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The Trinity

AMDG       Homily given in the Holy Name Manchester, 12pm,        22nd May 2016

rf_detail_176_0There is an assumption that every preacher dreads Trinity Sunday – how can we speak about the inner nature of God?  How can we talk intelligibly of this ultimate mystery?  Human Language always fall short…..  but I think that this is an unhelpful attitude because God desires for us to know Him.  In Jesus Christ, in the incarnation, in the second person of the trinity – we see that God longs for us to know Him, God longs for us to grow in discovery of Him.  This is the great adventure of life …..  Knowing God …… moving closer to that ultimate mystery of being .

As we grow in knowledge of God, that desire to know is transformed into a desire to love God.  Knowing becomes loving, curiosity leads us to adoration. I consider the best place, not the only place, but the best place to go on this journey of knowing and loving God, is here in the Catholic Church.  If the fundamental task of every human being is to know, love and then serve God than the Roman Catholic Church is the best place to live that adventure as we have so many wonderful guides who have gone before us.

Pedro-Arrupe-at-prayer11Fr Pedro Arrupe, who was the General of the Jesuits about 40 years ago, talks about this adventure in a beautiful way –  “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

This striving to know God has led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Church Father, Tertullian, provides us with the first recorded use of the word Trinity in the third century.  God is One and Three: He is not an eternal solitude; rather, he is an eternal love that is based on the reciprocity of the Persons, a love that is the first cause, the origin, and the foundation of all being and of every form of life.

295px-Kircher-Diagram_of_the_names_of_God

Athanasius Kirchers – Names of God in Oedipus Aegyptiacus

But nowhere in Scripture do we find God calling himself the “Trinity.”  However the Trinitarian understanding of God is not something that we have figured out by ourselves.  If we ask ourselves “Is this the way Christ spoke?” looking at the stories from the Gospels, we can confidently say – yes.  We recognize that we he often spoke of the Father – doing his Fathers business, being with his Father, in today’s Gospel        ‘Everything the father has is mine’  and also of sending the Spirit – ‘when the spirit of truth comes’ Today – On Trinity Sunday, we praise God for who he is not merely for the wonders that he has worked.   The names that we give to God, names like “All Good” or “Perfect Being,” contain truth but are not complete. Knowing God’s name is an essential part of that journey of our life.  And we see how God reveals his nature through the life of Jesus.

So God is three persons – but one substance – consubstantial as we say in the Nicene Creed.  This unity is engendered by love, Trinitarian unity, is a unity more profound than the unity of any building stone, it is a more profound unity than in a material sense.   This is why unity is so important – and when we damage that unity – through Gossip, through attacking other Catholics,  through criticising the Pope, whether through our words or what we write online,   even when we refuse to attempt to understand those who are different from us – we are working against that divine unity.

This love than cannot keep to itself, this love which flows out, that breathes the Spirit, is Communio-logodynamic not static.  God in the Trinity is closer to us than our heart beat, and we are called to share in this community of Love. When we look at our community, formed from people from all over the world – who have travelled to study and teach here, to live in this rainy city of Manchester – the ‘communio of the Trinity’ is our touchstone.   In a culture that is stretched by globalization and blighted by individualism, we are called to offer a witness of community and in beautiful way of koinonia, of communion. This reality does not come ‘from below’ but is a mystery which, so to speak, ‘has its roots in Heaven,’ in the Triune God himself. We express that communion, sacramentally every day – but also through our living together, our eating and celebrating together, the work we do for the poor.

The more we love like this and the more we share our lives – the closer we come to living this mystery of self-giving and reciprocal love that God offers to us in his very being.  If you can help us build up this community you are helping is to contemplate the very heart of God.

