Sunday, May 31, 2015

Living The Mystery

For centuries, the rosary has been one of the most popular forms of prayer for the Christian people. It allows us not only to invoke the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the repetition of the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be invites us to focus our minds on the mysteries of Jesus' life which we contemplate with each decade. As the rosary becomes more and more a part of our spirituality, the mysteries take on new meaning for us.  We begin to look at our own lives through the lens of the life of Christ. We see in our joys the joyful mysteries of Jesus' life playing themselves out. Our difficulties and suffering are transformed into moments of grace as we see the sorrowful mysteries of the suffering and death of Christ becoming a reality in our own journey. Through this powerful form of prayer, we learn that mysteries are not just doctrines we ponder in our minds with wonder, but realities that we are invited to enter into and live.

Each year we set aside this first Sunday after Pentecost to ponder the great mystery of the Blessed Trinity. We reflect on the nature of our one God who is three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There have been many attempts to try to explain this doctrine. Saint Patrick used the example of the shamrock which has three leaves but is still one flower. Sometimes the triangle which has three sides but is one shape is used as a symbol of the Blessed Trinity. One of the best examples is that of a family. A mother, a father and a child - though distinct persons - come together in love to form one family, one household. So God is a family, a community of persons marked by self-giving love. The mystery of the Blessed Trinity, in its simplest terms, is another way of describing our God as a God of love.

Like the mysteries of the rosary, the Blessed Trinity is a reality that is not just meant to be pondered but to be entered into and lived. Saint Paul explains how in today's second reading. The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, lives in our hearts and testifies to us that we are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. God has invited each of us to join the family of love that he is. We have been adopted by God so that we can share in the unconditional, self-giving love which the Father offers to the Son and the Son offers to the Father through the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Blessed Trinity is not just about the nature of God, but about how we are chosen to become part of the family that God is.

As we meditate on this mystery and enter into it, we cannot help but change. We begin to act like members of the family of God. If we were adopted by a king or a wealthy person it would no doubt change our lives. Because of the power and riches which would be at our disposal, we would no longer be happy with the simple life we lived before. It is just so for us when the reality of our adoption in Christ takes root in our hearts. We no longer settle for the fleeting pleasures this world offers. We no longer live and act like people who have no faith and no hope. Rather the knowledge that we are loved by God and are members of his family causes us to act with a certain dignity and a new purpose. 

Our ancestors in the faith, the Jewish people, understand this reality very well. As Moses describes it for us in the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, our Jewish sisters and brothers  understand that they have been chosen from all the nations on earth to be a people special to God. They look at their long history through the lens of God's saving power beginning with the covenant with Abraham, through their delivery from slavery in Egypt and into the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Because they are a chosen people, they understand that they cannot live the way other nations do. Rather they must live according to the Law which God revealed to them. They must show forth his justice and mercy by caring for those whom society casts asides and by turning their backs on all forms of permissiveness and immorality. Just so we who have been called out of the slavery of sin and given the Spirit of adoption must live according to the gospel message so that our dignity as sons and daughters of God can be shown forth to the whole world.

Because, by its nature, a mystery is impossible to fully explain or understand, ritual is at the heart of what we do as a believing people. Jesus and the apostles understood that if we were to participate fully in the saving mystery of the one God who is three persons, we would need something more than words to nourish our spiritual lives. For that reason, Jesus left us not only his teaching but the sacraments. In today's gospel Jesus commissions the disciples not only to preach the good news but to baptize the nations "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."  Through baptism, which is the first of the sacraments, we are adopted as sons and daughters of God. The other sacraments build on this reality. And so participating in the sacraments whenever possible is vitally important if the mystery of God's life is to become real in our own lives.

We bless ourselves "in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We offer the Mass to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Though we cannot fully explain or understand it, the mystery of the Trinity is woven into our lives as believers. It is nothing more or less than the nature of God whose love is so abundant that he welcomes us to share in his very life. It is an invitation which we first received at our baptism. We strive, with God's help, to respond to that invitation daily by living our lives according to the dignity that is ours as sons and daughters of God. Through the sacraments and prayer, we enter more fully into that mystery which is beyond words. And we live with an active hope that one day we will see God as he is - one God in three persons - and praise him forever.

(this homily originally appeared in Connect! magazine)

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