Monday, June 3, 2013

You Become What You Worship

Homily for Trinity Sunday, 2013

Last weekend on the Solemnity of Pentecost we celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit, poured out into the world, upon the Church.

And this weekend we celebrate what the Holy Spirit does: the Holy Spirit reveals God to us, drawing us into the innermost depths of his love, allowing us to experience an intimacy with God that is really almost disconcerting.

In fact, as I was thinking about it and reflecting on these readings, it occurred to me that Trinity Sunday should almost make us blush.  The innermost depth of God’s divine life - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is given to us.  God stands before us fully revealed.  The curtain is parted, the veil removed.  We are led into the holy of holies, into the bridal chamber.  In our first reading, we listen as the Wisdom of God, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit explain the inner depths of God’s life, telling us how he made the world, how he formed us with his hands, drawing us into the intimate depths and secrets of God’s life.

As we celebrate the Mystery of the Trinity, we celebrate God’s most intense desire, manifest in the Holy Spirit, that we know him, really and truly, as he is.   That we not just believe in a vague notion of the divine, in shadows and figures.  God does not wear makeup.  He does not wear a mask.  He is not God for us in one way and God in himself another way.  No, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, reveals to us the true God.

And this is important to state today.  That the Trinity is not just one nice way to think about God among many.  “We speak of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that’s our metaphor.   You call him the great spirit, or Allah, or whatever, and that’s your metaphor.”  No – the revelation of the Trinity is not the revelation of a metaphor, but of the reality of God’s inner nature, of who he really and truly is.  It is as if God had taken an MRI or a CAT scan of himself and given it to us – the nature of the Godhead is revealed.

Why does God do this?  Why does he reveal himself so completely to us?

Because of his love for us -  that is the ultimate reason.  God shows his love for us when he manifests himself as a Holy Trinity of persons.  Today I would like to focus on two ways that the revelation of the Trinity is an act of love for us.

The first way that God loves us by revealing himself to us is that in doing so he helps us to become who we are and so find true happiness and peace in this world and in the next.  And this is because in knowing God as he truly is, we also know who we are and the purpose for which we have been created.  We are made in his image and likeness, and so we most truly understand ourselves and the meaning of our lives when we understand God.  His MRI helps us to understand our own MRIs.  His revelation of himself reveals us to ourselves.  When we experience God truly and really, as a Trinity of Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we know why we exist.  We are led into the very mind of the God who made us, who sustains us, who knows the absolute truth about who we are and the purpose of our lives.  In revealing himself as a Trinity of love, God gives us the gift of knowing ourselves.

Think of how much time people spend trying to figure out who they are!  All of the personality quizzes and various other ways that people try to understand themselves.  And they are all so limited – most of the time they just end up showing us who we wish we were or who we think we are, or who others wished we were or think we are.  But all of these wishes and opinions of others, they are all so limited, based on limited understanding and knowledge.  If you want to know yourself, know the God who made you.  Know him as he truly is, and you will know yourself as you truly are.

That is why it is so entirely problematic that in our time there almost seems to be the cultural expectation that in our teens and twenties we will become distant from God.  Of all the times when we need to know the Triune God, it is when we are young.

And this leads us to the second way that God shows his love for us by revealing himself to us.  And that is that in knowing the true God, we are able to avoid being enslaved by the false gods of this world.

False gods are constantly promoting themselves in this world.  They are the false suitors of our hearts – material wealth, comfort, reputation, acceptance, power – these false gods constantly tug at our hearts, try to draw us in with their charm.  They promise us happiness, promise us satisfaction, promise to alleviate every fear.  And initially it can seem like they have power, like they are running this world of ours.  They deliver instant gratification, they quickly reward our worship with earthly success and pleasure.  And their temples are always full – full of people who seem to be making it, who seem happy, who seem to have the world by the tail.

But it is all a horrid deception.  And when these idols are revealed to us as they truly are: when they are cracked open, how clearly earthly power and riches, comfort and power are revealed to be nothing.  They are mirages, emptiness and misery.  One of the Psalms says “They have eyes but they cannot see, they have ears but they cannot hear, they have mouths, but they cannot speak – and their makers will come to be like them.”

And so most idols, most false gods keep us at a distance, don’t they?  Power and money and comfort and reputation – they always stay just outside of our reach, never quite within our grasp.  Never really wanting to be known, because then the game would be up.

How different these false idols are from the true and living God, the Triune God who is revealed to us in the Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit reveals God to us there is nothing superficial about the encounter.  We are brought face to face with the living God.

The true God, the Triune God, does not woo us like the rest of these false suitors.  He does not promise us earthly success: money, power, comfort, reputation – these the true God disdains.  They are for him like chintzy wrapping paper, twinkies, teeny-bop elevator music – vapid, false, and trivial.  Christ voiced his frustration on numerous times at how prone we are to being won over by such lame excuses for the divine.  How easy it is to set up for ourselves gods that do not challenge us, that do not ask anything from us, that promise to keep us comfortable.

I think that if we were honest, most of us would have to admit that being face to face with God is not always something that we are comfortable with.   That many times we would rather stick with the idols that don’t challenge us, with a superficial kind of spiritual life.  Keep the TV blaring, keep working, keep busy, just keep on keeping on.  Keep the head down and go.

But because of his great love for us, the Triune God does not leave us to this slavery.  He reveals the truth of himself to us: so that we can live in the freedom that comes from worshiping the true God and knowing the truth about ourselves.

They say that you are what you eat.  I’m not sure about that, but I do know one thing: you become what you worship.

When we worship the truth, when we worship the Triune God, life is not comfortable and easy – we may blush and shudder a bit – that is the normal response to an encounter with the true God.

But listen to what St. Paul says about those who worship the true God in our second reading today:
"We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

When we know the true God, we know ourselves and are free to be ourselves.  And slowly, in becoming more ourselves, we come to resemble the God who we worship, in whose image we are made: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a communion of perfect love.

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