+ Homily Outline +
Holy Trinity Sunday
26 MAY 2002
FR. RUSSELL ZINT
ST. MALACHY CATHOLIC CHURCH
Scriptual Reference: Exodus 34:4b-6,8-9; Daniel 3:52-56; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18

Who is God?

A presentation by Fr. Russell Zint

 

I.                   God is Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

A.             The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, built in the late 7th century, is the most ancient sanctuary of Islam. It sits on the site of the Jewish Temple mount of Jesus’ day. The Arabic inscription around the Dome reads, “O you people of the Book, do not overstep bounds in your religion, and of God speak only the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and his Word which conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from him. Believe therefore in God and his apostles, and say not Three. It will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it from his glory that he should have son.”[1]

B.            This ancient message indicates the complexity of the Christians’ Trinitarian doctrine and the lack of understanding that surrounds it. As people who are (or will be) baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is critical to investigate our belief in a Trinitarian God.

C.            “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity.”[2] Thus, the Trinity should truly be the cornerstone of every Christian’s life. The life of the Trinity is absolutely relevant to our lives here and now.

D.            But really, how much can we know about God? There is a tension:

1.              St. Augustine, a bishop of North Africa 1600 years ago spoke to the incomprehensibility of God. He noted that “if we have comprehended, what we have comprehended is not God.”

2.              But God does offer to us knowledge about his very life and being through Jesus. Our own Archbishop Daniel noted that, “the Trinitarian mystery may elude our full understanding, yet we can see a wonderful logic of faith, which is real knowledge. The coming of Jesus made that possible.”[3]

E.            Understanding how Father, Son and Spirit work together in creation will give us meaning and insight into our very own being.[4]

II.             God is the Creator of all things

A.            Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all involved

1.              Genesis 1:1 affirms that God is the creator of heaven and earth, i.e., everything that exists:

2.              John 1:1-3 describes how God created all things through the Word, namely His Son, Jesus

3.              The faith of the Church affirms the action of the creating Spirit in the formation of the world.

B.            The Fundamental Question: Why do we exist?

1.              God is full of love and that love exploded forth into creation.

2.              God’s creation of the world does nothing to increase His glory, but makes known to us his glory.

3.              The created world thus gives glory to God out of love for him. All of creation praises him.

4.              Pauline theology tells us that, “(God) destined us for adoption as his children that through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORIOUS GRACE that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6)

C.            God’s role in creation

1.              God creates the world in 6 days and rests on the 7th.

a)             The passages from Genesis very poetic passages describes God’s actions in creation; they are a story NOT A HISTORICAL ACCOUNT!

b)             The Catholic tradition of biblical interpretation does not obligate us to believe that God created the heavens and earth in six 24-hour periods!

c)              Pope John Paul II declared in 1996 that evolution can be congruent with our faith-beliefs given the following:

(1)            God is the initiator of creation.
(2)            God created the universe from nothing. God existed before all else.
(3)            God established the laws of nature that govern natural processes.
(4)            God ordered the universe in his own course of time, taking millions of years to form, landscape and develop the universe and the earth.
(5)            God orchestrated the creation of life upon the earth.
(a)            Modern physics hypothesizes that the universe is in a state of entropy, that is, that matter has a tendency to become disordered rather than ordered.
(b)            The odds that amino acids would randomly shuffle into an order which would produce life were one out of 10 40,000
(c)             It seems that there would have to be some divine intervention!
(6)            While the human body may have evolved gradually from pre-existing life, each soul is ‘immediately created by God’ in each person at conception.

2.              God sustains creation-Providence

a)             God created the universe in a state of journeying’ towards a perfection yet to be attained.

b)             The way that God directs this journey is called Providence. He is moving all of His creation closer to perfection.

c)              We cooperate with God in his plan to perfect the universe. God has made us his co-workers!

d)             The question of evil: why does it exist? See CCC no. 309 for an excellent response.

III.           God is self-giving

A.            To say that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is confusing. Doesn’t this mean that we believe in 3 gods?

1.              Theologians grappled with this issue for many centuries.

2.              Ultimately, they came to believe that there is ONE NATURE in God and that there are THREE PERSONS.

a)             Each person is identical EXCEPT for those characteristics unique to each person.

(1)            Father: unoriginate (agennesia)
(2)            Son: begotten (gennesia)
(3)            Spirit: proceeding (ekporeusis)

b)             For instance, you can say that the Father, Son and Spirit each are loving, creating and all-powerful. You cannot say that ‘the Father is the Son’ or the ‘Spirit is the Father.

B.            Why is it significant that our God is three?

1.              God, by his very nature, is COMMUNITY. The love that is shared between the persons of the trinity has been spilled and outpoured into the world and into our lives.

2.              The Trinity offers to us a model of living. Our lives are to be lived for the other.

a)             God the Father gave us Jesus his Son to save us.

b)             Jesus gives us access to the Father; he is the image of the Father!

c)              Jesus sends his Spirit to be with us and to sustain us.

d)             The Spirit draws us closer to Jesus and the Father.

3.              Some contemporary theologians draw from the tradition to speak in fresh ways about the Trinity:

a)             God the Father is the mouth from which comes the Word and the Breath.

b)             The Son and the Spirit are the two hands of the Father.[5]

4.              “IT IS PRIMARILY IN CHRIST THAT THE ‘TWO HANDS’ OF THE FATHER, THE WORD AND THE BREATH, ARE UNITED.”[6]

5.              Parents, in a particular way, can relate to the life of the Trinity by the sacrifices they make to bring to birth and raise their children.

C.            The lack of self-emptying love in this sinful world indicates just how relevant the Trinity is to us.

1.              Cardinal George of Chicago has said that most American Catholics are Calvinistic in attitude, that is, quite individualistic.

2.              Being one’s own person is good thing. To do this at the expense of everyone else in our community is not a good thing.

3.              Catholic Christianity, in its doctrine of the Trinity, stresses the role of the community in the development of the faith life. Faith is not simply a ‘me and Jesus’ phenomena.

D.            All creation is incorporated into God’s Trinitarian love. God’s love is shared within the Trinity and poured out for all of us.

E.            The mystery we behold here is a mystery of inexhaustible love!



[1] Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land, 4th ed., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 86. Emphasis added.

[2] St. Caesarius of Aries, as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 232.

[3] Daniel Buechlein, “Trinity is central mystery of Christian faith,” Seeking the Face of the Lord (Criterion Press: Indianapolis, 1999) 330.

[4] Yves Congar, The Word and the Spirit, (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1986) 4.

[5] Congar 15.

[6] Congar 62.



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