We Believe in a Communion-God

The Most Holy Trinity (B); May 27, 2018

Dt 4:32-34   Ps 33   Rom 8:14-17   Mt 28:16-20

Deacon Jim McFadden

 

           It’s difficult enough to believe in a single God, but have you ever tried to explain the Trinity to a non-believer? It’s not easy. Believing in three persons who is one God is quite a leap!

There’s a charming story of St. Augustine trying to make sense of the Trinity.   One day, worn out from his long study of the mystery, he decides to take a walk on the beach to clear his mind. Along the way, Augustine comes across a little boy patiently pouring water into a hole in the sand. He cups seawater in his hands and empties it into the hole. Augustine watches him do this, run back to the shoreline, and repeat the process over and over again. After a while, Augustine asks the boy what he’s doing. “I’m trying to fill this hole with the ocean,” the little boy said.

“But, that’s impossible,” says Augustine. “You will never fit the ocean in that little hole!”

“Nor will you be able to fit the mystery of the Trinity in your mind,” replies the boy, and Augustine realizes he is speaking with an angel (cf. James Martin, My Life with the Saints, pp. 356-357).

Nonetheless, we keep trying.   St. Patrick’s three-leaf clover is a clever image, but still far from adequate.   From the earliest centuries of Christianity, theologians have painstakingly struggled to find the words to explain the relationship of three persons sharing this divine mystery. The councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon may have succeeded in giving us precise definitions, but these statements have not really clarified the mystery of the triune God.

My belief in the Trinity is a totally personal response: My response to the Most Holy Trinity does not occur at the top three inches of my body, but it occurs within my heart. I believe that God is three-in-one because I experience the Risen Christ sacramentally, especially in the Eucharist, and ecclesially within the Church community. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we believe that he is divine; that belief enters us into a shared life with the Risen Christ. To believe in Jesus is to share what Jesus is sharing in, which is a communal life of giving and receiving with his Father and Holy Spirit.   So I could never explain the Trinity to a nonbeliever; I can only share what is in my heart.

Neither do the readings from today offer a philosophical explanation of the nature of God; rather, they point to how God is at work within our lives. Its the activity of God that reveals Who God is.

In the passage from Deuteronomy, God reveals the divine name, LORD

(YAHWEH) to Moses. God is the great I AM. God is not a particular being, like we are, but God is the fullness of being. And, what is God’s being? According to John the Evangelist, GOD IS LOVE (1 Jn 4:8)! That is not an attribute of God, but it is God’s very nature: Love is Who God is. Love involves the giving and receiving of life. God the Father, who is Lover, sent Jesus, the Beloved Son, into the world for our salvation.   And, when Jesus returned to his Father at the Ascension, he gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the shared loving energy between the Father and the Son. It is within that communal relationship that the divine revelation resonates.

God is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” (Ex 34:6). Though not a definition, this might well be the best description of God to be found in our entire religious tradition. God is a loving Being.

When we say that we believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit we are proclaiming belief in a community of Persons who surrounds us, embraces us everywhere, and loves us unconditionally exactly the way they love themselves.   The Son, Who is the perfect Thought (Logos) and image of the Father, knows us better than we know ourselves. Because there is no limit to the mystery of His being, he can go deep down into our heart and find a home there. God is someone who knows the secret of all mysteries and where all roads lead because His Son is the Way.

Believing in the Trinity means that truth is on the side of communion rather than exclusion—everyone is invited to share in Trinitarian life, which is realized in and through the Church. A shared life means that consensus, collaboration, and the sensum fidei (sense of the faithful) works hand-in-glove with the hierarchical governance of the Church.   Believing in the Trinity means accepting that everything is related to everything and so makes up one great whole, and that unity comes from a thousand convergences that come together in Christ : “…in him all things hold together” (Col 2:17).

Church, we never simply live, we always live together as we participate in Trinitarian life.   Whatever favors a shared life is good and worthwhile. Hence we live in this community style of living of God’s existence by being especially attentive to the most vulnerable.   Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of his brethren we do to him. Therefore as we proclaim our belief in the triune God, we take the side of the poor, who are a constant reminder that there should not be oppressors and oppressed. They are true bearers of hope, because they live on the hope that life is really a shared life of giving and receiving. They challenge us to live that Trinitarian truth.

