We all know sowing is the process of planting seeds. Jesus tells of the sower – some seeds fell on the path, on rocky ground, some among thorns and some on rich soil. We are also aware that the seed Jesus refers to in the parable is the Word of God. A sower might be careful not to waste seed on areas that will not grow, but Jesus knows that we cannot always tell who will represent the path, rocky ground, thorns, or rich soil. Therefore, we must lavishly sow seeds for the kingdom of God.
I collect smiley faces. The crown jewels of my collection are Harvey Ball autographed smileys and McCoy pottery smileys. When I started my collection, I looked for the McCoy symbol on each pottery piece, to verify it was a “real McCoy.” The stamp of the symbol told me that it had been made in the 1970s and was indeed made by the Ohio manufacturer. Without a stamp, I could only assume it was a counterfeit or copycat piece, coming from nowhere special and belonging to no known entity.
In a 2009 address, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about the Holy Trinity in this way: “The ‘name’ of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love.” That means that you and I, and all material things, bear this imprint. The mark indicates our origin and Creator.
This implies three important realities: first, all creation is important and precious; second, all creation belongs to the Creator whose mark is imprinted on it; and third, the origin and purpose of that creation is love. Good stewards, then, should cherish everything and everyone around them and treat all of it with great care and compassion. Our belongings and the resources used to create them all bear the mark. Our children, parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and enemies–all bear the mark. There is nothing and no one who belongs to no known entity. It is all God’s. It is all the real McCoy.
A good steward should cherish everything and everyone around them, and treat all of it with great care and compassion. Even our belongings and resources used to co-create with God all bear the His mark.
Christian community is always strongest in the face of tragedy. We can easily say that it is unfortunate that we can’t all come together as strong when times are good. But deep down, we don’t really believe that. In fact, it is precisely at the toughest times we want and we need community in Jesus Christ to be the strongest.
For Sunday, May 31, 2015, The Most Holy Trinity
Are you ready for months and months of presidential candidate news, speeches, and controversies? The next presidential election is over a year away, but already the Internet, television, and print media are filled with information about all those who aspire to be arguably the most powerful person on planet Earth. Unfortunately, too often we only get glimpses into the real person, and even then it is through the lens of the outlet doing the reporting. But regardless of what anyone may think of a particular candidate, each person is a complex human being living a life where one assumes many different roles.
No President of the United States is only a president. Just like you and I, he or she can also be a spouse, a parent, someone’s child, a sibling, a cousin, an aunt or uncle, and a friend. One never stops being all of those things simply because one has taken on a very important career. However, how a person relates to others will be dependent on the role one serves in respect to another. President Obama is the president in relation to you and me, and even in that position he plays different roles, such as being Commander in Chief of the United States military. But he is also a husband, and when in the presence of his wife, he needs to relate to her not as the leader of a nation, but as a loving spouse. However, he never stops being the president of the United States. He is also a father. But when he interacts with his daughters, they need to see a parent who cares for them, not a spouse or a president. At the same time he maintains all of these roles, he only relates to certain people with one of those roles being dominant.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity has always been something hard to wrap the human mind around. We can simply label it as a mystery and not try to comprehend it, or we can attempt to find ways of making sense of it. Sometimes in Eastern Christianity, the image of three burning flames is used to try to explain the triune God. When looking at them from one angle, we see three distinct flames, but from another angle, if we line them up correctly, our eyes can only see one. Other times I have heard people compare God to how water can be a liquid, solid, or vapor in explaining the Trinity.
I like using the idea of relationship to understand this doctrine. My wife is spouse, mother, and daughter at all times, but for my children, my in-laws, and myself she is something completely different, yet she at all times maintains each role. God interacts with us as Father, Son, and Spirit. At certain times of our life we encounter God in each of these distinct roles, but God never ceases to be all three at once. As humans, we are limited by time and space, therefore we always will remain one person. Yet God is not limited by time and space, so being three persons in one is possible, even if this is too incredible for our limited minds to understand.
In the eighth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he speaks of how God relates to us in all three persons in one sentence: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God … and joint heirs with Christ.” God is Spirit, Father, and brother all at the same time. As God’s creation, we need to relate to God in different ways at different times, but rest assured, God never changes.
