Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Sermon at Parish Mass, Trinity Sunday 2016

Proverbs 8.1-4,22-31             
Romans 5.1-5                         
John 16.12-15

How do you get to know someone? I mean really know someone, not just know about them. We can know interesting facts about all sorts of people, celebrities, politicians, football players, for instance. But we can’t claim that we know them, just because we know about them.
Think instead of someone you love, maybe a spouse or a partner, a parent or a child. Suppose you wrote down all sorts of facts about them, and gave the facts to someone else to learn. Would that other person then know the person you love, the same way you do? I doubt it. Knowing about someone is not the same as knowing them.
Each human person is unique and unrepeatable. And their human identity is a mystery, as indeed our own identity is a mystery to ourselves.
What does it mean to be human, to live, to be conscious, to love? Where do these things come from? Certainly, we cannot create them ourselves. They are mysteries that we receive, part of the giftedness of who we are. And mystery invites us to encounter, to communion. We can only really know the mystery of a person through love, in relationship, not simply by learning facts about them.
If that is how it is between human beings, how much more is it so between human beings and God.
How do we know God? God is the creator, the source of all being, the act of being in itself; we are but contingent beings, called into existence out of nothing from God’s sheer generosity alone. Natural reason allows us to deduce that there must be a first cause, a reason why there is something rather than nothing. This we call “God”, partly from want of any better word to call it. But the Creator is infinitely above and beyond the comprehension of creatures. To know God, to really know God as we know a person, we need God to come to us, to speak to us on our level, as a person.
And this God has done. All cultures and peoples have received some intuition of God, some partial knowledge. The Holy Spirit fills the earth and guides all people to the truth. But, in particular, God spoke and acted in the history of the people who came to be called Israel.
Their experience of God took many forms. It was the rage against injustice and exploitation that rose in the hearts of the Prophets. It was the burning bush that was not consumed, from which God spoke to Moses and gave no name, but simply said “I will be what I will be”. It was the wisdom of God, the order and purpose behind creation, of which our first reading spoke today. It was the “the sound of utter silence”, at which Elijah covered his face and was afraid. It was the dazzling visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel.
And then Jesus came among us, a human being who called God “Father” and said that the Father loved him. A human being who, moreover, said that he was the Father’s message of love, in person, sent into the world. “All that the Father has is mine”, he says, and the Holy Spirit “will take what is mine and declare it to you”
Jesus, the human being, is God come among us. In Jesus we see into the life of God. Through him, we see that God has been Father, Son and Holy Spirit from all eternity, a relationship of love and knowledge that is perfect and complete, yet still one only God. And God the Son has come into the world, and sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts, so that all human beings can enter into that relationship of love.
This is what Jesus promises in today’s Gospel reading. And St Paul comments on it in his letter to the Romans.
“We are justified by faith”, he says, and “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. “Justified” means to be in a right relationship with God, that is, to be in the relationship of love in which we can truly know God and be united to him. And this is grace, God’s gift to us. Human history has been tragic, the disaster of sin encompassing all the ways in which we resist God’s love and turn away.
We cannot put ourselves back in the right relationship with God, so God has done this for us, in Jesus. Jesus is both the Son of God from all eternity, and a human being born in time, one person who is both God and human. He is the fullness of God revealed to us where we are, in a human life. Through his life, death and resurrection God’s love enters our world and triumphs over sin and death.
And how are we to love God in return? How can creatures rise to the equality of love with the Creator? Paul tells us, we love God with God’s own love, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
It is love that enables us to know God, through God’s own love that has been given to us. And we know that God is mystery. All that we can say about God, however true, does not of itself lead us into the heart of that mystery. If human beings are mysterious to themselves, then that is but an image of the mystery of God.
The only way to know God is love, and this is God’s gift to us. We are reconciled with the Father through the Son, and the Holy Spirit breathes into us the gift of Divine love that raises us into the life of God.
The universe was created by love, and for love. In the mysterious depths of our being we bear the image of God who is love and relationship, deeper than all the desires and drives and impulses that rise unbidden to the surface, there still in spite of the wounds of sin and our wayward fallen nature. Jesus has restored that image in himself, and adopts us into his own nature so that we too can come to share the life he lives in God.
Our response is the prayer, love and worship that we offer, in Christ, with his church. Most especially we do this through the Holy Eucharist, the form of worship that Christ himself gave us, in which the Church becomes the image of God the Holy Trinity, many distinct persons participating in one indivisible Divine nature.
The love of God which surpasses all human knowledge draws us, in Jesus, into God’s very life. The risen life of Jesus opens the life and love of God to all people. In Jesus we have received the Spirit of adoption by which we, too, call God “Father”.

And it is that Spirit, in the risen Jesus, who enables us to believe and confess and love one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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