Monday, May 28, 2018

Father Riley's homily from Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018

TRINITY SUNDAY - B - 18          JOHN 3: 1-17

Today the Church celebrates the mystery of the Holy Trinity. It is the single doctrine of the Christian faith that separates us from the rest of the world’s religions.

The gospel passage for today takes us back to an earlier period in Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Lord is engaged in a conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus under the cover of darkness. Darkness verses light is a major theme of John. The subject is “rebirth” by the Holy Spirit of God, and through the waters of Holy baptism.

Nicodemus begins the conversation by complimenting Jesus, “rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus’ response appears to ignore the Pharisee’s compliment. Instead, Jesus confronts Nicodemus with a challenge to his intellect.

“You can’t see the kingdom of God,” Jesus says, “nor can you enter it” without having been born of water and the Spirit. It is a birth that comes from above. The Pharisee cannot wrap his mind around the concept of being born again Jesus is presenting. Birth to his way of thinking is strictly physical. “How can these things be,” he asks.

As the old priest used to say, Nicodemus has both feet firmly planted in this world. He is up to his armpits in mud. Jesus chastises him in response. “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” “If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

What is it that bridges the gap between what we see and seem to understand that is real and tangible in this world that surrounds us and what is not seen and understood concerning God and His kingdom if it is not the gift of Faith?

Each week we stand as the Body of Christ and repeat the words of the Nicene Creed as a statement of what we say we believe about God. Contained in the very first paragraph are the words, “we believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. The “seen and unseen” includes the Holy Trinity as defined by the Creed.

True we cannot see the Holy Trinity. Faith bridges the gap between what we can see and what we can believe. Nicodemus struggled to understand and believe in what Jesus was telling him concerning the Spirit of God and the concept of rebirth.

“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it,” Jesus told him, “but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus was bringing “light” into the “darkness” that surrounded them, as He brings light into the darkness that surrounds us. He is the Light of the world. However, Nicodemus’ inability to receive the teaching Jesus was giving him concerning the Spirit and the Kingdom of God left him in the dark.

The Holy Trinity is a mystery. Theologians throughout the ages have attempted to explain it in terms that can be easily understood. Yet the concept of the Three in One remains a mystery. God is mystery.

We cannot see the Holy Spirit, but like Jesus told Nicodemus concerning the wind, we can see the effects of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who have been reborn by God’s Spirit.

We cannot see Jesus, as those who lived when he walked this earth, who heard him preach and teach, who watched him perform miracles, but we can know Him and we can see Him in the lives of those who believe in Him and who have chosen to live their lives following his teachings and commandments.

We cannot see the Father, the creator of heaven and earth, but we see His hand at work in the world around us. Faith is God’s gift to those who believe. Jesus said in another place, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Faith opens our eyes to believe in what we can see and what we cannot; to what we can easily understand and what remains a mystery concerning God.

Faith enables us to stand each week and recite the ancient Creed although none of us can understand with our finite mind the infinite it contains. Yet, through Faith, we can profess to believe all that is says about God.

God has given us the grace not only to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity but to keep us steadfast in this faith in order to worship the mystery of the Three in One; a presence we can know and feel. We can feel God’s presence through the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who teaches us what is right and true.

We can know and feel the Love of God, the love He has for each of us, and for the world, which He has made, for it was the Love of God, Jesus told Nicodemus that sent him into the world in the first place, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.

In Him we have been buried and raised to new life, reborn, through the waters of Holy Baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ’s forever.

Jesus is the Light and the Life of the world. He has come and continues to come in order to scatter the darkness that creeps into each of our lives threatening our faith; a darkness that likewise threatens the life of the world.

It is His risen presence that gives us the Hope of new and unending life in Him. For we know, as St. John tells us, that for the Love of God He came not to condemn the world, but through Him the world might be saved. AMEN+

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