Sunday Word

Wondering

Father Ben Berinti
Sunday, June 7 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9; Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18

When it comes to Trinitarian talk, things quickly can become ethereal, abstract, and not to mention, heretical. Even some of our most popular symbols and catechetical stories surrounding the Trinity, albeit quaint, teeter on the edge of unorthodoxy. All in all, once we get beyond the simplicity of making the sign of the cross as the on-button for prayer, the climb up “Mount Trinity” can be steep, dizzying and fairly stuffy.

That’s why I have always enjoyed and kept close this description of the Holy Trinity by the great German mystic Meister Eckhart: “Do you know what the Trinity is: God laughs and creates the Son. The Son laughs and creates the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit laughs and creates us.”

Far removed from theological calculus and dusty tomes, Eckhart reminds us that ultimately the Trinity is a relationship of love, of beauty, of creative energy, and yes, even of laughter, which always feeds the soul. While I certainly have waded my way through ponderous reading concerning the Trinity, I find the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a truth of faith, a way of speaking about the unspeakable, a way of grasping the ungraspable, as ultimately something to approach with wonder rather than knowledge.

The Word of God for this solemnity dances, hand in hand with each person of the Trinity, and invites absolute wonder that God chooses to be in intimate communion, intimate relationship, not merely within the Godhead, but with humanity and all of creation. Father, Son and Spirit, dwelling within a divine community of mutual self-giving, welcome us to make our home within their community of love, so that might “live and move and have our being.”

Moses speaks about God, although cloaked in cloud cover, as “coming along in our company, going with us” on the journey. Offering the Trinitarian formula as a blessing, the Second Letter to the Corinthians acknowledges God’s love for us when we live the life of the Trinity, namely a life lived in mending our ways, encouraging one another, and living in peace. Finally, the Evangelist John testifies to God’s ultimate desire for us, in a passage made universally famous eons ago when it (John 3:16) was flashed on signs at a Dallas Cowboys football game: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” not to condemn the world, “but that the world might be saved through him.”

The poet Mary Ruefle shared during an interview that she “would rather wonder than know. I think wondering is a way of inhabiting and lingering. There seems to be more dwelling. To dwell, inhabit and linger. I’m interested in those things. And you can do that when you don’t know.”

As we celebrate, in the words of Meister Eckhart, the life-giving laughter of the Most Holy Trinity, perhaps we can avoid the dusty tomes, and ponderous homilies that insist on teasing out the finer points of dogmatic theology, as well as move beyond our often perfunctory signs of the cross and oversimplifications of the nature of God. Perhaps rather we can immerse ourselves in the sheer wonder (not knowledge) of God, as we join in the laughter of God and simply dwell, inhabit and linger with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who surely seek to dwell, inhabit and linger with us.

Father Berinti serves as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Melbourne Beach.

Come, Holy Spirit, come

Father Alfredo Hernandez
5-31-2020
Pentecost Sunday Acts 2:1–11; Ps 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34; 1 Cor 12:3b–7, 12–13; Jn 20:19–23 For the Extended Vigil Gn 11:1–9; Ex 19:3–8a, 16–20b; Ez 37:1–14; Jl 3:1–5; Rom 8:22–27; Jn 7:37–39 (with Psalm responses)

When I was a little boy, my dad would play a game with us when he came to a red light. He’d say to the stoplight, “I give you to the count of three to turn green: one… two… two and a half… three!” And always the light would turn green. I thought he was so smart and powerful. Only much later (maybe a couple of years ago) I figured out that when he saw the light on the other side turn yellow, he knew our light would turn green momentarily.

As we prepare for Pentecost, we can feel as if we are praying for something we know we are going to get. We know that the Holy Spirit is coming (even more surely than my dad knew the light was going to turn green) yet praying for the Holy Spirit to descend upon us and fill us with His love benefits us, for when we beg Him to come we are showing Him how much we need Him.

I encourage you this weekend to spend some time with the readings assigned to the extended Vigil of Pentecost (which is actually modeled on the Easter Vigil). These readings help us to reflect on three things: one, our need for the Spirit; two, how His coming was announced in the Old Testament; and three, what His role would be in the Church.

Focusing especially on the reading from Ezekiel (Ez 37:1–14), the prophet speaks directly to the dry bones he sees in every direction — the bones of Israel’s people in exile. Yet, as in the time of Ezekiel, our current world has its own dry bones that need to be spoken to and addressed. The world now attempts to confront the long-term economic and social effects of a terrible illness. Society searches for truly meaningful values, longs for relationships that have a clear direction, and experiences the loss of moral anchoring. Some of those who mourn the loss of family members lack a clear sense of the human vocation to eternity. The Church, aided by the Spirit who groans within us (cf. Rom 8:23), prophesies over those modern-day dry bones with the words of Ezekiel: “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (37:4).

