Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Family, Image of the Most Holy Trinity

(Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity -Year B;This homily was given 11 June, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Matthew 28:16-20, Romans 8:14-17 and CCC #232-237)

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the most central mystery of the Christian faith. At the very heart of that mystery we come to understand two things: who God is, and what God does.

In fact, our faith teaches that we can only know who God is through what He does, through the way He makes Himself known in the world around us (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #237). We often hear it said that “God is love,” but how do we know that? We know because that is how He has revealed Himself to us.

God first creates the universe we live in and then literally loves us into being. St. Augustine says, “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.” And to show us the extent of that love, God the Son enters into the world He created and sacrifices Himself on the cross to reconcile us to the Father.

Then, as we celebrated last week, at Pentecost, the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of all who believe and are baptized, making us sons and daughters of God. As we hear in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

You received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
—Romans 8:15

That is how we know who the Trinity is, this God who is love; because He has made Himself known in the creative love that brought us into being, and the sacrificial love that made us His own children.

And of all the images that have been used to describe the Holy Trinity—the shamrock used by St. Patrick, and many others—of all those different images, the most appropriate and most beautiful one is the image of the Christian family.

The family is a communion of persons in love, just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a communion of persons in love. That same creative love of the Holy Trinity can be seen everywhere in our lives and in our own families. We are here today as the fruit of our parents’ creative love.

And who among us has not experienced that sacrificial love revealed by Christ at the cross? How many times have you made sacrifices for the ones you love? What are those sacrifices our families have made for us time and time again? The family, in its creative love (that brings new life into being) and its sacrificial love, is the very image of the Trinitarian love of God.

But the family today—I think all of us would admit—is under more intense pressure and threatened by more challenges than ever before. There was a headline in the Providence Journal this past week that read: “Vatican Says Family Structure is Under Attack.” No argument there.

The article in the Journal was referring to the new document published by the Pontifical Council for the Family. That document names two very specific attacks that all of us are familiar with.

The first is same sex marriage and same-sex unions. How many times have we seen this issue in the newspaper in the last year (or the last few days)? We hear the same arguments over and over:

That it’s all about equal rights.
But it isn’t.

That those who oppose such unions are motivated by hatred or discrimination.
But we are not.

Or, as one Senator from R.I., a Roman Catholic, said in a statement recently:
“This is a state issue.”

But it is not a state issue. Nor is it a Church issue. Marriage is not a Catholic issue or a Vatican issue. Marriage is a Trinitarian issue. It’s an institution created by God and given to the human family long before the Church or the state ever existed.

As Christ Himself tells us in the Gospel:

From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one.’
—Mark 10:6

That is Jesus’ response to the marriage “issue.” Marriage comes to us from God Himself, and because of that, neither the Church nor the state has the right to change it in any way. It is a gift from God in which a man and a woman give themselves to each other completely—as man and as woman—and cooperate with God in bringing new life into the world.

The love of a husband and a wife so closely resembles the creative love of the Trinity, in fact, that in 9 months they could be holding that love in their arms! That is the powerful and beautiful reality of the family as God sees it, and as God created it.

And so marriage is the first aspect of the family which is under attack in our culture today. The second aspect mentioned by that recent document is just as serious, yet much more hidden. It talks about the great “lengths people go to avoid having children, including contraception as well as abortion.”

How could these practices not have a destructive impact on the family as the image of the Most Holy Trinity? They go in the complete opposite direction of the creative and life giving love that God reveals to us in Himself. These practices exclude God the Creator from the act of love between persons; or worse, they destroy life before it even has a chance to begin.

The family structure is indeed under attack in the world we live in. So how are we called to respond, as Christians and people of faith, to these tremendous challenges?

We respond, first of all, by living out our call to family life and love. That speaks very loudly to the culture we live in. I can tell you that in 2 years in this parish, my life and ministry as a priest has been profoundly influenced and transformed by the families I have know here at Our Lady of Mercy.

Your family, your marriage, your witness to Christ in this world has more of an impact than you could possibly imagine. Please continue to offer that witness.

Secondly, vote. Or, perhaps better put, don’t vote; please do not vote for those politicians—Catholic or otherwise—who do not support the family or that gift of life that God has entrusted us with.

Sadly, they are not interested in God’s plan for the family; nor are they interested in the gift of life in its most fragile of forms. Please vote, instead, for those who will support the family and the gift of human life. And if we do not find candidates who will support this way of life handed down to us by God, then we must pray that God will raise them up here among us, perhaps from this very parish.

Which brings us to the ultimate and most important response of all: the response of prayer. As St. Paul reminds us, we are not engaged in a struggle with flesh and blood, but with spiritual powers, spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). We need the supernatural help that only God can give us.

We need prayer; we need to pray the rosary for families. Especially we need to entrust our lives and families to Mary, Queen of Families, that she who guided and cared for Christ so well on earth may continue to guide all of us, her children, on our journey home to heaven.

We pray, today and always:
Mary, Queen of families, pray for us.