I had the great pleasure of preaching at the Mass of Thanksgiving for the newly ordained Fr. Peter Marshall of the Archdiocese of Indianpolis. The mass was at St. Mary's Church in downtown Indianapolis.
Last week, I had the privilege of being in Brown Country with the priests of the Diocese of Lafayette during their annual convocation.
One afternoon, one of the priests and I were chatting about various things and he mentioned that he was asked to preach at a mass of thanksgiving this Sunday of one of THEIR new priests, ordained yesterday. He recounted how when he looked at the readings and the DAY of the celebration he was dismayed.
Trinity Sunday, UGH. What am I supposed to say about the Holy Trinity?
Wait a minute, He said to me. You teach the course on the Trinity, surely you have some ideas.
Whoa, I replied. You’re a priest, surely you know something about the Holy Trinity.
He pleaded with me to give him some ideas and so I did.
First, I told him how this momentous feast comes at the end of the great dogmatic arc beginning with the onset of Lent, recreating as it does, the primordial condition of creation. The age of the Father and the breathing out of fixed time sets in motion an exhalation that culminates in the creation of mankind from the dust of the ground. Remember man that you are dust. These are the Words of the Father. Mankind, however, rebelled, in the blush of his innocence and thus the necessity of the co-eternal Son. The Son who is the refulgence of the Father’s Glory, himself perpetually engendered outside of time, stepped into the deprivation of the human condition and excepted the fate of humanity as an acceptable burden, thus setting in perichoretic motion the economy of salvation by which that Godhead formerly contained under the ethereal, Hebraic veil of the Law was made manifest once again. Ransomer became known to ransomed, not merely as a protean fact, or an historical excellence, but in the intimate terms of a fourfold presence, a dynastic resplendency, experienced as Godhead in form, in quotidian array, thus the sacramental principle of res succumbing to sacramentum and rising again in a perpetual exitus and reditus to res, and thus, became engrained in the newly rejuvenated imagination of man. In the resurrection and ascension of that resplendency, the ruah of eternity was held in check, as if hovering, dovelike, for ten days until it descended in literally, breathtaking rapidity, like tongues of fire and wind upon the apostles and the spotless mother of the redeemer, the Theotokos, on the day of Pentecost, reducing like a Phoenix to ashes the Babel of the old nature of Man, and thus coming full circle in this dogmatic arc to today’s feast.
My priest friend looked at me with open mouth and replied. I don’t think that will work in Kokomo.
Well, I said, how about this:
You can explain the Trinity in four words:
You are not alone
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age
This is, in effect, the essence of Trinitarian theology. It is the essence of God’s love for us, which is so great that he gave his only son. You are not alone. You do not have to be alone.
And of course, it is a message that, all of us, young and old, rich and poor alike long to hear, a message that so many in our world today are desperate to hear.
A message that WE are desperate to hear, because Loneliness is epidemic
We see it in the empty eyes of the youthful victim of abuse, the victim of self-serving self sufficiency, the men and women who walk the streets of this city in search of a little dignity, a little relief from the harsh reality of the urban inferno.
We see it in the eyes of the aged and abandoned, the victim of the cult of youth, of isolation, desperation, fear, in those besieged by self-doubt, betrayal, loss.
We hear it in the cries of the poor, the homeless, the marginalized, the outcast, the voices of those who cry for bread, for acceptance, for homeland.
We hear it in the philosophy of libertarianism, of self-determination, of manifest destiny, self reference, in false and pernicious understandings of freedom, of choice.
We know it in our culture’s insistence on rugged individualism, popularism, pioneerism, so-called prophecy.
We know what loneliness is because we feel the pinch of its skeletal fingers in the very heart of our being, in the vacancy of the stare that confronts us daily in the mirrors of our self-perception.
We know what loneliness is because we, though wounded, continue to wound by turning our back on the blankness of the other’s, our neighbor’s pleading
In spite of the endless rhetoric from the cult of self sufficiency, and individualism
We still long for love
Long to feel it in the presence of others, the warm breath of human contact, human kindness.
Long to know it in our care for our brothers and sisters, in the awkward gestures of friendship and fellow feeling, of fraternal care engendered by friends, by family, even by strangers.
Long to be a part of something, to be accepted in spite of our awkwardness
And when we cannot find that place of belonging
We seek in importune places
Or we hide our loneliness in mind and spirit numbing substances.
In experiences cyberic, in the comfortability of sin.
But try as we might we cannot escape that Truth,
The truth that is written in the very marrow of our being, we need community
We need each other, we need our brothers and sisters even the jerks, the idiots and the sinners.
We yearn for company, for understanding, for love, for human affection, for warmth, for a gentle hand, a consoling smile.
We long for love, respect,
We hope for presence and So this solemnity is one of singular promise
It reminds us that the great dogmatic arc, the outcome of our faith is a single insight. God is Love. God is here.
God is community, that is his nature, communion, and love. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, infinitely present to one another.
Involved in a gracious economic outreach to a needy humanity
Engaged in a endlessly varying immanent perichoretic dance
Entangled in the mystery of persons and essences
Entrenched in the life of the world and in the beatitude of heaven
In Touch with the longing of humanity
In contact with our deepest desires
Present to us
And we, who are created in his likeness
may also be, can also be, must also be
Involved in the lives of others
Engaged in the messiness of the human condition
Entangled in the joys and sorrows, the hopes and despairs of our fellow pilgrims.
Entrenched in life, in the pure essence of living
In Touch with the misery of the world
In contact with the skin of creation
This encounter with the Divine Reality which is also an encounter with our neighbor is an encounter with our deepest selves
Our deepest desires
Our most profound hopes
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,but you received a Spirit of adoption,through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!"
It is intimate and primordial
As intimate as the bread we take, the wine we drink, the words of everlasting life whispered in our ears.
It is love given and giving.
It is as primordial as the sound of a loved one’s voice, the sudden recognition of desire, the want, the ceaseless want of friendship, fraternity.
The Father Son and the Holy Spirit, the mystery of the Trinity, the Mystery of relationship,
You are not alone.
We are not alone.
You are not you, you are we.
And Brothers and Sisters, how is this not Good News?
Today gathered here we celebrate the perpetual us. God with Us, We with God. We in one another and we discover that intimacy that only Good News can tell, that only the great evangalion can announce.
That Good News travels down from the throne of heaven, into this very sanctuary. It lights on each of us. We are not alone.
Today, we celebrate the Holy Trinity and we celebrate ourselves in the Church.
Today we also celebrate that same Divine presence alive in our brother, our son, our friend, Fr. Peter Marshall.
These last words, I will address to him, but they are words for us as well.
Fr. Peter: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit have poured out on you the grace of this ministry. The Holy Trinity, in his love for you has given you a gift, the gift of his presence alive in the sacramental character of the priesthood. Cherish that gift, Peter. Cherish it by giving it way. You are a man that the Father has already given so many gifts, the gift of compassion, of sympathy, of intelligence, of love, of great love. Now, in this singular act of charity, the Holy Trinity gives you the opportunity to share the Good News of his presence with the whole world. Go to the world whose needs you know so well. Welcome the outcast and the sinner. Draw back the erring sheep. Give light in places that are dark. Love, Fr. Peter, love those who are unlovable, frightened, and alone. Give sight to those blinded by society’s rampant bigotries. Raise those fallen in the mire of their own confusion. Be a sign, a beacon of hope in this local Church and thus announce the splendor of God’s eternal presence.
Fr. Peter, in years to come, if you should ever wonder what you are to say about the Holy Trinity, try this. Welcome brother. Welcome sister. You are not alone.