Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Proverbs 8:22-31
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15


June 2-3, 2007, Most Holy Trinity, Cycle C

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Just a simple prayer. The Sign of the Cross is one of the most fundamental prayers we pray as Catholics. It is one of the first prayers we pass on to our children. In words and action we profess the two most fundamental aspects of our faith. By our signing the cross we profess our belief in the paschal mystery of Christ: God became human, suffered, died and rose from the dead. By our words we profess our belief that our God, while being one God, is not monolithic. Our God is a community of persons in loving relationship with each other.

The mystery of the Trinity, three persons in one God, is something that we can never fully comprehend. As with all real mysteries we can only use poetic language, metaphors and analogies, to help us gain a small glimpse of what the mystery is about. We tend to think of the Trinity as an esoteric concept that was somehow handed down from God to the Church, fully formed and somehow complete. And therefore it is pretty boring and certainly completely useless as far as our day to day existence goes.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The doctrine of the Trinity did not spring forth fully formed but rather arose over time from the experience of the early church. Here is one way I have heard it explained.

The earliest Christians were Jews of course, and as Jews had a very rich and deep understanding of God as complete other. God was a God of majesty and power and glory and perfect goodness. God created all we see with a word. God controlled the heavens and the earth and exacted powerful justice. Even to see the face of God for a lowly creature meant annihilation for that unworthy creature. And yet God was seen at times as tender as a mother hen embracing her chicks.

Even hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the people of Israel had an experience of the interior life of God. In our first reading from Proverbs, we hear this expressed as the author paints a picture of Wisdom in playful relationship with God, delighting God and being delighted in God. While in most of the Wisdom passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, Wisdom is identified as the Word, or the Son in the Trinity, here Wisdom is clearly identified with the Spirit, the same Spirit or breath God breathed upon the waters in Genesis.

After Jesus' death and resurrection and then ascension, the early disciples came to understand that there was something divine about Jesus, initially seeing it in his post resurrection appearances but with years of reflection, they came to see that divinity in Jesus life and then his birth, and finally in his preexistence.

So the early Christians had this very deeply engrained experience of what we would call God the Father: creator, completely other, powerful and yet caring, a personal God who participated in history. They had a newly formed experience of God who became human and walked among them, eating, crying, laughing, and talking with them. This very personal human experience expanded to take in this experience of God called the Word or Wisdom. All of this we call God the Son who is Jesus but so much more than just Jesus of Nazareth.

And as the Church started to form, the early Christians had a very personal, very powerful experience of this life giving Spirit. From the Wisdom experience in Proverbs, to the force that had transformed them from timid fearful disciples to fearless apostles who proclaimed the Good News in the face of danger in the story of the first Pentecost we heard last week, to the constant and persistent guidance experienced by Peter and Paul and Barnabas, this experience of the Spirit was yet a third lived experience of God which we so blithely call God the Holy Spirit.

Our doctrine of the Holy Trinity comes from the experience of the early Church, experiencing God in these three very different ways. I would suggest that we have very similar experiences of God. We look at the grandeur of creation and experience in that grandeur the creative person of God, God who is so different from us and so powerful and yet so loving that all of this, at some level, is created for our appreciation.

We experience the nearness of God in Christ. Christ in the Eucharist - so close to us that he becomes us; Christ in this community, this family of God who care for one another in so many ways, as family, as friends, as neighbors.

We experience the life giving breath of the Spirit in our very drawing of each breath, but also in the urging that draws us out of ourselves into relationships with each other as spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends and neighbors. We also experience the Spirit in our seeking of truth and our yearning for understanding.

We are made in the image of God, male and female we are made in the image of God who is not one person but three. We are called to be in the same loving relationship with each other and with God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are with each other. Our origin is the love that is the life of the Trinity. Our vocation is to image participate in that love and in responding, to make that love real in the world. And of course our destiny is that love. Let us reflect on the real, personal, life changing experience we all have of the Trinity, every time we say that simple prayer.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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