Over the many years I have served as a priest, one thing that always amazes me is that no one can really look ahead and see what lies ahead for them. I think today’s first and third readings tell us this fairly clearly today. First, we see Samuel sent to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse with a horn of oil to anoint the next King of Israel from among Jesse’s sons. With a sacrificial banquet prepared Jesse presents seven of his sons starting with the oldest. Samuel was drawn to the sons, and even had a favorite, but each of the seven presented were rejected by the Lord as the chosen one. Only when Samuel asked, did Jesse say my youngest is tending the sheep. Yet, the youngest and least of his children was the one chosen and who during his life and for all ages would be remembered. God chose him and remained with him through his good times and even his times of unfaithfulness for the good of Israel. Why David? Only God could say.
Next we come to man born blind in the gospel today. He like the homeless and other victims of our society that we so often pass and really do not see as we busily pursue our lives, even today in our modern times. Unlike his disciples who were quick to equate his blindness to sins of his parents, Jesus paused and said this man was chosen to show Christ as light of the world. Sickness, blindness maladies had nothing to do with sin. The man before him had an intrinsic value, and so it is for every human being in God’s creation. Once again the weak, the person set aside is chosen to be a lesson for God’s kingdom. Again we are reminded, no part of creation is insignificant.
The real lesson for us today, is that God does as he wills. He chooses whom he wants and sometimes confounds us by whom he chooses. It is why his church is a community and in Baptism we all share in the priesthood of his cross and resurrection. His Spirit works through the whole body of the church from the least to the greatest. Yet, in actuality there is really only one Great one, and this is the Body of Christ. This is why we must remain open to the Spirit, open to one another in all things. Christ speaks to all of us in many ways. Whether we be the least or possibly the greatest we need always to be open to the Spirit and hear his Word.
I think that most of us take for granted the water we use and drink on a daily basis. For us it is so easy and accessible, we only need to go to the next room to get it. How many of us remember that the human body is 55 to 60 percent water? Without water, a person is going to die. Lack of water is a real crisis in parts of the world today. The first reading relates a crisis among the Jews today. All of a sudden they regretted their freedom because they didn’t have any water. With Moses intervention, they received their water. A lesson here would be that sometimes a solution to one problem will create another. Faith requires a certain steadfastness and remaining true to a commitment.
The Gospel speaks of water today, most especially, “living water”. Living water is life-giving, thirst filling water refreshing body and soul. This life giving water Jesus speaks of is for the soul and for the giving of eternal life to all. All humanity seeks and looks for a fulfillment of their life and reason and understanding for living. Christ living water is God’s love coming and embracing women and men to come to an eternal life with God. The living waters of Baptism fills up the Spirit and forever slakes the thirst of the believer. Regardless of whether there was ever a Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus still gave us the living waters of Baptism and opened us up to a pathway to his Father. Taking stock of our faith and Baptism is a good way to prepare for our upcoming Easter celebration.
Holy Trinity, 5-22-16, John 17:12-15, Romans 5: 1-5, Ps 8: 4-9, Proverbs 8: 22-31
This celebration of The Holy Trinity has never been something I really looked forward to, mostly because I have never heard an explanation for the doctrine of The Holy Trinity that really satisfied me. It has always been a mystery for me. It has been like wandering in a big dark cave with a little flashlight.
These days, the bookshelves are increasing filled with books which not only don’t explain the doctrine, but instead point out the difficulties or fallacies the author finds in it. They find some example of how The Holy Trinity seems to be self contradictory, or seems to have gaps in understanding. I come away thinking either it’s just too deep for my brain, or else it is an elaborate excuse for not understanding God at all. Then, people ask me to explain it. So I avoid the question by preaching on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. At least with that, I’m on really solid ground!
But this past week I read something that made sense, so I want to share it with you. John Foley, a Jesuit, wrote this: “…the Triune God is not some kind of brainy speculation by scholars. It is simply the way we experience God in the world. Christian living is the Trinity in action.”
I work with a young mother whose parenting style I really admire. She and her husband just came back from a week in Disneyland with their 5 year old daughter. She has high expectations of this little girl, and teaches her very traditional values of respect and obedience. But she deeply loves the child and is very attentive to her; she is lavish in her praise and rewards for good behavior. This mother enormously enjoyed the week in Disneyland because she saw it through her child’s eyes. She was not concerned with how Disney designed or constructed the place, or with the reality of the Disney stories or characters. Instead her eyes were open to the charm of the buildings, her daughter’s delight in meeting the characters, the details of the presentation, and the wonder of it all.
From that perspective, I ask you, what is wrong with finding a way to express how we experience God in our daily lives, without focusing on what we don’t yet understand about Divinity or without trying to put some rigid human imprint on God? In fact, isn’t it very right to take great delight in how God creates a myriad of ways for us to experience and rejoice in divine love, grace, mercy, and companionship? Isn’t it exactly right to fill ourselves with the experiences of God as God comes to us, and then have that fullness to take into our needy world?
Someone once wrote that God is not like a blind date, someone we might wisely be a little guarded with. With God, there’s no need for precautions to safeguard ourselves. We do not have to arrange a time and place to meet; we don’t have to struggle to make ourselves more attractive than we think we are. We don’t have to find a dating service to test us and find someone “compatible”. God is never darkness, always pure love, and finds us beautiful from the moment our first cells are created. God is available 24/7/365, never on vacation, never holds a grudge and always forgives us. We can argue with God, because God is always right and patient with us. God will never stomp away, disgusted with us, wanting to leave us for someone else. How do we know this? By the way God self-reveals to us – in our experience and in the experiences written down in scripture. We share the miracles we experience and our revelations of God with others, and we discover that God is forever finding the perfect way to reveal who the “Great I AM” is at any moment.
That is exactly what our scriptures tell us today. Proverbs presents Wisdom as a woman, with God from before the creation of the earth, who was God’s craftsman (participating in the act of creation). Wisdom is God’s delight, and who delighted in being with God, and who found delight in the people that God made. Meditate on that one!! This is not your old stogy idea of Trinity, but draws an image of a God full to the brim of joy and creativity, of delight and companionship, who gives us the best and the most in our world. If you read the rest of that chapter in Proverbs, you find the Wisdom of God calling to us. She reaches out, ready and able to teach us, to give us understanding, and to fill us with her treasures. That may not be what you’ve heard in some Trinity Sunday homilies, but I beg you – read it again and take in the deep, deep love and longing that God has for us.
The Psalm is a reflection on the works of God we see around us and how God self-reveals in our world. Who are we that God should be aware of us? Yet God made us little less than gods, and allows us to rule over his creation. We are not puppets or toys; we are “of” God.
John speaks of how God guides us and gives us direction and understanding. In today’s language, we will get the memos, we are in the loop, we get the word straight from the top. There are no barriers between us and administration, we are valued, we are part of the family, and we will receive an inheritance.
In Romans, Paul says this in a more tradition way. He reminds us that God has chosen to free us from sin and guilt, that we are in peace, not contention, with God, and faith brings us grace and hope. Like Paul, we can experience the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God proved this love through Christ’s death on the cross even while we were not yet willing to trust in God’s love. Now, forever changed by this Love, we boast of God, whatever our circumstances, because the hope God gives never disappoints.
All of these writings reveal God in different ways, and your experience of God may be different still. But the love and goodness of God are consistent through all the ways God is revealed. The more we open our eyes, the more we see of God in our world, despite the evil that God allows for the time being. So if we experience the revelation of God in our world, the next logical question is, “Does the world see God revealed through us?” That, my friends is where the celebration of the Holy Trinity ultimately leads us.
Holy Trinity is the name of our parish and I think we take the name and accept it. I think we forget it is one of the oldest dogmas or doctrines of our church. But the Trinity is much more than a doctrine or a dogma. The Trinity is the One God, three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or as some say, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier. In some ways we can understand it, but ultimately it is far beyond our ability to know and to understand.