Believing in the triune God means that there exists an ultimate tenderness, an ultimate bosom, and infinite womb, in which we can take refuge, move and have our being. Brothers and sisters, we are not alone in this universe with all our questions which no one offers satisfactory answers except Jesus because He is the Truth. We can finally have peace in the serenity of love that is shared between the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity.

 

 

 

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The Spirit Breathes Life

The Solemnity of Pentecost (B); 5-20-18

Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104; 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23

Deacon Jim McFadden; St. John the Baptist C.C.

 

         The meaning of the feast of Pentecost is richly complex: it’s like a multi-faceted diamond whose brilliance takes different nuances when examined from different angles. Today’s readings offer us multiple dimensions of meaning for this Solemnity.   The gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples is one more facet of the awe-inspiring mystery that encompasses Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification.

Indeed, Pentecost is the capstone of these solemnities because Jesus himself announced that the whole purpose of his mission on earth is brought about at Pentecost. On the way to Jerusalem he declared to his disciples, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49).

These words became graphically alive fifty days later after the Resurrection at Pentecost, which was an ancient Jewish feast; in the Church it has become the feast of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church. “There appeared to them tongues as of fire…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:3-4).

The real fire, the Holy Spirit, was brought to earth by Christ so that we could stay in communion with Him and be empowered to continue his mission: to proclaim the Good News and help bring about the salvation of the world. So that Jesus’ mission may be extended throughout history, he says to the Apostles on the evening of his Resurrection, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” These words were expressed as “he breathed on them” (Jn 20:22). It’s not that the Church has a mission but the mission of Christ has a Church, which is the Way that God brings about his salvific plan in the Risen and Ascended Christ.

Sisters and brothers, we are not merely called to imitate Jesus. We are challenged to become the Risen Christ—to be the second Coming of Christ. Sounds farfetched? Jesus Christ has constituted his Church as his Mystical Body according to St. Paul and brilliantly reaffirmed by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church). And, who is the Church? We are, the People of God, who were initiated into the Church at baptism. That means that Christ permeates every member of his Body. That’s what Communion means: to be in Christ…to participate in Trinitarian love.

Do you see what Jesus is doing? He was communicating to us his Spirit—the same Spirit that is the loving energy shared between Him and his Father. God completely gives Himself away to us: We are so blessed!

Now, People of God, as we live in the Spirit, our church community will be formed in a unique way that differentiates from any other institution. What way is that?   As John the Evangelist describes the event of Pentecost, he recalls that the disciples “were all gathered in one place.” That place was the “Upper Room” where Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with his Apostles, where he had appeared to them Risen. This room had become the “headquarters” of the nascent Church. The Acts of the Apostles, however, insists that this physical place was special because it reflected an inner attitude of the disciples: “ All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). Notice that the harmony of the community is conditioned by prayer. Unless we enthusiastically embrace public and private prayer, we won’t be “in one accord” with one another.

Brothers and sisters, what was true of the early Church is just as true for us today who are gathered here at St. John the Baptist C.C. If we want Pentecost to be a true celebration of our salvation, we must always be preparing ourselves in devout expectation for the gift of God. God does not come to us by sprinkling pixie dust over us, but he is received by those who humbly and silently listen to his Word; he is received by those who stay at all times with the love that is in their hearts.

At this time in history, we have a particularly difficult challenge, since our increasingly secular culture is pushing God, the source of all life, out of the picture and asserting itself as the center of the universe.

In the hands of such men and women, “fire” becomes very dangerous, which can backfire against life and humanity. Just witness the 100 million lives lost during the wars of the 20th century, the 500 million worldwide lost to abortion since 1973, and the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy was used to kill civilians en masse. We can use “fire” to sow death at an unheard scale, which is a perennial reminder that the only “fire” that can give life is grounded in the Holy Spirit. Like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel parable who believes that he can fulfill himself by distancing himself from his father’s house, the modern person has given into the conceit that one can make oneself happy without God.

The Solemnity of Pentecost reveals that the energy that is capable of transforming the world is not a mindless, anonymous, blind Force, but the loving action of the “Spirit of God…moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Jesus Christ “brought to the earth” not the vital force that was already there, but the Holy Spirit that is the loving energy of the Triune God, Who “renews the face of the earth,” purifying from evil and selfishness and setting it free from the dominion of death” (Psalm 104). Let the Holy Spirit speak to you so you can change the face of the earth and bring God alive to all who touch you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resist No One

 

Farewell Mass

St. Francis H.S.; May 14, 2018

Deacon Jim McFadden

        Well, here we are again wrapping up another fruitful, intense, and challenging school year. As people of faith, we know it is not all our doing. As the Psalmist reminds us that If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor” (Psalm 127). Let me ask you Troubies, has the Lord built our SF house?   Yes, that’s why we have such a deep sense of satisfaction because we know that anything we’ve done well, has been the work of grace in which we have brought our enthusiastic “Yes!

