As I started to try to pull this Homily together, it occurred to me that perhaps it has already been given – perhaps it started with my homily on the 4th Sunday of Easter but was completed by Fr. Rene on Pentecost (tribus perfecta est). Today, the liturgy of the word and those three little questions - who do you think you are, what do you think you are doing, and what has gotten into you - can take us to a Trinitarian understanding of our faith.
As Christians we experience a great paradox. A bit of a tug of war between aspects of God revealed in our life, particularly by the practice of our faith, and aspects of God that we do not understand. The theological words we use to describe this paradox is a tug between what’s imminent – what we can see and comprehend - and what’s transcendent – when human concepts fail.
You can see the awe and struggle in the first reading: “ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of?” When we can’t quite grasp the “why or the how” of something we don’t often handle this well.
Pope Benedict, in a teaching on the Israelites prevailing on Aaron to make a Golden Calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, says the Israelites didn’t abandon the Lord – they just couldn’t cope with an invisible and mysterious God. They wanted to bring God down to their level – to something they could see and understand. This is a perennial human tendency. In our own insecurity sometimes, we try to be god of our little world. But Scripture tells us this: we are fearfully and wonderfully made - God brought us into being. We are children of the Father, we are daughters and sons of God, we have been brought into being by the God of the universe – we were a “thought in the mind of God” that has now become incarnate in the world. If you can grasp that- that’s great for you. But, you don’t need to understand it– it is transcendent.
In Christ, it has become very, very real - very immanent. In Jesus, God’s Word took flesh as a son of Abraham. And Jesus reveals in the Gospel today that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and that He desires to make all people His own. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
In each of us, the transcendent become immanent through the Holy Spirit. The second reading – St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, says “when we pray, the spirit of God in us makes address God as Abba, Father.” Paul is writing this letter in Greek. Yet he includes the Aramaic word Abba and then gives us the Greek word Pater (Father). These words are not identical in meaning, so he retains both terms in his letter. Father – yes God is our Father, but He is also Abba. Abba implies tender, intimate family relationships. This term for the relationship between God and his people is not found in ancient Judaism. We come to discover, in Christ that we are not only God’s creation but we His are beloved children and, to show this, He entered the world by Himself becoming human, relating to us in every way, then sacrificing that very humanity by experiencing death, conquering death for us, and redeeming everything lost in the Garden.
This question “Just who do you think you are”, key to all the others, and is answered in our second reading: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Through this first question, we learn of our relationship with the Trinity as God a loving Father.
What do you think you are doing? Well, that is always a good question, but the Gospel today give us an answer to that question: it tells us what we ought to be doing – about the responsibility that comes to us with the knowledge of our identity - bringing the love of God into the world – furthering the kingdom, making disciples of all nations. As a Deacon, one of the great joys I have is to literally follow that Gospel imperative in the Sacrament of Baptism – baptism in the in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But how each of us make that baptism a reality for the world? We do this by “teaching [the world] to observe all that [Jesus] commanded [us]” we do this by our word and by our actions. Every time we bless ourselves with the sign of the cross, we become a living icon of the Trinity in the world. We profess that God is a community of love which has been extended to the world through each of us, His children.
Let’s look again at the second question. Paul says in today’s Epistle. As God adopted Israel, God gives us the Spirit by which we can know Him as “Our Father.” As God’s heirs, we receive the commissions of Moses and Jesus today… we receive the commissions of Moses and Jesus today! And that is to extend the Kingdom into the world - a kingdom that manifests the very identify of God - as a circle of relationship – as a community of love. We are called to feel Jesus’ own pain for the hurt in the world and to bring his healing through the power of the Holy Spirit. What do you think you are doing? Hopefully teaching (by your words and example) everyone you meet, all your family, all you friends, every stranger you meet, to observe what Jesus commanded us – love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. Through this second question, we learn of our relationship with the Trinity as loving Son who entered the world to save us but also to call us to join Him in that effort.
Just what has gotten into you? From our second reading, we know that God gives us the Spirit by which we can know Him as “Our Father.” Because the Spirit has gotten into us, we know Him. We celebrated this at Pentecost last week. We know from the Gospel of Jesus that this relationship transcends time and space – “…lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” He delivers us from death to live forever in the promised land of His kingdom. We know that through the Holy Spirit the very love on God dwells in us, a love that elevates our humanity - we come to share in Christ’s divinity just as he humbled himself to share in our humanity. Through this third question, we learn of our relationship with the Trinity as God the Holy Spirit. Each of those questions is addressed by the personality of God in the Trinity.
Today at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we share the divine nature of Christ through His Body and Blood. This is an intimate reminder of how deeply God loves us, how He chose us, from before the foundation of the world, how he rescued us from exile to sin, and how he has provisioned and empowered us by His Spirit to be His children who bring his kingdom into this world.