We know God existed before creation of anything three persons One God. His love of his creation brought his Son to share his love and open life for eternity. His Son in giving what his Father gave, gave the Holy Spirit to complete and fulfill God’s action in the world to bring all into one with Him. His creation thus was somewhat like a circle going out and creating and embracing and bringing all together. But it is not something we see, or even imagine or conceive. The depth of God and eternity and infinity and even time itself far and above our abilities even though all kind of men of scholarship in various disciplines over the centuries have struggled to see and understand. Believing and knowing these things by faith is how we take comfort in our church and beliefs. It is in our faith that in the sacraments we have a sincere and intimate relationship with God. His Spirit is within us and His church and brings all humanity each in their own faith and love and understanding to God. Eternity, God lie ahead of us like a crown or a jewel to be gotten at some time in the future. What we will look like or how the generations of humanity can come together is well beyond what we can know or see. Yet, our faith tells us it is so and we know as our earthly time progresses, God does look after us although even there the twists and turns of life and times are not always what we expect. Yet, God looks after each and every one of us, to each of us He is our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. It is what we believe, what we know.
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all I have told you.” These words are woven into Jesus’ message of love and peace to all his disciples. His followers have received a very special gift and teacher, namely the Holy Spirit, God himself. We see early on the apostles themselves learned a lesson themselves in their first dispute about requiring gentiles to be circumcised. Coming together, it seems that the Holy Spirit invoked common sense in enlightening the apostles that to be a Christian did not mean that someone would have to become a Jew. Their mission was to all, Jew and Gentile, a mission of faith and love, not at all related to nation or race. It was a real first lesson that men should not be too quick to judge and impose beyond what is truly necessary for true faith and love. How quick can any of us be to judge and consider that something is necessary or has to be done when in fact we have no idea of all conditions and circumstances. Laws and rules and traditions are meant to serve humanity and not the other way around. When they get in the way of belief there is a problem. The same problem comes about when we forget to respect other’s belief or their conscience. How many men of conscience in history met ignominious judgment only to be exonerated years later because the matter was not wrong. To stand for justice, the poor, or any other things Jesus taught is still not a popular thing. Jesus told us the poor would always be with us and we still need to care for them. Even today, we seem to forget or put aside the marginalized.
Beyond that, the Spirit is present to help and guide us today in ways unknown before. As humanity and knowledge and science advances, so does how we as Christians adapt to the times and circumstances of here and now. Not many Christians today are Shepherds or farmers or fishermen. Economic conditions, actual living conditions vary greatly throughout the world, but how quickly do we judge and relate only by what we see and live ourselves. Violence, war, hatred, thirst for power and all the imperfections of humanity remain and some lessons have been learned. Being open to the spirit means to live and learn and love and assist others without willing or imposing our own ideas and values on others. Learning what Jesus taught and what He said in today’s gospel: “Peace I leave you”, is urgent, but I ask, can we find that peace if we fail to love as he loved?
Today’s gospel seems for a moment to be out-of-place. Suddenly we are brought back to Holy Thursday and the last supper. Judas has just left to betray Jesus, and we see he is aware of what is coming. He knows that his death is imminent and would glorify his Father. Like anyone taking leave, Jesus at that moment was troubled and concerned for his disciples. Strikingly, Jesus here in John’s gospel sums up what he has been about before his final discourses at the last supper. With such short time, He gave one command, love one another. Loving each other as he loved them is what makes them his disciples. Faith and love go hand in hand. Love is what sets a person apart and makes them stand out. In earlier times when Abraham and Moses encountered Yahweh and the commandments were given, love then was the center yet over time and centuries humanity would seek the convenience of making rules and laws to make it “easy” to follow. In Jesus’ time the law had in many ways come to obscure what Yahweh originally intended and possessed an importance above and beyond the good of a person and the people themselves.
Jesus himself condemned the leaders who were bound up in ritual and rules and anything that pushed the people away from God. Their office and position had become so important to them that like their ancestors before them a prophet bringing the word of God was scorned and driven out and even killed. That is why Jesus had to emphasize his command at that most troubling moment for him. The command to love is eternal. Love was present before the world began and it will continue into eternity and never end. It is a seed planted in every being and grows and blossoms only insofar as we nourish it and fertilize and water it, so to speak. God’s love is open to all, at all times and is ready to receive us when we properly dispose ourselves for him.
As believers, we should work to never forget this and remember that loving means many things, but never should it mean that it places something in the believers path to God. Rank, position, function, all are eclipsed by the fact that there is one Lord, One God. We are all called to live and work and pray together for what we seek. God want love, not buildings, laws, unhappiness, or violence or hate. His mark on the earth is love and our mark and seal is that we love one another.