June 17, 2019
Paulist Fr. Rich Andre preached this homily on Trinity Sunday (Year C) on June 16, 2019 at St. Austin Parish in Austin, TX. The homily is based on the day’s readings: Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; and John 16:12-15.
Today, we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity. Today is a day to celebrate that we can always seek a deeper, more intimate relationship with God: God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Today, our readings highlight that God’s very essence is relational. In our first reading, God’s wisdom speaks as if it were a woman. She says that she was “poured out” by the Father before the world was created. In our second reading, Paul says that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” In our gospel passage, Jesus tells the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit.
The Father loved us so much that he gave us his Son. The Son guides us by sending us the Holy Spirit. The Father has poured his love into us through the Holy Spirit. Let us take a moment to celebrate the great gift of our intimate, vulnerable, merciful God!
One of the oldest passages in the New Testament is a Christian hymn quoted by St. Paul in the Letter to the Philippians:
Though he was in the form of God,
[Christ Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
This idea of Christ, the totality of the second person of God, “emptying” himself of his godliness to become human, is usually called kenosis in theological circles. Henri Nouwen wrote a whole book for professional ministers around the idea of kenosis. A minister, while still respecting professional boundaries, can “empty” herself of human expectations. A hospital chaplain, for example, doesn’t need to worry if a patient asks her to do something that doesn’t require a theology degree: she can interact with family members, friends, social workers, cleaning personnel, nurses, and even doctors, in service of the patient’s spiritual needs.
When we talk about human love, we can also think of it in terms of kenosis, an “emptying” of self for another. In marriage, couples give themselves to one another. In families, parents give their time, energy, and money copiously to their children. In our communities, we give of ourselves to one another when neighbors, friends, church members, and even strangers are in need. As Jesus said at the Last Supper, “There is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for [another person].” But it’s never an emptying of ourselves for the sake of emptiness; it’s to allow our hearts to be filled with God’s love and to allow our souls to be filled with God’s Spirit.
One of the truly unique things about the Christian concept of God is that relationship is built into the very core of God. God is one, but God is also a relationship of three persons. Each of the three persons loves and trusts the other two completely. The Father entrusted the care of the world to Christ. At Pentecost, Christ entrusted the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Franciscan Richard Rohr recently wrote a series of reflections on the beliefs of the early Church about the Trinity. He suggests that these ideas were later downplayed as the Church aligned itself with dominant political powers. Rohr wrote in his daily newsletter five and a half weeks ago: “God’s power is not any kind of domination, threat, or coercion…. There’s no domination in God. All divine power is shared power…. God is not seeking control, as we do, but handing on the power to the Other… – a giving away, a sharing, a letting go, and thus an infinity of trust and mutuality.”
So, this Trinity Sunday, let’s ask ourselves how we can better live and love as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit love one another. I’ve already mentioned examples of offering ourselves to others in ministry, in marriage, in parenting, and in our communities.
But we also need to willingly receive what others offer to us.
- We need to stop rejecting the compliments we receive. At GAP, we established a new rule a few months ago: if any of us catch someone else rejecting a compliment, we force that person to say two nice things about themselves before we continue the conversation!
- We need to accept other people’s generosity. Many of us love to give gifts and donate our time, but we bristle when other people do the same for us. Why do we deny someone else the opportunity to do as we want to do?
- Most damaging of all, many of us are unwilling to accept help from other people. We are quick to offer help to others, but we refuse to accept the help others offer us. As Paul reminded us last week, “if one part [of the body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts [should] share its joy.”
Stephen Sondheim wrote one of my favorite lyrics about this phenomenon: “Why is love so easy to give, and so hard to receive?” The solution to the challenge is simple: let’s be deliberate in accepting the compliments, the gifts, and the help offered to us. Our God is a God of loving relationships. Each of us are worthy of love, just as we are.
In that same newsletter I mentioned earlier, Richard Rohr challenges us to think of God’s power in a way that was more familiar to the early Christians than to us. He writes: “Trinitarian theology says that spiritual power is more circular [than] hierarchical. It’s here; it’s within us. It’s shared and shareable; it’s already entirely for us and grounded within us. What hope this gives!”
Or, as Paul declared in our second reading, “hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”