My brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to today's celebration of Trinity Sunday. This Feast commemorates the Three Divine Presences of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Blessed Trinity.
As we have heard during today's First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy [Deut. 4:32-34. 39-40] in the Old Testament, God the Father is one of the Three Divine Presences of the Holy Trinity. During the Second Reading from the Letter to the Romans, [Rom. 8:14-17] we heard the reader speak of the Spirit of God, the third Divine Presence of the Holy Trinity. And during the Reading from the Holy Gospel of Matthew, [Mt. 28:16-20] we heard of the Second Divine Presence of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, Who was the incarnation of God.
During the Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus commanding His disciples to baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. These words are the same words that the ministers of God use when blessing people and objects or when administering the Sacraments. From this evidence and other Biblical passages that are found in the Holy Bible, it is very clear that there are Three Divine Presences in the Holy Trinity. Yet, there is One God.
Over the past two thousand years, many have tried to explain the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, how there could be Three Divine Presences but One God, all having done so without success. It appears that this mystery is the greatest of all mysteries within the Holy Catholic Church, the one that just cannot be penetrated. So how do we explain the Blessed Trinity?
I am sure that over the years, you have all heard of different explanations that were simple and acceptable. For example, for little children to understand the Blessed Trinity, we can use a sheet of white paper. We fold the sheet in three equal parts. Then, we indicate that while it is one sheet of paper, it has three parts to it. All three parts are equal and constitute the whole. If we were to cut one section away from the folded sheet of paper, it would no longer be a complete sheet of paper. Therefore, as there is One God, there is one sheet of paper. As there are Three Divine Presences in God, there are three parts to the sheet of paper.
Now, when we have to explain the Blessed Trinity to teenagers, we have to use a little more wisdom. To do so, instead of using a sheet of paper, we use an egg. We explain that while there is one egg, there are three parts to it, the shell, the egg white and the yolk. When we look at the egg, we know that it has an egg white and a yolk but we cannot see them. Comparing this to God, the egg represents God. The visible shell represents God incarnated through Jesus. The egg white represents the Holy Spirit and the yolk represents God the Father. Both, God the Father and the Holy Spirit are hidden from our sight just like the egg white and the yolk... unless of course, if we crack the egg. Then all are revealed.
These kinds of explanations have been around for as long as we can remember. They are good and they are simple. But, the best explanation that I have ever heard was given to me from a middle aged man some time ago in the past. I would like to share with you how he explained the Blessed Trinity to me. To make it easier for me to relate his explanation to you, I will refer to this gentleman as Michael.
Michael started by indicating that North American statistics reveal that 20% of the people surveyed expressed having enjoyed an out- of-body experience sometime during their lives. These persons, having come close to death, often during surgery, found themselves hovering over their physical body while their doctor and nurses were doing all they could to revive them. Those who have been touched by this kind of experience have had their lives completely changed. They no longer fear death and they believe in life after death.
Now what happened to these people? What did they see? Most claim to have seen themselves in their spiritual form, their human spirit. The first question is, is this biblical? Does man have a human spirit? Michael pointed out that James 2:26 states, "The body without the spirit is dead." In John 6:63, Jesus said, "It is the spirit that gives life: the flesh is useless." In Luke 23:46, when Jesus died on the cross, He commended His Spirit into the hands of the Father. In verse 7:59 of the Act of the Apostles, when St. Stephen was being stoned, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." All these Bible passages tell us that we have a human spirit that departs from our body at the moment of death. There are many other Bible passages that refer to the human spirit such as: Job 32:8; Prov. 18:14, 20:27; Ecc. 3:21; Eze. 11:19, 36:26; Zech. 12:1; Mt. 26:41; Lk. 8:55; Jn. 3:6; Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:11.
Michael continued by explaining that the human spirit is but a spiritual form. As our physical body is a physical shell, our human spirit is a spiritual shell. There is something that is greater than the form of our human spirit. It is the soul.
