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 Empty Tomb

The Resurrection of Our Lord

Easter Sunday, 2018

Acts 10:34,37-43; Ps 118; Col. 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9

Deacon Jim McFadden

 

Today we are celebrating the apex of the liturgical calendar: The Resurrection of the Lord is the be-all and end-all of our Christian faith. It really comes down to this: if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then Christianity is a fraud and a joke; if so, St. Paul reminds us that we would be the most foolish and pitiable of human beings. But, if he did rise from death, then Christianity is the fullness of God’s revelation, and that Jesus should be the absolute center of our lives because he is God among his people. There is no third option.

Moreover, we are not just remembering an historical event, but we are celebrating that the resurrected Jesus is forever with us. Jesus was not one and done in dying to redeem us, but desires to be an active part of our lives. Just look at what his Death and Resurrection has accomplished. By his death, Jesus absorbed our sin, died to it, and, in so doing liberated us from its destructive power. By his glorious Resurrection, Jesus opened to us a New Life, which is eternally grounded in the Triune God, who is Life itself. The Resurrection is the basis of our hope and, indeed, pushes us beyond the threshold of hope in which we will enjoy and participate in the Beatific Vision.

As we assemble here in this Easter liturgy, we are also proclaiming by our witness that the Cross was not the end, but a beginning: we are able to see in the final act of Jesus’ earthly existence a positive sign of hope. Why?   Because now we can draw the Crucifixion into the Resurrection; we can connect the two events. Jesus’ final journey into death tells us that love is victorious and that the risk of living a life of love is worth taking.

What do we have to justify this hope? The Empty Tomb. Let’s look at the Gospel account. Peter and John come running to the tomb after hearing that perhaps Jesus has risen. John, the Beloved Disciple, the human symbol of love, arrived there first. Peter, the leader of the community and our first pope, who is perhaps older than John, gets there later. John waits out of deference to Peter, the rock of the Church, and allows him to enter the tomb first. At first, they are only aware of is the empty tomb. That in itself is not proof of Resurrection.   The proof for them, as it will be for us, is their experience of the Risen Christ-the Jesus who lives.

            This is the key, brothers and sisters. Risen life is so much more than a happy ending to a tragic story. The greatest news is that Jesus is still alive! The tomb is still empty! He continues to live in our day every day; he continues to dwell within and among us.

Experiencing Jesus is, I believe, the only way we can know that Jesus is Risen, that He is Lord.  We can know him within the secret interior room of our soul, when we unite with him in prayer. Through prayer we enter into his very Being and we become transformed, little by little by that encounter and engagement. We experience Jesus within the Church assembly, as we see Jesus at work among the Communion of Saints here on earth. I’m not just talking about the public saints such as St. Mother Theresa of Kolkata, St. John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, but saints here at St. John the Baptist C.C. who lovingly serve as conduits to God’s grace brought about by the Resurrection of Christ. When we witness how Jesus is at work within his Church, his mystical Body, we enthusiastically witness that Jesus is Risen! When Jesus reassures us that “When two or more people gather in my name, I am there with them,” we respond with a joyful AMEN!

We also experience the Risen Christ sacramentally. While Jesus is available in them, he is Really Present in the Eucharist. When we receive our Lord in Communion, we consume his Body and Blood; in so doing, we receive his soul and divinity, which is transformative, provided we are fully, actively, and consciously participating in the Mass. Being fed by the Resurrected Christ, we then become Bread of Life to the world as we gratefully share what we have received in such abundance.

So, People of God at St. John the Baptist, as we “move, live, and have our being in the Resurrected Christ,” strive to live like Jesus, we become living icons to the world that Jesus Christ is Risen! As James reminds us in his Epistle, we must be more than hearers of the Good News of the Resurrection, but we must be doers. We are brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ, who is drawing all of humanity, all of Creation unto Himself. Let us act in every aspect of our lives that we know that Jesus Christ is Risen and is with us forever. Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Build a Better Tomorrow

4th Sunday of Lent (B); March 11, 2018

2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

Deacon Jim McFadden

 

“God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). These words should fill us with joy and hope as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises realized in the Resurrection. These words were first spoken to Nicodemus, who is a stand-in for us. He came to Jesus in the Dark, unwilling to be seen as a follower of the one they are calling the Messiah. Nicodemus is wrestling whether to stay in the Darkness or to embrace the Light of Christ in order to build a better tomorrow.

We all come to Christ from the Shadow: we have our doubts; we have our questions. We live in a society that every year seems to becoming more and more secularized. It ranges from the simple name changes–Easter vacation has become Spring Break; Christmas season is now the ubiquitous holiday season–to a society that focuses on the individual to the point of disregarding those in most need: the unborn, the young; the poor; the elderly. Businesses often exploit the poor and reduce human beings to “factors of production,” who can be discarded when cheaper labor may be found elsewhere. Some businesses in cooperation with governments tolerate the abuse of our environment, robbing future generations of the resources and quality of life they’ll need to live a decent and humane life.

But we can step out of the Shadow, because the word of God is a word of unbounded hope: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus is telling Nicodemus and us that there is a God who cares for us and who can make a radical difference in our lives and that of our communities if we accept His Son as our Savior. By believing in Jesus, we enter into a life shared with God and we have a life that is eternal, which is the foundation that gives us hope to build a better future.

Just as the Persian king Cyrus was called by God to allow the exiled Jews to return to Israel and to build God’s temple, we are called to embrace radical transformation of ourselves and our world. We know that such rebuilding can happen because, as St. Paul reminds us, that “we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). We know that God actively dwells within the hearts of people who put their faith in Christ. We have been reborn in Baptism, we have been made into the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are united with our brothers and sisters throughout the world as the Body of Christ. And, we know that as believers of Jesus we are called to acknowledge the power of his presence within us and our Church and to share the gift of his love and forgiveness with the world. As believers of Jesus, we readily accept His Mission: to become messengers of that merciful love within our families, parishes, schools, and workplaces—in fact, in every sector of social and political life.

People of God, now is the tough part: like Nicodemus the Gospel is challenging us to take action. “And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light, and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God (vs 20-21). It is not the time to think about or talk about what we believe but to live passionately its truth. Truth is something we do; it’s a lifestyle. We believe that Truth is a Person; when we live the Truth, we are living in Christ and that relational Power can transform us and our world. We are being called to embrace the gospel of doing—of walking in the Flesh of Christ.

When people see us, they should experience a community of unbounded hope because we know that God promises us the strength to realize the Gospel promises. As St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading, God created us in Christ Jesus “to live the good life”, a life of good deeds in accordance with his will (Eph 2:10).   Jesus

has given us his commandments to love God without reservations and to love ourselves and others not as a burden or barriers to overcome, but to liberate us—to be a source of freedom. As we abide in Christ Jesus, as we come out of the Shadows into His Light, we will become men and women of wisdom, we will be teachers and doers of justice and peace. We will believe in the goodness of others from conception to natural death.   We will be instruments to promote the Common Good. God has created us to do this and we should not be afraid to be builders of a better tomorrow!