When the COVID-19 shutdown began, some dioceses were hoping that the celebration of the Easter sacraments (postponed from Holy Saturday) might be done in the context of a beautiful liturgy of the extended Pentecost Vigil. While I doubt many parishes in the world will be able to celebrate this extended celebration, to pray longingly for the coming of the Spirit (as that vigil invites us to do) is good nonetheless. In a particular way, we ask for this gift especially for those who were hoping at this past Easter Vigil to be baptized, confirmed, and make their First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil or to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. These catechumens and candidates still await beautiful moments of grace, as do the children whose First Holy Communion has been postponed and also the young people who await the gifts of the Spirit at confirmation. In addition, we pray for young couples whose weddings have been postponed or celebrated in very different ways than they planned as they seek to establish true domestic churches of their families. We pray for transitional deacons from around the state of Florida (and from around the country and world) who had their ordinations to the priesthood postponed and are looking forward to the beginning of their priestly ministry. With and for all of these people, we say this weekend, “Come, Holy Spirit, come!”

God the Father wills to pour out upon us the Spirit of His Son—the Holy Spirit who fills us with life and restores our hope. We beg that Spirit to fill each one of us and to fill our Church with the love of God. There are many reasons to feel dry—and even dead and buried—like the “dry bones” that Ezekiel sees. Indeed, there has been much death in the world in these last months. Yet we hear the Lord say to us on the Vigil of Pentecost, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the Land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!” (Ez 37:12–13).

On Pentecost, we will need to talk about all the work we have before us as Catholic Christians: individually, in our parish communities, and as a universal Church. Yet this work can only be brought to fruition with the aid of the Holy Spirit we receive, empowering us to do great things in a changed world. We hear this first great work of the Church described in the first reading for the Mass during the day on Sunday: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim,” (Acts 2:4). The Church’s work, as it has in every generation, is empowered by the same gift of the Holy Spirit.

Before we get to Sunday, though, perhaps it would be good to live out this weekend in expectation of the great gift of Pentecost. We know the Holy Spirit will come (just as my father knew that the red light would turn green), and yet we still must pray. This weekend, our task is simply to pray as Mary and the Apostles must have done before the great rush of wind came into the Upper Room: “Come Holy Spirit, come!”

Hope is the most important message the Church can announce

Father Alfredo Hernandez
5-24-2020
Seventh Sunday of Easter Acts 1:12-14; Ps 27:1, 4, 7-8; 1 Pt 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a

A question that I am afraid to ask Catholics is whether Jesus is still human in heaven. Beginning in Holy Week and throughout this Easter season, we have celebrated the whole mystery that Jesus—by  his suffering, dying, rising, and now ascending into heaven —has taken the humanity he shares with us all the way to the throne of God. The answer that today’s Solemnity of the Ascension gives clearly is yes — Luke tells us in in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus (the one who died and rose from the dead) was taken up into heaven. Matthew gives us Jesus’s last promise to his disciples: “I am with you always, until the end of the age,” (28:20).

This year, in which Lent and Easter have been the strangest of times, hope is the most important message the Church can announce. We are not alone. As the beautiful hymn of the Easter season says: “Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now. Alleluia! He is near us; faith believes, nor questions how. Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er, shall our hearts forget His promise, ‘I am with you evermore’?” We are not left as orphans; Jesus is with us evermore because he has taken our humanity to heaven yet also remains with us in the Church. He keeps his promise.

Today all of us are in the position of the disciples whom the angels told to stop lollygagging by looking up into the sky but to get to work. Many of us have been in forced isolation for a couple of months now. Many are afraid because of concerns about illness, economic stability, or many other reasons. We might ask ourselves what we can do that will make a difference. At a time in our world where we seem much more likely to look for an earthly savior or at least for someone to blame for our problems, our task is not to look back nor even to look up into heaven but to look forward and, full of hope, get to work. With the power of the Holy Spirit (whose coming at Pentecost we will celebrate next week) we are called to be Jesus’ witnesses, just as the apostles were called to be right before the Ascension.

We are not orphans. Jesus is with us here on earth—in in our families and in the Church. We do not belong just to the earth. Jesus has taken our humanity into heaven: “And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way,” (Eph 1:22-23). May the hope of this feast help us to do what we need to do today, trusting that Jesus is with us now and that he is our destiny in heaven.

A week before the seminarians and resident faculty at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary began our fifty days of self-imposed quarantine, Father Jacques Philippe (a great spiritual writer of our age) from the Community of the Beatitudes in France gave a providential address to the seminary community. He said: “We need to welcome as an angel of God those who frustrate us and our plans. If we have too many plans, the Holy Spirit is flying around looking for a place to land, not finding any.” The angels who told the disciples to stop looking up into the skies and get to work tell us to stop relying on ourselves and on our plans and trust that Jesus is in heaven and he is with us. We are filled with hope because he keeps his promise by the power of the Spirit he sends to us—that same Spirit who wants to find a place to land in us: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops