Homily: The Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B
One of the fundamental questions of life is one with which both young and old struggle. Normally the question comes up during some sort of life crisis or during some “liminal” moment in a person’s life: in other words, moments when the future of one’s life isn’t clear and that person is faced with making a decision that will determine the course of the next stage of his/her life. That question? “What is the purpose of life?” Or, put more simply, “What am I here for?”
For the young, this is a vocational question, right? As we grow into adulthood, we all gain a sense that we were put on this earth to do something and that our task is to discover what it is that we have been called to do. Modern culture has made this difficult for young people because it tells them that there are no guiding principles on which to base your decision. “The sky is the limit” we tell them. “Follow your dreams” …even though we know that dreams are fickle and that not everyone has the capacity to reach the sky. It’s sad to see someone who has made it into their thirties, who has pursued their “dreams”, but yet finds him/herself adrift, still feeling like he/she doesn’t know what the purpose of his/her life is.
For the elderly, the struggle can be just as real. I’ve made it an effort during my time here to visit with our homebound parishioners and many of them express a feeling of purposelessness, too. They’ll say to me: “Father, I just don’t know why I’m still here.” They’ve worked, raised a family, and tried to be active in retirement, but now their health is limiting their ability to tangibly contribute to their community and so they start to question: “What am I here for?”
This latter case is a bit surprising as many of our older Catholics grew up in the Church that taught the “Baltimore Catechism” almost exclusively. This catechism provided the fundamental truths about life, about God, and about our relationship to him and the world in a straight-forward, question and answer format. One of those questions was “Why did God make you?” (In other words, “What are you here for?”) And the answer… does anybody here remember the answer? The answer is this: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” There it is, friends. This is our guiding principle. Simple, right?
Yes, it is. But we all know that when an unknown future or adversity squares its face against us that we can often forget this: the purpose for which we were made. In a sense, we “can’t see the forest for the trees”. Therefore, as we’ve returned to Ordinary Time after our long and joy-filled Easter celebration, the Church gives us this Sunday, Trinity Sunday, in order to bring us back to our roots and to help us step out on mission once again. In celebrating who God is, in Himself—three Divine Persons in one unified Godhead—we are reminded of that fundamental relationship that directs our lives: that our lives come from God and are directed towards God. Today’s scriptures reinforce this fact.
In our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites have been wandering through the desert for 40 years and are on the cusp of entering the land into which God had promised to bring them, and Moses exhorts them to remember who God is when they enter the land. He recounts how God had made himself known to them, his chosen people, by powerful signs and by leading them forth from slavery and he says, “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” In other words, Moses is exhorting them to know God; and to know him through the gracious way that he has cared for them throughout their 40-year exodus.
This, too, is how we come to know God: by remembering how he has worked: both in our own lives, those unique ways that his graciousness has touched each of us, and throughout history, starting with the Bible and the history of the Church, especially in the lives of the saints. This Trinity Sunday, we can commit ourselves to know God better by committing ourselves to studying the Bible and some of the great spiritual works of saints, both old and new. The spiritual biographies/autobiographies of holy men and women like Saint Augustine, Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Terese of Lisieux, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Saint Theresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II are just a few worth considering. Knowing God is the basis for loving God. Thus, this is an indispensable step to fulfilling our purpose in life.
In the second reading, we hear Saint Paul speaking about the “Spirit of adoption” that we have all received. He goes on to say that it is the Spirit himself that witnesses to the fact that we are now children of God. As adopted sons and daughters of God (and, therefore, brothers and sisters of Christ), we are endowed with the grace of being loved by God as his beloved children. In fact, as brothers and sisters of Christ himself—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—we are caught up in the eternal outpouring of love that the Father makes to the Son and the Son returns to the Father, and which eternally explodes forth and pours out into the universe in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we love God as Christ loves the Father: by receiving the love that is poured out to us and by returning that love with an outpouring of our lives. This love is expressed in adoration: which we can do privately, in our personal prayer time at home, lifting our minds and hearts to him, praising him for who he is and his glory that shines forth in the universe, and also publicly, like when we gather for the Eucharist or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. These are acts of devotion, sprung forth from our knowledge of who he is and of his great love for us as his adopted sons and daughters. It is this love for God that, then, impels us into service.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples the “Great Commission”. On this Trinity Sunday, we should certainly hear this command to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as a revelation of who God is, in himself. But in the context of this homily, it should also be heard as the commission to service. Having spent three years with Christ as he preached and worked miracles, then having been witnesses to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ’s disciples knew and loved him. Now, they were being shown how they would serve him: “Go and make disciples of all nations…” And that they did. With great love and devotion, they poured out their lives in service of the Gospel so that all peoples would come to know, love, and serve God in this world, and be happy with him forever in the next.
We serve God when we seek out the particular way that God has called each of us to fulfill this great commission and then strive to live it. When we know and, therefore, love him, we offer ourselves generously and seek a way of life that allows us to serve the building of his kingdom here on earth by working towards the good of others. For some that means clerical state (that is, priesthood or the diaconate) or the religious life. For most that will mean a career in some kind of trade or business and then, perhaps, raising a family. In all, the question is not “what do I want to do?” (because if you know and love God, you want to serve him!), but rather, “what is God calling me to do?” You will already know your purpose, but the answer to the latter question will show you how you are going to fulfill that purpose.
And if you’re elderly and you’ve completed your career and your children are all grown and off on their own and if your health doesn’t allow for you to participate much in the life of your family, parish, or community… what is your purpose then? It is still to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next. Living out the last years of your life still striving to know God and love him more deeply, and still striving to serve him by praying and offering your sufferings for the conversion of sinners and the release of souls from purgatory, you will be fulfilling your purpose in life and you will become a saint.
Friends, as we celebrate this great feast honoring God for who he is, in himself, may we commit ourselves to know him more completely, to love him more profoundly, and to serve him with our whole lives, regardless of the state in which we find ourselves; so that we, too, may one day share in the fullness of Divine Love that God is in himself: a foretaste of which we experience here in this Holy Eucharist.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 26th & 27th, 2018