Friday, May 24, 2013

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

When the summer Olympics came to Beijing, the eyes of the world were focused on China, which over the past decade has experienced unprecedented economic growth. This has thankfully lifted many people out of poverty, and will hopefully weaken the grip of Communism. At the same time, it has also weakened traditional Chinese attitudes and values. Life is coming to be seen as a race to get ahead of the next person. It’s every man and woman for him- or her- self. The result is that people no longer see other people’s problems as their problems, because other people are now understood, not as neighbors, but as the competition. Which is a real loss for Chinese society.

But what about our society? What’s becoming true for China is true, to a certain extent, for the US. Yes, we Americans can be very generous in helping others when disaster strikes. At the same time, we have a longstanding tradition of rugged individualism. Which in some ways can be a good thing! It can, however, corrupt our religion. For instance, many Americans believe that the phrase, "God helps those who helps themselves," is in the Bible. Yet not only are those words not in the Bible, they implies that God only helps those who help themselves, and only after they have helped themselves, which is absolutely, positively not true.

In addition, American individualism can warp the way we understand salvation. Many American Christians- including some Catholics- think that Jesus came simply to save individuals. They think: "I’m Christian, I’m on God’s good side, and therefore I’m safe! My soul is saved; too bad for you." The truth is, however, that Jesus came, not only to save individuals, but to redeem and restore the unity of the human race, a unity which is broken by sin.

In other words, Jesus died and rose so that we could be one again. Not just one with him, but one with each other. That’s why we assemble together at Mass each Sunday, instead of worshipping at home on our own. Christianity is not simply a matter of "Jesus and me." It’s much more a question of "Jesus and we."

This is because God is not simply a "me." God is also a "we." It’s this truth we celebrate today, Trinity Sunday. God is one; there is but one God. We don’t worship many gods! At the same time, we worship one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can understand God, therefore, as a "communion" of Persons who are perfectly and lovingly united as One. You and I are created in the image of this God. Unlike God, we ourselves aren’t a communion of persons. But we are persons who God intends to be a part of a community.

The three Persons of the Trinity are characterized by love and sharing. What belongs to one belongs to all. And what is known to one is known to all- they have the same agenda, they keep no secrets, they aren’t in competition, and they communicate with complete honesty. They are, in every way possible, united as One.

This unity is God’s experience of himself! And this unity is God’s will for the entire human family. This unity was God’s vision for us at the dawn of creation; to restore this unity was at the heart of Jesus’ mission; and it is hope for this unity that sustains us on our journey through life.

At the same time, while hope to enjoy this unity in heaven, God challenges us to work for greater unity here on earth. As Pope Benedict has written: "While this community-oriented vision of the "blessed life" is certainly directed beyond the present world, as such it also has to do with the building up of this world." To put it another way, God wants us to be concerned not only for ourselves, but also for others. "(Jesus)," to again quote the Holy Father, "commits us to live for others." But how can we "live for others?" There are many things we can do, of course, depending on the circumstances of our lives. But we have two primary responsibilities, which I wish to mention today.

First of all, we should be concerned for the material welfare of others, both at home and abroad. The humanitarian needs of our day are great, and are becoming greater. The head of the UN’s World Food Program has warned that rising food prices and increasing food shortages have created a "silent tsunami" of hunger around the globe. As Catholics, we should help, as much as we’re able. Some might object and say: "Hey, not all these hungry people are Catholics!" That’s when we need to remember that we don’t help hurting people, because they’re Catholic. We help them because we’re Catholic.

At the same time, it does matter when people aren’t Catholic, because the Church has been commissioned by Jesus to share with all peoples the truth, peace, love, forgiveness, healing, and hope that only he can offer. Sharing our Catholic faith is our second primary responsibility as people who "live for others." By sharing our faith, we help bring those in the human community into the Catholic Church, the community of the people of God, in which we become united with God, and each other.

You and I can be selfish people. It’s hard for us to think of others when we’re thinking only of ourselves. We need reminding of who we are sometimes. Thankfully, there’s a great way to do this. Whenever we make the sign of the cross, we call on the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This action reminds us that we belong to a God who is a community of persons united in love, who calls us to be a people who share that love in community. We’ll make the sign of the cross as we end Mass today; let’s make sure we don’t forget what it means after today’s Mass.

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