June 7, 2020
In recognizing this feast of the Holy Trinity, today’s homily will have three parts. Not three homilies, but three parts which are all connected to make up one homily. The parts are:
1.Racism is a symptom. 2. Praying from the heart. 3. The indwelling love of the Trinity.
Let us first consider some key phrases from today’s readings:
“This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.”
These words of Moses come after he has brought from the mountain the SECOND set of tablets of the 10 Commandments. In calling the people ‘stiff necked’ He was using God’s words to describe the Israelite’s shortly after they had fashioned the golden calf while they were waiting for Moses to get the FIRST tablet of commandments. God and Moses were taking too long, so they invented their own God.
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.
St. Paul is describing the prescription for living in love and peace: Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and (then?) the God of love and peace will be with you. Actually the God of love and peace has always been with them, they have just not been tuned in. When he tells the first generation of Christians to agree with one another, he’s saying agree with the Lord and the apostles he has called to lead His Church. THEN (they will know or experience that) the God of love and peace is with them.
Gospel: Jn 3:16-18
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Here we are reminded that EVERYONE who believes will have eternal life. It is further emphasized that the WORLD might be saved through Him. It doesn’t say anything about race, color, nationality or religion. It appears that everyone in the world needs to be saved. And then it says that those who do not believe have already been condemned. As in the reading from 2 Corinthians, those who do not recognize and accept the primacy and order of God in their lives, the ONE who came to save them, are already condemned to chaos, violence and all forms of disorder. They are condemned to a Godless world; hell.
Now to start the homily:
1.Racism is a symptom. I think the devil is ecstatically happy with our controversy about racism. He loves it when all the networks, cables, churches and government entities argue, fight, and dialogue over racism just as we have for centuries. Many of us can still remember riots and demonstrations in the 60’s about racism and some of the resulting civil rights legislation. We have since had a black president or at least a half-black president. (Remember Barack Obama when visiting Ireland proclaimed himself a ‘son of Ireland’). We still do not seem to have even come close to solving something called racism. Perhaps a deeper discussion is needed.
I think statistics bear out rather objectively that people of color experience poverty, unemployment, underemployment, incarceration, homicide, domestic violence and sickness at a significantly higher level than white people, generally and collectively speaking. If a large group of people in the United States actually believes that large groups of people are victims of racism then, as Christians and especially as Catholics, we need to take them seriously. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to argue endlessly about racism.
God has sent us into the world to teach the nations the TRUTH. Maybe we could start with the idea of Tribalism. If we go back far enough in our own histories, I strongly suspect that we all came from tribes. We would probably see that we were perpetually fighting with the tribes next door. We fought over land, hunting grounds, water, ego; we stole each other’s women to make up for high death rates in child birth and to widen out the gene pool. We stole each other’s horses and jewelry and anything else we should rightfully possess when someone else was in ‘our’ space. OUR space, wherever we came from, tended to grow if we were strong enough. Most often an endless array of origin mythologies and religious beliefs gave us a moral right to take what was ‘rightfully’ ours, even if THEY had it first.
Most of the people getting killed in the Middle East are Arabic Muslims getting killed by a different tribe of Arabic Muslims and every conceivable combination. When they kill each other are they racist? Are they tribal? Are they sectarian groups? It seems that when white people kill Arabs, they’re racists. When Arabs kill white people, they’re terrorists. When the Commanche fought the Apaches were they racists? When the Pawnee and Sioux fought each other was that racist conflict? No, they were tribal? Was that OK? How about the Japanese attacking Viet Nam and China? Was that racist? When the French occupied Viet Nam, was that racist? When the Germans attacked the French, was that racist? Tribal? When Hispanic and Asian gangs battle it out in a major US city, is one or other of the groups racist? What if a White and Native American police patrol are called into pacify the neighborhood wars for the third time in one week and somebody gets shot? Who is the racist? How do we sort out the good people from the bad people? We humans have some serious ‘survival of the fittest’ issues.
If as Christians we are true to our calling that came from Christ Himself, then we do not have the luxury of wallowing in these smaller ‘isms’ for too long. We don’t get to hide in arguments about racism, or conservatism, or liberalism, or feminism, or mysoginism (?) Misogyny or even environmentalism. All these ‘isms’ tend to identify ourselves in opposition to someone else who needs to be reformed. This is by design of course because it keeps us from looking at the bigger problems or the bigger reality. Conveniently, it also helps us to avoid looking honestly at ourselves which is the great human terror. This makes the devil very, very happy!! (The devil also wants us to believe that liberalism is the cause of abortion. That makes it really easy, but that’s a topic for another time).
Part 2 of the homily.
The real problem is the wounded, confused, frightened, disordered state of the human heart. This problem afflicts everyone in the world which is why Jesus came to save the world and then He sent us to all nations.
Recall that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the heart is defined as:
2563 … the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
2564 Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man.
Now we are veering into part 3 of the homily which is flowing back into parts two and one. The indwelling love of the Trinity.
Prayer as communion
2565 In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is “the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity . . . with the whole human spirit.” Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ. Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his Body. Its dimensions are those of Christ’s love.
These paragraphs from the catechism are rich and complex and should be read meditatively and prayerfully. Perhaps the covenant most people are familiar with is the covenant of marriage. In the sacrament of matrimony the man and the woman, the husband and wife, both make the same promise to be faithful in all circumstances until death do they part. They make an exclusive, total gift of self to each other: body, mind and spirit. During the Sacrament of Matrimony we call in the Holy Spirit to be especially present to the couple during the ceremony and throughout their lives. The demands of this covenant relationship are not possible without the Holy Spirit.
In the Trinity the Father has made a total gift of self to the Son and the Son in turn has made a total gift of self to the Father and the love between the two is the Holy Spirit. A covenant relationship. [All the power and authority of Heaven have been given to me (from my Father). Mt 11:27; 28:18-19; of course the whole of the gospels show that Jesus was obedient in giving His will completely over to the Father even unto His death. Jesus was faithful in good times; when He was receiving adulation and esteem while teaching with authority and working great miracles that changed peoples’ lives. In bad times; when He was being ridiculed, rejected, manipulated, tortured and ultimately killed. The mutual self-gift of the Father and the Son in union with the Holy Spirit was fruitful and generative in that the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit spawned the Church and its eventual spread to all corners of the world. This union has the same dimensions as the sacrament of matrimony].
As it alludes in the Catechism above, we are called into this indwelling love of the Trinity by our Baptism and more fully in Confirmation.
Without this relationship we cannot be our true selves. We have no authentic identity outside of this covenant relationship. We must know our own hearts at this deepest level of knowing and then be in relationship with others who are making the same effort. THEN we can go forth to our tormented and afflicted brothers and sisters of all tribes. THEN we can teach the love, peace and agreement called for by Paul today in his letter to the Corinthians. And we can do so mostly with our example.
Next week is the feast of Corpus Cristi or the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ and we will further pursue this idea of prayer as covenant, especially in relationship with the Eucharist.