BOASTING IN THE HOPE OF GOD’S GLORY
Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (C)
May 30, 2010
Experience, it has often been said, is a good teacher. Personal experience separates the rookie from the veteran; the wise from the merely intelligent and school smart; the prophet from the charlatan; the genuine leader from the merely titled executive. Personal experience constitutes the “abundance of the heart whereof the mouth speaks,” and a deeply felt and personal intimacy and familiarity with someone or something is the only real passport to credibility.
The intellectual expert delivers facts and figures. One listens to him or her with respect. The personal witness delivers truth and doles out trust. One listens to him or her with awe. The former speaks from the point of view of learned facts; the latter from the point of view of lived experience. The former will most likely be accepted at face value, for whatever merit there is in what he or she says; the latter will definitely go beyond being merely accepted. He or she will most likely be believed, emulated, and admired. For in the final analysis, the preacher or teacher only delivers a message; the prophet delivers a whole lot more than just a message. He or she delivers life … life in its fullness … life as he or she has lived or experienced it first hand.
Today’s solemnity and the lessons it gives us, has to do with this lived experience, more than it has to do with a static – if, mysterious – doctrine. Doctrines come to us by way of propositions, theorems and treatises. Lived experience comes down to us by way of stories … stories that recount … stories that tell and retell feelings more than facts; convictions more than scientific data; and dynamic relationships more than static and stale statistical reports.
The Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity is one such story. It is a story of God Giving. It is a story of God Gifted. And it is an on-going story of God Gifting. It is a story so profound yet so real that the Book of Wisdom (8:22-31) can only gush poetically about Him who “was poured forth from of old;” “the forerunner of prodigies;” “first before the earth;” “who fixed fast the foundations of the earth.” The whole Old Testament is a testimony to this primordial story of God giving, God creating, God pouring Himself forth, God proffering life, God uttering everything to existence. “Let there be … and there was!” It was a story of God in action … a story filled with wonders and prodigies, marked by the magnalia Dei, the great and wondrous deeds of a God, who revealed Himself as Giver of everything that is good. “And God saw that it was good.” Rightly so, do we proclaim in today’s response: “O Lord our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth.”
The solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is also the story of God Given … It is the story of “peace with God,” “access to grace by faith,” and “hope of glory” given to us “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the story, now recounted by Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:1-5), himself a recipient of that Gift, a story of the “love of God [which] has been poured out into our hearts.” It is the greatest story ever told … “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son …” It is a story first told by angels to poor shepherds … a story that has changed the world forever.
But the story goes on. Today’s solemnity is also the story of God gifting, of God guiding, of God leading. It is a story of “hope that does not disappoint,” “because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” It is a story of everyman’s ongoing journey towards the fullness of truth. It is a story of everyman’s ongoing search for dreams and hopes yet unfulfilled. It is a story of everyman’s longing for fullness and definitive fulfillment … a story of hope that “when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide [us] to all truth.”
Biblical revelation simply recounts to us the story of this triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was first of all a story of God relating to humankind before it became a static report about “three Persons in one nature.” It was historical before it became philosophical and rational. It turned philosophical and rational precisely to make what was basically real and historical understandable to people who were far removed from the original story. But the Trinitarian mystery was, and is, all about the lived experience of relationality before it became doctrinal and dogmatic.
We need to re-appropriate this divine story of God giving, of God gifted, and of God gifting. We need to re-root ourselves to the lived experience of Christ, of Sts. Peter and Paul, of the apostles and of the saints. This is the only way we can make sense of our modern day history. This is the only way we can hew meaning, and carve out a meaningful finality to our earthly and human history – both personal and societal. This is the only way we can find direction amidst the confusion of today’s world.
I certainly do not intend to bore my readers to death, but let me introduce a phrase from long-standing tradition of Christian spirituality, a tradition that grows out of this marvelous story of God revealing Himself ad extra, that is, by relating concretely to us, His people, by His saving us in Christ, and in the Church … down through history … we need to cultivate and steep ourselves in a Trinitarian spirituality. We need to live and believe as we pray … as the Church prays. (Lex orandi, lex credendi … The way of prayer is the way of belief). Just look at how the Church prays … in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Both unity and distinction are preserved. The Church safeguards the unity, the oneness in nature, but also respects the distinction of Persons in God, who revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The whole Church does not feel the urge to crack open the code of the Trinitarian mystery. Quite plainly and simply, the Church just revels in, and celebrates this mystery. The Church simply allows herself to be drawn further and deeper into this glorious mystery of God’s love for all humankind. God, then, is not a mysterious code to be cracked (like the Da Vinci code), but a truth to be lived and experienced.
There, surely, is a long list of woes we can wallow in nowadays. No, I am not referring to the rising price of gas all over the world. Neither do I refer to what bothers most of us in the so-called free world – the ominous and ever-present threats of terrorism and large-scale violence. While they are part of our list that possibly grows by the day, what really stands behind all those worries and distresses of people all over the world can be reduced to one simple fact – the eclipse of God in the world today. The world is not only busy going about its daily affairs. In many cases, it is also busy doing away with everything that “smacks” of God, everything that has to do with religion. I know of one group whose overriding concern is to do away with any sign of religiosity in public places, which basically means, removing the cross in emblems and monuments, in halls and public open spaces.
On the personal side, as a priest, (trying hard to become a more credible prophet), I still grapple with cynicism and a whole lot of discouragement when I see all the goings-on all over the world, most especially in my country of birth. But on a day such as this, in my more quiet moments, when I think and reflect on a living and loving God, and His story of salvation, that still goes on, even now – a story whose ending can never be other than what He had planned, and paid for in His Son, through the Spirit, my heart digs deep and finds therein “reasons that reason itself does not know of,” (Pascal) and am led to boast, like Paul, “in hope of the glory of God.”
Is it any wonder that the ancient Greek Christians, hearing the story of the Trinitarian God, prayed in a manner that eloquently, though very simply, portrayed their faith in the one triune God: Hagios, hagios, hagios ho Theos! Hagios, hagios, hagios, ho Theos ho Athanatos! Hagios, hagios, hagios ho Theos, ho Ischyros! (Holy, holy, holy is God! Holy, holy, holy is God the Immortal One! Holy, holy, holy is God the mighty One!) Indeed, lex orandi, lex credendi!