Michael explained that the soul, formless in nature, is the "I" or the "me." It is the self-consciousness of the person. It is the free will that controls the physical body and the human spirit. None of these two forms, physical or spiritual, can move unless the soul commands them to do so.
He went on to explain that angels have a soul and a spiritual body. It is not the spiritual body of the angel that is the higher part of him... rather, it is the soul of the angel. The spiritual body is but a form through which the soul of the angel manifest itself. In the same way, the soul of man manifests itself through either the physical body or the human spirit.[In virtue of its specific nature, the intellectual soul does not possess the body as a part of itself, but has only an aptitude for union with the body. Therefore it is numerically differentiated by its capacity for union with different bodies. And this remains the case with souls even after their bodies have been destroyed: they retain a capacity for union with different bodies even when they are not actually united to their respective bodies." (Extracted from: "The first part of 'LIGHT OF FAITH: THE COMPENDIUM OF THEOLOGY' by St. Thomas Aquinas"; # 85. Unity of the possible intellect.)]Now, this conversation was getting interesting. Michael was telling me that man has two minds, a worldly mind and a spiritual mind. My first question was, where does it say that in the Bible? His immediate response was, "James 1:8 and 4:8." These passages state: "For the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord." [Jas. 1:8] "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
When I indicated that this may not necessarily mean that man has two minds, he referred me to St. Paul's comment in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." He explained that St. Paul was fully aware of the inner battle within man. The spiritual mind of the new creation of the seed of God [1 Jn. 3:9] that is received during the Sacrament of Baptism when one is born again belongs to the new human spirit. Michael asked, "Why does it say in the Bible, '"God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.'" [Jas. 4:5] By being born again during the Sacrament of Baptism, God gave us a new mind and a new human spirit of the godly seed. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, He protects it from Satan.
Now this was getting very interesting. Here I was learning that man has a formless soul, the "I" or the "me" as it is called. The soul is the part of man that manifests itself in the physical body and in the human spirit. The physical body is the part of man that we see. The human spirit is spiritual in nature, giving life to the body and if received during the Sacrament of Baptism, it is of the godly seed, seeking to please God.
Then finally, Michael said, "Why do you think Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, 'God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.'? [Jn. 4:24] Now my eyes were beginning to open. I could perceive hidden teachings in the Bible. It is by living our faith in Christ, by obeying the spiritual mind of our newly created human spirit of the godly seed that we are able to please God.
"But what about the mystery of the Holy Trinity?" I asked Michael. In return, he asked me, "What does Romans 1:20 say?" Opening my Holy Bible, I read, "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse." The Holy Bible tells us that we are without excuse for not knowing the Divine nature of God because it is made known by what He has created. What a powerful statement! I asked Michael to explain how he viewed that passage.
He said, "Are we not created in the image of God?" [Gen. 1:26] My response was that "yes", this is the teaching of the Holy Bible and the Catholic Church. Then, he proceeded to explain the Trinity.
As our soul is formless, God the Father is formless. As our human spirit gives life to our bodies, the Holy Spirit gave life to the body of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, He commended the Holy Spirit to the Father. As we have a physical body, Jesus is the incarnation of God, the physical body of God. In Jesus, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily, [Col. 1:19, 2:9] Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Man has a soul, a human spirit and a physical body. God has a Divine Soul, a Holy Spirit and a physical body through Jesus Christ.
As the physical body and the human spirit of man each have life in themselves and a mind of their own, Jesus and the Holy Spirit also have life in Themselves and a mind of their own. John 5:26 states, "As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself." Therefore, as there are three inseparable presences in man that constitute the whole of the human being, there are Three inseparable Presences in God that constitute the whole of One God.
