My dear friends in Christ
Grace and Peace to you in God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ in the Power of the Holy Spirit on this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. We give thanks this day for the revelation of God, which has made clear the divine and subtle mystery of the Trinity. This mystery is definitely one of those that defines who we are as Christians. To my knowledge No other religion in the world, believes that, without compromising the unity or the “oneness” of God, God is also a trinity of persons. We do not have three gods nor are Father, Son and Holy Spirit merely three names for the same person. God has made clear through Jesus that he is one God in three persons. In some ways, it would be a lot easier if we simply talked about God and ignored this dogma of our faith because of how difficult it is to explain. It would be easier if Jesus were merely a prophet, perhaps the greatest of all prophets, sent by God to open revelation to all the world. Unfortunately, it would also mean that we are not justified in the eyes of God and, thus, not saved. Or, it would be easier if we simply believed, like the ancient Greeks did, that the angels were gods so that there are innumerable gods capable of doing whatever we ask of them. But then we would face the difficulty of determining whose god is the strongest. This could be the source a very entertaining reality show but, thankfully, is not.
In the most recent round of sexual abuse, I’ve heard a rather consistent and somewhat disturbing message being spread. It is said that the Catholic Church has good people but a bad hierarchy. I remember reading a New York Times op ed forwarded to me by a staff member at St. Thomas that expounded this opinion. I can understand the frustration that would lead a person to believe it. As I said at the Holy Thursday mass, I feel a certain amount of sympathy for people who are really struggling to have trust in their bishops. I was ordained in the middle of the mess in Boston and there’s a part of me that worries about what you all are thinking every time I reach out and pat a kid on the head or get a hug from a grade schooler.
Yet, one of the realities of having one God in three persons is that it means that community and relationship are at the very center of our Faith. The persons of God are in relationship to one another just like we are in relationship to one another. One formula that I heard in seminary was that the Father loves the Son and the Holy Spirit is the love that binds the two. The Holy Spirit’s love does not destroy the individuality of the Father or the Son but amplifies it so that it spills out into our lives. The Trinity’s relationship built upon love is, thereby, communicated to us, the faithful, in our daily lives. We are called to live lives that value community and take us away from selfishness.
Part of living a life of community is, to use a word coined by St. Paul in the second reading today, affliction. Relationships are wrought with affliction. It could be the affliction of being a teenager and wishing you had more freedom or the affliction of watching your teenager make bad decisions. It could be the affliction of watching an aging parent grow old and feeble or the affliction of job loss. It may be the affliction of being part of a church struggling to deal with sexual abuse or the affliction of hearing an Archbishop tell you that he needs you leave the parish you love to take on a new assignment. If we try and deal with this affliction alone, it is meaningless. When we do so from the perspective of Christian Community, from the perspective of being the body of Christ, then our affliction connects us to the Hope of Christ in Faith. And, as St. Paul reminds us, Hope does not disappoint.
Part of why we have a Christian Community, a church, to guide us that is hierarchically ordered is to keep us united by the wisdom of God. I love the first reading today which describes wisdom as existing before and during creation; joyfully playing at the foot of God and finding delight in the human race. I think this is why Jesus, in the gospel, tells us that the Spirit’s main job is to continue the wisdom, the truth, that he has begun to give to the Apostles. The Apostle’s job was to teach the truths revealed by the Holy Spirit to their successors, the Bishop’s. Yet, wisdom’s job is not done and there is always more clarification that needs to be done. We certainly need to pray for our Bishops as they struggle to understand the best way to deal with this latest round of sexual abuse. Yet, I would hope we can all see that, even as hurt and upset as we may justifiably be, we shouldn’t go to the extreme of getting rid of part of our community because they have caused us affliction. To paraphrase St. Paul again, let us pray that affliction leads us to endurance as we put up with unfair stereotypes and oppression and that the endurance leads us to the proven character of being the first large institution to deal with sexual abuse in a way that protects people and that this proven character will give us hope to help others. Because, truly, hope never fails.