. God is one essence and also three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Tradition has taught us that if we look around us at Creation, we can perceive aspects of the Trinity. For example, St. Augustine noted that the rational part of the human soul has memory, intellect, and will. And in meditating on how these three relate to each other in the human soul, while at the same time they are one soul, St. Augustine recognized aspects of the Trinity. And certainly it makes sense to look for signs of the Trinity particularly within ourselves, especially as we are made in the image and likeness of God. But looking for signs of the Trinity in Creation is something we do after having been informed about the Trinity. Direct knowledge of the Trinity would not have been accessible to human reason alone. Rather, it was and had to be revealed by God, and it is through God’s revelation that we know. The Trinity is one of those “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God.”
With regard to the Trinity, the readings in mass today invite us to think especially about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. St. Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, on one occasion said to Jesus, “show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Moses had said something similar in the Old Testament. Speaking to God he said, Lord, “please let me see your glory!” Who doesn’t want to see God? At that time, God’s response to Moses was, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim my name, ‘Lord,’ before you, … but you cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live.” This was the truth that had been stated in the past: no one could see the full glory of God and live. So on that occasion, God placed Moses in the cleft of a rock and covered him with God’s hand while God passed by, and then removed his hand so that Moses could see God’s back. We hear that to love God is the fullness and fulfillment of our existence. I wonder then if the problem with seeing God, is not that we die for doing something that is forbidden, but rather that if we were to see the full beauty and goodness of God, the true object of all our desire and the purpose of our desire, our longing would be too great and we would no longer have the strength to live apart from it?
Whether this is true or not, the desire to see God has always remained, and hence Philip says to Jesus show us the Father and that will be enough. Jesus’ response to Philip is illuminating. Philip, whoever has seen me has seen the Father. So, it is Jesus who reveals the Father, and allows us to see God. As it says in the Prologue of John’s gospel, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, revealed him.” And certainly, that to see Jesus is to see the Father is in fact what one would expect, if we say that God is One. If there is one God and not multiple gods, to see Jesus is to see the Father, and to see the Holy Spirit. But somehow, there has always been this temptation to believe that the Father is different than Jesus, and that might be the thought that Philip was revealing in himself when he requested of Jesus, show us the Father. One way in which the Father is often thought different is in mercy versus justice. In this division, Jesus is seen as the merciful one, the Good Shepherd who seeks after the lost sheep and carries it on his shoulders, and the Father is in contrast the ultimate judge and bringer of justice, who will mete out punishment to the nations for their sins and wickedness. So is it true that the Father is not as merciful as the Son?
If we look carefully at Scripture, it becomes clear that it is not true. In our first reading, when Moses encounters the Lord on Mount Sinai, God identifies himself as: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” In Jewish religious tradition, these words of self-description are considered some of the most important words concerning God’s nature and identity in the Hebrew Bible, if not the most important ones. The same idea, God is full of merciful love for us, is repeated frequently by the prophets, and it is perhaps the most frequently repeated idea concerning God. And Jesus reveals the same nature of God the Father in our gospel reading today. Jesus says, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life. God gave his beloved Son, his only one, to us, handing Him over to crucifixion and death, so that we might not perish nor be condemned, but so that we might be saved through Him and have eternal life. There is no denying that that is the action of a being whose primary nature is merciful love. The Son and the Father are One, to have seen the Son is to have seen the Father.
And yet, it remains a prominent temptation to believe that God’s love for us is finite. And thus, the person can often say to himself, yes God loves me, but after a few more sins, God’s love for me will pass and be replaced instead by anger. And the person can point to difficulties and failures in their own life, and say, aha, proof that God has stopped loving me. Invariably, this is a self-projection onto God, for in these cases, the person assumes that his own self-loathing is shared by everyone else, including God; it is a fundamental lie that the devil tries to get us to believe. This instead is the truth. From eternity and for all time, God the Father has begotten his only beloved Son, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. And the love they share is of such fecundity and power that all things in creation came to be through it, intentionally and purposefully made to share in the love present in the Trinity. And the same Father full of merciful love for you, gave the Son to you, and the Son, full of merciful love for you, willingly descended from heaven and became like you, taking on your nature as a human being. To think that such unlimited and overpowering love could be ended or even be curtailed by our own sins, becomes then a laughable and ridiculous thought. Ultimately, the object and goal of our pilgrimage here on Earth, is to enter into the Trinity, to share in that same relationship of merciful love that is the identity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and which we, made in the image and likeness of God, were destined to share from the beginning.
In this Eucharist, let us pray for the grace to believe in and accept God’s love for us, so that we may truly live. Amen.
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