Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Community of Persons

Homily: The Most Holy Trinity – Cycle C
In my last semester of high school, I started to hang out with a classmate of mine named Bill Schmidtz.  Bill was an eccentric guy.  He had a great sense of humor, but was very intense.  It was either “off” or “on” with him, never in between.  This made him a lot of fun to hang around with because where my own inhibitions might keep me from expressing something as strongly as I might want, Bill would just let it fly!  Through our hanging out, Bill introduced me to one of his friends, Trisha, who proved also to be a lot of fun to hang out with.  Over a series of weeks leading up to our graduation—a couple of months perhaps—we spent a lot of time together: hanging out, joking, and enjoying each other’s company.
On one evening during this time, the three of us were at another acquaintance's house, hanging out.  Bill started talking about how cool he thought it was that the three of us were becoming something of an inseparable trio.  Then, in true Bill fashion, he took it to the next level, saying that we needed a name by which we would identify ourselves.  Of course, Bill had a name picked out.  He said, “We’re like a triangle.  We should call ourselves ‘The Triangle’”.  (As I said, Bill was intense... not the most creative, but intense.)  Being teenagers still and, therefore, still akin to lunging at silly things, I remember Trisha and I both agreeing to the name that night.  As the days and weeks went on, we had a lot of fun as “The Triangle”.
Soon, though, high school graduation came and went.  I would soon leave for Michigan to pursue my degree in engineering, Bill would begin his apprenticeship as a plumber, and Trisha had one more year of high school yet before she would graduate.  I’m guessing that it would surprise no one here if I told them that, as the members of “The Triangle” started down these different paths, this once-unified group of persons quickly dissolved into nothing.  24 years later, I don’t think I’ve run into or spoken with either Bill or Trisha.
So, why this story at the beginning of the homily on Trinity Sunday?  Well, because I think that Bill tapped into something fundamental when he recognized the bond, fragile as it was, that had grown between himself, Trisha, and I.  In calling us the “triangle”, he was recognizing what he thought was a completeness in us, just like a triangle is complete, in itself.  As the three points in the triangle, we had bonds of good will that, for a time, kept us together.  Those bonds proved to be somewhat superficial, however, and so they quickly dissolved once distance made it hard to stay connected.  Nonetheless, in recognizing the “community of persons” that these bonds created, Bill was projecting (somewhat unwittingly, I’m sure) an innate sense that, having been created in God’s image, we are meant to form these kinds of communities of persons: especially ones that are bonded together in deep ways.
Hopefully, at this point, you’re seeing where I’m going with this, because what I’m describing here is a faint reflection of what it is that we celebrate this Sunday: that God, himself, is a community of persons, who nonetheless remains singular in his being.  Just as the three points, bonded together by the lines that connect them, make the triangle; and just as the triangle dissolves into nothing if one of those points or bonds is removed; so God is whole and complete in himself as this community of persons, united in the bonds of their eternal outpouring of love.  If any one of these points is removed, or if the bond of love between them ceases to be, then God is no longer who he has revealed himself to be.  In fact, I’d be so bold to say that he would no longer be God, at all!
Having been created in God’s image and likeness, we are created to be a community of persons, inseparably united by the bonds of love.  This, in fact, is the reason for which we were created: to be one with God in the community of persons that he is in himself.  As little children use play to enter into the lives of the adults around them, acting as parents in make-believe homes and as professionals in make-believe offices, farm fields, and factories—instinctually knowing that they are destined to enter into that world someday—so we human beings know instinctually that we are meant to enter into that perfect community of persons in eternal life and, thus, strive to create that in this world by entering into exclusive unions with one another.  In naming our little trio, Bill was formalizing what we had done instinctually: formed a small community of persons.
Just as a child’s play in the world of adults quickly dissolves when it becomes work or simply uninteresting, so do many of these communities of persons into which we enter dissolve if there isn’t something substantial to hold them together.  “The Triangle” quickly dissolved because our bonds were our mutual enjoyment of each other’s company.  We didn’t know each other very deeply; and so, when distance meant that we could no longer enjoy each other’s company easily (that is, when it became work), we became disinterested and lost contact.
The three Persons of the Holy Trinity, however, are bonded by infinitely perfect bonds: the Father knows the Son infinitely and the Son knows the Father infinitely; and their infinite outpouring of love to each other bursts forth as a third Person, the Holy Spirit (who, himself, is infinitely known and loved by the Father and the Son and who infinitely knows and loves them each in return).  This Holy Spirit bursts forth so that the infinite love of these persons can be known and shared by all.
This last part—that who God is in himself allows that we could know and share in who he is as a community of persons—is our reason to celebrate and give thanks this day.  Every community of persons, even the community of persons that most closely resembles the Holy Trinity—that of the human family—is still, because of our limitedness as human persons, lacking the completeness that God is in himself.  Nonetheless, we instinctually recognize that we are made for that completeness.  If we could never achieve that completeness, however, then our lives would be a total frustration.  But God has made it so that we could enter into that completeness—a completeness that we lost in the Garden of Eden, but then was restored in Jesus Christ—and so, we can rejoice that the hope that we have instinctually of experiencing that completeness will not disappoint, as Saint Paul reminded us in our second reading, and thus worship God here with joy, in spite of whatever difficulties we may be facing in our lives.
Friends, this joy that we celebrate here today because of who God is in himself is the joy that we must take with us as we enter back into this Ordinary Time.  This is because, as missionary disciples of God, we must make this good news known to all: that God, perfect in himself, allows and deeply desires that we, his creatures, could know him and enter into his divine life and, thus, find our fulfillment.  And so, as we give thanks to him today in this Eucharist—itself a taste of this perfect communion with him—let us ask for the grace to make this good news known in our lives and thus make this earth a foreshadowing of the perfect community of persons we will enjoy in eternal life.
Given at Saint Mary’s Cathedral: Lafayette, IN – June 15th & 16th, 2019

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