idiotsinviteR2WAMDG
This week I had  two experiences that provided a very important juxtaposition. The cold, grey, elitist world without God where the weak are trampled on, and a vibrant, love filled world where the weak are cherished and God is at the center…..   On Monday night I was debating a very pleasant Humanist Minister on Ummah TV ( A Barelvi Muslim Channel).  The worldview that the ‘Humanists’ offer is limited by a hyper-rationalism….  which not only is misleading but is also dangerous.  This was put into perspective very powerfully on Weds night when I attended a screening of a new film called ‘The Idiots’  which tells the powerful life story of Jean Vanier and his life among the disabled.  The life of Jean Vanier and the work of Larche paints a powerful picture to why we need to resist ”scientism” and the ‘Humanist’ world view.
 —
preview_become_weaker_wide_quoteThe film – first.  As a young Canadian naval officer he was invited to live in a house for the disabled by a French Priest. This changed his life and since then he started the L’arche movement which currently has over 130 communities in 32+ countries, including a recently opened home in Bethlehem. Awarded the Templeton prize of £1.7 million last year, Vanier is recognised by many as a living saint, in fact his parents have the process towards beatification already open. But his experience of embracing the weakness of the most vulnerable in our society has a prophetic role in a society which is attempting to eradicate weakness through genetic engineering, pre-natal screening, creating the perfect baby etc.  What is beautiful about the film the Idiots – it is never patronising, it never glosses over the reality, but the joy and the love is palpable.  Here is link to their website where you can see a teaser for the film …  The Idiots – R2W Films .  Hopefully it will be on general release soon.
 —
maxresdefault (1)On Monday night  I was on a Muslim TV Channel debating with a ‘humanist’.  A charming gentleman but I challenged him over his hyper-rationalism.  The problem is that it is over-reductionist.  A technique that was revolutionary in the science lab – and had amazing results and great discoveries … now has now been applied to the much more complex world of Human Existence. Rationalism has developed its own extremism which in the US is referred to as ‘Scientism’….   Many great errors and disasters have come from an excessive faith in pure reason.    The French Revolution which brutalised French society with the pretense of recreating a new Society based purely on reason, Social Darwinism influenced the Nazi desire to create the Master Race, Communism socially re-engineered a new generation ‘The Soviet Man’ .  I know here in Manchester the students talk about an orthodoxy in life sciences which for example promotes (unchallenged)  the weeding out of Down Syndrome Babies.
This is is why we need Jean Vanier – the Prophet of Weakness.

AMDG

cannonizationThere are a small group of students and myself getting ready to travel to Tanzania and help out at one of the Jesuit schools in Dodoma.  Tanzania is a relatively stable country in East Africa thanks to the legacy of their great president at the time of independence, Julius Nyerere.  Amongst that generation of independence leaders in Africa,Kenyatta,  Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe – Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere stands head and shoulders above them. He became a Catholic at the age of 21, and when independence came in 1961 it was achieved without bloodshed, partly due to Nyerere’s widely recognised integrity and respect and also his good relationship and co-operation with the British Governor Sir Richard Turnbill.  Although many would argue that his policy ‘ujamma’ (extended familyhood) was economically disastrous, as were his links with Mao’s China.  However he relinquished power peacefully, unusually for that generation of leaders, and although Tanzania was a poor and one of the least developed countries in East Africa, it was peaceful and has since proven to be safe from the bouts of tribal violence that have affected surrounding countries and is threatening to rear its ugly head again in neighbouring Burundi.

The capital Dodoma is in the center of the country (275 miles away from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest and richest city and economic hub).  Nyerere moved the capital from Dar to Dodoma in 1974 in order to create a centralising force in the country to unify the different tribes so they didn’t feel isolated from the coastal Dar.  In January 2005 the Catholic diocese of Musoma opened a case for the beatification of Julius Nyerere. Nyerere was a devout Catholic who attended Mass daily throughout his public life and was known for fasting frequently.  Last years visit by Pope Francis rekindled hope that Nyerere may be one day declared a saint – link.  The Jesuits have established a parish and schools in Dodoma, and when I used to visit with groups of sixth formers from London we would stay with the Jesuits and help out in the school. The last time I went in 2011 we were privileged to have an exclusive interview with the Prime Minister of Tanzania Mizengo Pinda.  Pinda, an ex-seminarian would attend Sunday Mass at the Jesuit Parish and then had the reputation for being clean, and straightforward.  He retired in 2015 from being prime minister and political life after allegations of corruption (BBC link).  Maybe my question at the beginning of the interview, although uncomfortable was a little prescient?    The video quality isn’t great but the questions and answers are informative.  When we put the video on YouTube back in 2011 on returning to the UK is was rapidly taken down by someone ….  maybe it will stay up this time!

 

 

 

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