The Farewell Mass is always poignant because we’re saying good-bye to those who have been an important part of our lives for so many years. Faculty and staff who have generously poured their lives into this community are saying Farewell as their life journey under the guidance of the Holy Spirit takes them into a new direction.

And, we’re saying good-bye to the class of 2018. While they’re leaving SF as students, they like departing faculty and staff, will always be a part of the Saint Francis community because we are integrated into the larger family of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. That means we remain in solidarity because we are sisters and brothers in Christ. And, this fellowship cannot be broken though we may not be physically present to one another.

Year in and year out, we’ve worked together looking out for each other’s good; as we’ve worked together, the world has revealed itself in all of its beauty. As the Psalmist reminds us, “How good it is when sisters and brothers gather together as one.” In our fellowship life is being generated. I remember 16 years ago, when Greta Gerwig, the director of Lady Bird, was a senior; she and a dozen Troubie sisters, were in Mr. Norman’s room working on an assembly project. Greta looked around and beamed, “Ah, another SF Experience!” Yes, we share moments like that because we appreciate our solidarity that generates life in and through God’s presence.

As the Class of 2018 prepares to enter the world, I am glad that they are doing so as people of Gospel values and deeply held principles. A SF Trouadour knows that to be fully human is to imitate what God does: namely, to give oneself away in love as we serve others, especially those who are vulnerable. As such we will not align ourselves with those who only think about exploiting our beautiful home, Mother Earth, or destroying it. We want the Class of 2018 to flood the world with joy and enthusiasm typical of an SF Troubie “Who’s got spirit.” Let me hear you: I got spirit, how about you?” Yes, I am confident that you will enrich that part of the world you occupy with the joy that comes from the Gospel, from having met a Person: Jesus, who has enthralled you and has drawn you to be with Him.

It really comes down to Him. The Gospel calls us to recognize Jesus as Lord. For many this is liberating good news because we can “move, live, and have our being” in the One who is Life itself—who is Love incarnate. But, for others, this is a tremendous threat. If Jesus is Lord, my ego can’t be Lord. My religion can’t be Lord. My country, my political affiliation, my culture can’t be Lord.

Well, how do we know that Jesus is Lord? The Resurrection is the clearest indication of the Lordship of Jesus. When we experience Jesus present in our heart and soul, when we experience Him in our community, when we experience Him in the Breaking of the Bread, we know that He is alive—that He is Risen! Therefore, He is due our absolute allegiance and surrender because He is Immanuel, God among us.

Class of 2018 do not let your youthful faith and exuberance be stolen from you. Do not allow anyone to slow or extinguish the light that has been put into your soul which is reflected in your beautiful face. As you recognize that you are a precious child of God, reject no other human being who is also a beloved daughter or son of God. Do not be a part of any enterprise that raises walls of division! Build bridges, like this extraordinary one that you are crossing in spirit as you move from being a high school student to the next important stage in your life. Be a vital, active member of the Christian community. Continue to live a life of Faith as you discern your vocation.

Troubies, the world, the Church, needs courageous, faith-filled young people, who are not intimidated in the face of difficulties, who face their trials with resolute calm, and keep their eyes and hearts open to reality, so that no one should be rejected who crosses your path. No one should be subjected to injustice or to violence, or deprived of human dignity, because you bring Jesus with you.

Troubies, I have great confidence in your heart, which is generous and compassionate. I know that you will not be closed to the cry for help of so many of your peers who also seek a meaningful life: who seek freedom, work, study, a chance to make sense of their lives. We are counting on your willingness, your commitment, your ability to face the important challenges, and dare to make the future one of hope because you know the world is a friendly hospitable place because there is a Divine Presence here. You are being sent forth to take positive, life-giving changes in the world.

Troubies, may you be ready for the fascinating adventure of life, that precious and incalculable gift that God places in our hands. You only have one life. Be a good and faithful steward of it. Go meet Jesus, be with Him in prayer, entrust yourself to Him, give your whole life over to his merciful love. And your faith will be a luminous witness of generosity and of joy that comes about in following Him, wherever He should lead you. PEACE BE WITH YOU!