Thursday, May 19, 2016

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Trinity C, Beverly Bingle RCWP

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
Last week I went down to John XXIII parish for a daily Mass
and heard Fr. Herb Weber comment
that Trinity Sunday inevitably brings
the worst homily of the year, every year.
I think I know why.
The doctrine of the Trinity puts God in a box.
We've heard the explanations.
Three persons in one God.
Like a triangle with three sides, still one triangle.
Like a chicken egg, with a shell, a yolk, and a white, still one egg.
Like an apple, with skin, flesh, and seeds, still one apple.
Like water as ice, as liquid, and steam, still H2O.
And, of course, like the three-lobed leaf of a shamrock…
thank you, St. Patrick!
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Doctrines like the Trinity develop from an experience of the divine,
an original encounter with God that a person tries to talk about.
We memorize the doctrine,
but we can't let the understanding
of one person or one time period
become the litmus test of our faith.
Our faith will falter
if we try to rely on somebody else's description
of their experience of God's presence.
It's not enough.
It's not ours.
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As our understanding of the world grows,
as our time in history changes,
as our life situation develops,
so must our understanding of God
grow and change and develop.
What really matters is
not how they described their experience of God
but how we experience the presence of God.
That's not to say that we can't learn from our ancestors in faith.
We do.
Hearing how they have experienced the divine
can help us recognize God in our own experience.
Take the Sign of the Cross, our declaration of trinitarian faith:
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
That's foundational.
But we experience God's presence
in more ways than that trinitarian formula.
One of my favorites is Luke 13:34,
where Jesus laments over Jerusalem, saying
“...how many times I yearned to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings….”
So we may experience God as a Father… and a Mother,
as the source of all being, gracious mystery, creator,
the almighty one, sustainer, nurturer,
divine presence, perfect love.
We may experience Jesus as the Son of God… and as the Christ,
our brother, teacher, friend, healer,
judge of the living and the dead, Messiah,
companion on the way, love.
We may experience the Holy Spirit as the giver of life…
and as Paraclete, helper, advocate, consoler, inspirer,
enlivener, breath of God, indwelling love.
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I find it telling that, in all of the Hebrew scriptures,
the word “father” for God is barely a whisper,
used just ten times.
And the word “trinity” is not found anywhere in the Bible.
The first recorded use of "trinity"
was by Theophilus of Antioch in the late 2nd century.
He defined the Trinity
as God, God's Word, and God's Wisdom Sophia
in the context of a discussion of the first three days of creation.
Half a century after that
came Tertullian's defense of the Trinity
against the Praxean heresy
that said Jesus was the Father incarnate.
But Tertullian's argument against Praxeus suggested
that the Son was subordinate to the Father,
which was later judged to be a heresy of its own.
The struggle over the Trinity went on.
By the 12th century, people were commonly describing God
as both father and mother,
notably the abbot Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century
and the abbess Julian of Norwich in the 15th.
Some of Julian's views were not typical.
She wrote of the Trinity as a family,
with God as the father
and Jesus as both brother and mother—there's that hen again!
Discussion went on and on over the centuries,
eventually giving us what we have now,
the requirement of Roman Catholicism
that we believe in the doctrine of the Trinity.
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It's pretty obvious from that bit of history that doctrine develops.
How that fits
with the teaching that revelation is over
is instructive.
St. Thomas Aquinas taught—back in the 1200s—
that revelation ended with the death of the last apostle,
about the year 100 AD.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church unequivocally states that,
after that time, “There will be no further Revelation.”
What we don't usually hear about is that the Catechism,
in the very next sentence, goes on to state that
“even if revelation is already complete,
it has not been made completely explicit;
it remains for Christian faith
gradually to grasp its full significance
over the course of the centuries.”
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So we continue that age-old quest for the living God.
Revelation is not over.
God is not dead.
Each time we read and ponder the scriptures,
each time we pray,
each time we reach out in love to another person,
we see God revealed anew,
among and within us,
here and now.
Glory be to God!

--
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

www.holyspirittoledo.org

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

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