Now, as if this was not enough for me to grasp, Michael asked me, "How do you explain bilocation? Was St. Francis not present in two places at the same time? Is it not claimed that Padre Pio was also two places at the same time? While they were in two places at the same time, one being the physical body, the other being the human spirit, both had a mind of their own so they could control their thoughts, their words and their actions in their respective body. Through the minds of the physical and spiritual bodies of St. Francis and Padre Pio, their souls were manifesting themselves."
After hearing this, my question to Michael was, "Are you saying that while Jesus has life in Himself, whereas He had a free will through the mind of His body, His Soul would be God the Father?"
To this, Michael answered, "Have you read the Third Letter of Cyril to Nestorius in The Council of Ephesus - 431 A.D.?" He proceeded to find the quote and read it to me."The manner of his (God) indwelling is not defined in the same way as he is said to dwell among the saints, he was united by nature and not turned into flesh and he made his indwelling in such a way as we may say that the soul of man does in his own body."According to the teaching of the Council of Ephesus, the manner in which God the Father dwelled in Jesus was different than the way in which He dwells in us. While His Divine presence in us is spiritual in nature, in Jesus, the Father was said to dwell as the soul dwells in man. This passage affirmed that we are created in the image of God, soul, spirit and body.
Michael concluded by asking me a question, "What is the name of the Father?" I responded by saying, "Father!" Then, he asked me, "What is the name of your soul, the name of your spirit and the name of your body?" I answered, "Well, they are all me. They all have the same name." Then Michael pointed out a Bible passage where Jesus said, "Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me... While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me..." [Jn. 17:11-2] God the Father has the same Name as Jesus because they are One. The Name of Jesus is the Most Holy Name of all Three Divine Presences of the Holy Trinity.
Since I have been able to view the Blessed Trinity according to Michael's presentation, I feel blessed because this has opened my eyes to many passages of the Holy Bible that were once mysterious to me. And I should state, using my doubtful worldly mind, I have done all I could to tear this presentation apart. But, to this date, I have not been able to find a flaw with it. As such, I felt it was appropriate to present it to you so you will all enjoy a greater perception of the Holy Trinity on this special Feast. May God be with you as you reflect on the nature of God and the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
For it is by understanding the mystery of bilocation that we come to perceive the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
"May the Lord Jesus put his hands on our eyes also, for then we too shall begin to look not at what is seen but at what is not seen. May he open the eyes that are concerned not with the present but with what is yet to come, may he unseal the heart's vision, that we may gaze on God in the Spirit, through the same Lord, Jesus Christ, whose glory and power will endure throughout the unending succession of ages." (Prayer of Origin, 185-254 A.D.)
Lord Jesus, I believe in you. I believe you have called me to the faith and to share that faith. I trust that you will fill me with your spirit of courage and truth, so that I might faithfully assimilate and transmit the faith. I love you. I want to love you more with my prayer and with my life, and so grow in the unity of the love you share with your Father and the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Today, we are celebrating Pentecost Sunday. Some of you may ask yourselves, "What is the origin of Pentecost in the Catholic Church?" According to the New Catholic Dictionary of 1929, the word Pentecost is Greek for "pentecostes" which means "fiftieth." This feast "commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, and takes its name from the fact that it comes nearly fifty days after Easter. It was a Jewish festival, and has been observed in the Christian Church since the days of the apostles. It is often called Whitsunday (White Sunday) from the practise of giving solemn Baptism on that day in early centuries, the candidates being attired in white baptismal robes."
Today's three readings made reference to the arrival of the Holy Spirit, being baptized in the Spirit and being sent forth to proclaim the Word of God so others may convert to the living faith.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit was affirmed in the First Reading [Acts 2:1-11] when we heard, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. Being baptized in the Spirit was affirmed in the Second Reading [1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12- 13] when it was said, "In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." And being sent to proclaim the Word of God was affirmed in the Gospel Reading [Jn. 20:19-23] when we heard, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." These three passages are the gist of today's homily.
While preparing my homily, I was guided by the Spirit to review what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about Pentecost in relationship to the Church. Today, I would like to share with you some of those teachings.