Perhaps we have such difficulty understanding this notion, not just because it is a complicated doctrine to start, but we have not adequately reflected on the complexity of human relationships. We sometimes shout in frustration, “I can’t be everything to everybody.” Rather than embrace the roles we are called to live out, we sometimes want to severely limit those roles. Having a child will hinder our career or leave less time for my spouse and me. My spouse will just have to understand that the children must come first. If I spend time taking care of my aging parent my own children will be shortchanged. I can’t take time off from my job just to spend time with a troubled friend.
God has created us and given us so much, including the capacity to love. Love can never be limited to one form or another. It seeks to encounter all things and everyone, each in a unique way. Our God created us in his image, and just as God relates to us on many levels, we relate to others on many levels as well. A complete person, seeking to most clearly reflect God’s image in him or her, will work on being the best he or she can in each differing relationship. We should want a president that is a good parent, spouse, child, and friend. We should want to be good at those things as well. This Sunday, let us reflect on how God interacts with us on every level. Then we will find a God that not only loves us in many ways, but a God that shows us how to love others in many ways as well.
Addendum: Although no one confronted me as such, I feel that my attempt to explain the Holy Trinity fell short and, without intention, may be misconstrued as Modalism. I used an argument that might be used by Modalists, but tried to make it clear that God does not switch between Father, Son, and Spirit. The reflection was to highlight the idea of relationship and the importance of relating to God as all three persons. God is now and has always been ONE in THREE PERSONS and always is in that state. If any reader was led astray by my words, I apologize. Of course, this highlights the complexity of this doctrine; one where words will always fail to adequately explain our God who is Trinity, and also, pure LOVE. TEW
Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS
Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created me,
making me in the image and likeness of God.
Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell,
and opened for me the gates of heaven.
Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify me
by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.
Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity,
now and forever.
—Prayer to the Holy Trinity
Working in a parish offers me the privilege of walking side by side with some of the most heroic and faithful people I have encountered. These people do not have a platform or a pulpit. They are those who in the midst of tragedy, pain, and the hard daily grind of providing for their family, persevere in faith and give more than they receive.
Broadcaster and recent Catholic convert Adrian Chiles recently set himself a challenge to go to church every day for more than a month, and never the same one twice. Most of us will never have this kind of opportunity, but Chiles’ insights, reflections, and images speak to every one of us who have ever sat in a pew.
Here’s an excerpt:
“For the Lent just gone by, I resolved to go to church every day. I’m a Catholic, so it would be Mass every day for more than a month. It felt like it would be a real struggle – a penance. It turned out to be anything but. It was a rich and enriching experience – spiritually, obviously, but I was also enraptured by the churches themselves, the communities they serve, and the people with whom I shared all those Masses.”
My oldest son was having a tougher time than expected in his first year of college. In high school he expected to get As and be one of the smarter kids in the class. Now, he was at a school where everyone came from a similar experience in high school, and he found himself pretty darn average. His mother and I urged him early on to seek some help from a tutor. He gasped. When he was in high school, he WAS the tutor. After some reflection he said, “I just like to do things on my own.”
So often many of us are like that. We find it hard to accept help. We think maybe it says something about our lack of capability or skill to reach out for help. When help is offered to us, we can quickly respond, “No thanks, I’m fine.” It is amazing how sometimes we are anything but fine.
Living a stewardship way of life as a committed disciple of Jesus is not easy. In fact, we are guaranteed to fail. That inevitable failure is called sin. Grace makes it possible for us to continue on the journey. On that first Pentecost, the first followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit who would guide them. For over two thousand years, that same Spirit has moved in us and guided us. Help for the journey is always available. Sin and temptation constantly seek to impede our steps. But through the gifts of this Spirit we can discern and make wise judgments, lessening the toll life can exact on us. Reach out and take the hand of God; allow his Spirit to lead you and guide you. Don’t look back after making the journey harder than it used to be and say, “I just liked doing things on my own.” You are never alone.
Living a stewardship way of life as a committed disciple of Jesus is not easy. In fact, we are guaranteed to fail. That inevitable failure is called sin. Grace makes it possible for us to continue on the journey.
On that first Pentecost, the first followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit who would guide them. For over 2000 years, that same Spirit moves in us and guides us
There will always be challenges in our lives and in the world. When life is messy it is easy to ask “What is God waiting for?” Maybe we should not question God on his ability to save us from our problems.
What if we embraced challenges as another opportunity to let go and trust in God’s plan for us?