Sunday, May 18, 2008

God's Innermost Secret

(Trinity Sunday-Year A; This homily was given 17 & 18 May, 2008, at St. Mary's Church, Cranston, R.I.; read John 23:16-18 and CCC #221, 2201-2213)

Do you have any secrets? Is there something in your life that is so personal, so beautifully intimate, that only one or perhaps two people in the entire world know it? Maybe it is your own special recipe for gravy and meatballs, or the way you first met, and fell in love with, your spouse.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us God has a secret! God’s innermost secret, says the Catechism, is this:

That God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that he has destined us to share in that exchange.
—CCC, #221

From all eternity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are pouring themselves out to one another in love, and receiving the love being given. Now, by an absolute and total gift of goodness, mercy and grace, we are called to share in that exchange.

But how do we know that? Who let the cat out of the bag on that secret? The Catechism says that God did when He sent us His Son.

St. John, in the gospel this weekend, words it this way:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
—John 3:16

God loved the world. This powerful and overwhelming love that God has within Himself from all eternity is suddenly turned loose on the world. The Father sends the Son, not to condemn us but to save us and bring us into eternal life. Now, if we believe in Him—place our hope, our faith, our trust in Him—we can share forever in that eternal exchange of love that is God Himself.

This life-giving love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is what we come here to celebrate this Trinity Sunday. There is nothing in all the earth as remarkable and beautiful as the Holy Trinity…well, almost nothing!

There is one thing, here among us today, that is the very image of the Holy Trinity, pointing us towards that love which exists within God Himself: the Christian family. Just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a communion of persons in love, even so is the Christian family. In particular, there are two dimensions in which the Christian family reveals and imitates the love of the Trinity: in its creative love and in sacrificial love (CCC, #2205).

One of the most obvious ways the Trinity is expressed is found in the created world. God, in love, creates the world we live in. He brings it to life in love.

In the same way, when a husband and wife express their love for one another physically, they open themselves up to the possibility of new life. Whenever I prepare couples for marriage, I always tell them that the love they share in marriage is so powerful, so real, that in nine months they could be holding it! In nine months they could be giving him or her a name. That is what it means to share in God’s creative love.

But families do much more than that; they also make sacrifices. How many sacrifices have you made in this last week alone for the ones you love? We make sacrifices for our spouses, our children, our parents. When we do that in faith, we participate in the sacrificial love of Christ Himself.

Lived out to the fullest, this plan of God for the human family will not only reveal God’s love in our midst, it will also build up society and the world around us. That is why the family is the basic building block of society itself. God intends it that way.

Pope John Paul the Great used to say, “As the family goes, so goes society and the rest of the world.”

Isn’t that a beautiful quote? Society stands or falls with the family. If our families are responding to God and His plan, the world around us is built up and strengthened, and everyone benefits: Christians, and even those who do not believe in or follow Christ. As the family goes, so goes society and the rest of the world.

But in newspapers across the country this week, there was a similar quote using the very same phraseology of John Paul II. The Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom said “As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation.” California?

He was talking about the new law that was passed there this week recognizing “same-sex marriage.” Pumping his fist in the air, he triumphantly declared:

"As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It’s inevitable. This door’s wide open. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not."

The problem with his statement, of course, is that California is not the image of the Holy Trinity. Now, please do not misunderstand me. I love California. Think of all the wonderful things we have been given from California. They have given us Disney Land and navel oranges; they even gave us Ronald Reagan! But Disney Land, oranges and Ronald Reagan are not the image of the Trinity.

And either is "same-sex marriage."

"Same-sex marriage" does not image or reveal the Holy Trinity, and neither does it mirror the creative love of God nor the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.

It is biologically impossible for the physical act of love between two men or two women to bring forth another human life. No matter what the law says, in Massachusetts or California, that will never happen because the way God designed our bodies simply does not allow such a thing. He has never intended it. Furthermore, it is the clear and consistent teaching of our faith, revealed directly and unequivocally in Sacred Scripture, that for a couple of the same sex to express their love, physically, in that way, is a grave sin. “Same-sex marriage” does not reflect the creative love of God.

But neither does it participate in the sacrificial love of Christ. How could it? How could any two people, or a state, or a supreme court, or anyone reject God’s plan for the human family, God’s design for the building up of culture and society, and replace it with their own plan, and call that sacrificial? How could that ever be a participation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? That is not sacrificial. It is selfish.

The teachings of our faith, speaking specifically about the state and not the Church, clearly affirm the opposite when it comes to defining and promulgating marriage:

Civil authority should consider it a grave duty to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity.
—CCC #2210

The state and the courts have a grave duty not to redefine marriage and tell us what they think it is, but to get down on bended knee and accept the “true nature of marriage and the family” that has already been given to us by God. Whenever that word, “grave,” is used, by the way, it means serious business. It means that if we do not follow the direction God is trying to lead us in, there will be fewer souls in heaven. It is that serious.

So what are we called to do in such challenging times? When the laws and the society around us are being taken in a different direction than the one God intends, what can we do if we are not sitting on the Supreme Court or actively working within the legislature?

There are two simple, yet profound, things that we should all be doing, and they are the very things that have brought us here today.

Firstly, we live out the plan for the family as given to us by God.

We remain open to that creative love that brings life into this world, and continue by teaching our young people right from wrong and about what it means to follow God, and how to be led into eternal life with Him.

And we continue to make sacrifices for the people we love, united to and in imitation of the selfless love of Christ who gave everything on the cross to bring us home to God. That is at the heart of the sacrificial love we are called to in the Christian family.

And secondly: Pray. Pray for our society and our culture. Pray that the Mayor of San Francisco will be proven wrong, because it is not how California goes, but as the family goes, so goes society and the rest of the world. California is not the image of the Holy Trinity. You are.

Pray, for God’s sake and for our own, that the families here in this parish, the families in this state, and the families of our nation will live out fully God’s plan for us, reflecting His own creative and sacrificial love, so that, seeing us, all the world may come to know God’s innermost secret:

That God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that he has destined us to share in that exchange.
—CCC, #221