"The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of "love and fidelity." [Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5] St. Peter proclaimed their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. [Acts 2:17-21] According to these promises, at the 'end time' the Lord's Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace." (C.C.C. # 715)
"On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ's Passover was fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, poured out the Spirit in abundance." [Acts 2:33-36] (C.C.C. # 731)
"'When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church.' [LG 4; Cf. Jn 17:4] Then 'the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun.' [AG 4] As the 'convocation' of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them." [Mt 28:19-20; AG 2; 5-6] (C.C.C. # 767)
"The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. [SC 6; LG 2] The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the 'dispensation of the mystery' the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, 'until he comes.' [1 Cor 11:26] In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to this new age. He acts through the sacraments in what the common Tradition of the East and the West calls 'the sacramental economy'; this is the communication (or 'dispensation') of the fruits of Christ's Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church's 'sacramental" liturgy.'" (C.C.C. # 1076)
"Since Pentecost, it is through the sacramental signs of his Church that the Holy Spirit carries on the work of sanctification. The sacraments of the Church do not abolish but purify and integrate all the richness of the signs and symbols of the cosmos and of social life. Further, they fulfill the types and figures of the Old Covenant, signify and make actively present the salvation wrought by Christ, and prefigure and anticipate the glory of heaven." (C.C.C. # 1152)
"From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' [Acts 2:38] The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans. [Cf. Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 10:48; 16:15] Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,' St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative continues, the jailer 'was baptized at once, with all his family.'" [Acts 16:31-33] (C.C.C. # 1226)
"According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ's death, is buried with him, and rises with him: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [Rom 6:3-4; cf. Col 2:12] The baptized have 'put on Christ.' [Gal 3:27] Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies." [CE 1 Cor 6:11; 12:13] (C.C.C. # 1227)
"Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the 'imperishable seed' of the Word of God produces its life-giving effect. [1 Pet 1:23; cf. Eph 5:26] St. Augustine says of Baptism: 'The word is brought to the material element, and it becomes a sacrament.'" [St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 80, 3: PL 35, 1840] (C.C.C. # 1228)
"This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. [Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2] On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, [Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8] a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. [Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14] Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty works of God," and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. [Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18] Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn." [Acts 2:38] (C.C.C.# 1287)
"From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church." [Paul VI, Divinae consortium naturae, 659; Cf. Acts 8:15-17; 19:5-6; Heb 6:2] (C.C.C. # 1288)
"It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost." (C.C.C. # 1302)
"From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, 'Abba! Father!'; [Rom 8:15]
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect; [LG 11]
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross: [Council Of Florence (1439) DS 1319; LG 11; 12]
Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts." [SL Ambrose, De myst. 7, 42 PL 16, 402-403] (C.C.C. # 1303)
"Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the 'character,' which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness." [Council Of Trent (1547) DS 1609; Lk 24:48-49] (C.C.C. # 1304)
"This 'character' perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and 'the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex officio).'" [St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 72, 5, ad 2] (C.C.C. # 1305)
Finally, "In the Lord's Prayer, 'thy kingdom come' refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ's return. [Titus 2:13] But, far from distracting the Church from her mission in this present world, this desire commits her to it all the more strongly. Since Pentecost, the coming of that Reign is the work of the Spirit of the Lord who 'complete[s] his work on earth and brings us the fullness of grace.'" [Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV, 118] (C.C.C. # 2818)
"Lord Jesus, I thank you for the gift of Pentecost and for the new life you offer in the Holy Spirit. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart ablaze with the fire of your love that I may serve you in joy and freedom."
Today, Lord, we celebrate the gift of your Holy Spirit to the Church, which you won for us through your patient suffering on the cross. I believe and trust in his power to make me a better apostle of your Kingdom, to bring fervor where I have grown tepid, to instill detachment where I have become too indulgent, and to perfect the innocence of my baptism, which leaves my soul more pure and worthy to serve and honor you each day.