Trinity at Cana

Marriage_in_Cana_Giotto

According to St. Faustus of Riez, the wedding we read about at Sunday Mass symbolizes “the joyful marriage of man’s salvation, a marriage celebrated by confessing the Holy Trinity.” [Spanish]

Le’ts meditate a little bit on the most basic foundations of the Catholic and Christian faith. We read, about Jesus at the wedding: “His disciples began to believe in Him.” We want to follow Christ as disciples, too. So what exactly does a Christian disciple believe?

We believe in: God. The One, the only. Source and goal of all things. All-knowing, all-good, all-powerful. Everywhere, and greater than everything. Both more intimate and more transcendent than we can imagine. God. The Almighty.

We believe in Him. We acknowledge that to deny His existence seems irrational, considering things like sunsets, vast oceans, people as lovely as Michelle Dockery, not to mention the human soul. Only a fool denies the existence of God. But, by the same token, only a fool claims to know, to understand, to grasp God’s infinitely beautiful and spiritual mind.

When the disciples “began to believe” in Jesus, what exactly did they begin to believe? They did not begin to believe that He had a beard. They knew He had a beard. They did not begin to believe that He could attend weddings. They saw with their own eyes that He attended the wedding in Cana.

Michelle Dockery Lady Mary DowntonWhat they began to believe is: This man, Who turns water into fine wine, is God. He, Jesus, is The One in Whom believers believe. God made the heavens and the earth; He makes the mighty rivers flow. The disciples began to believe: Jesus of Nazareth is the One Who knit us all together in our mothers’ wombs!

This is what we call faith in the Incarnation. We believe not just that God could become man, if He so chose–which of course is true, since God is God and nothing less than omnipotent God. But we believe not only that the Incarnation is theoretically possible; we believe that it has, in fact, happened. Therefore, we make a big fuss at Christmas.

Okay, we done with the theology lesson? Not quite. St. Faustus did not say that the joyful marriage of man’s salvation involves confessing the Incarnation. We begin by believing in the Incarnation. The Word became incarnate for a reason: to reveal the unfathomable secret of God.

When the Lord Jesus came up out of the Jordan water, as we heard about last Sunday at Mass, He did not pat Himself on the head and declare with His own lips: “I am very pleased with myself.”

When He knelt to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not say, “Let this chalice pass from me. My own will be done.”

When He breathed His last on the cross, He did not groan and say, “Into my own hands I commend myself.”

No. When Jesus spoke, the One, eternal God spoke; the infinite and omnipotent spoke. The infinite and omnipotent Son prayed. He prayed to the infinite and omnipotent Father. God the Son has a father. God the Father has a Son.

And when God the Son finished the mission that God the Father had given Him to complete, God the Son sent the pure, glorious spirit of truth into the world. And that pure, omnipresent Spirit is God. He is neither the Father, nor the Son. He is the eternal Spirit of Jesus Christ, anointed by the heavenly Father.

Trinity. The one and only God is tri-une. The disciples began to believe this. We have begun to believe this. And I say “begun” because we will not successfully finish believing in the Trinity until we actually gaze upon this mystery, totally unveiled before our eyes.

Believing in the Trinity is not confusing. This dogma of faith does not make a mess out of rational thinking. Just the opposite. Believing in the Father, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit of Pentecost offers the human race the only real path to a life that makes sense.

Our job is not to understand the mystery. Our job is to share in it. To live in communion with Jesus, loving and serving the Father. We profess our faith in words, to be sure, by reciting the Creed–words that we would rather die than deny.

But the true profession of our faith is our lives. Lives lived–if I might dare to put it this way–lives lived “inside” the Trinity. By His life on earth, Jesus invited us inside the inner life of God. When we see, hear, react, think, judge, and act with Jesus, then we live in the embrace of the triune God.

Marriage Celebrated by Confessing the Holy Trinity

Marriage_in_Cana_Giotto

[Homily also available in Spanish:  click: II Dom 2016.]

According to St. Faustus of Riez, the wedding we read about at Sunday Mass symbolizes “the joyful marriage of man’s salvation, a marriage celebrated by confessing the Holy Trinity.”

I don’t want to wax pedantic here. But we ought to meditate a little bit on the most basic foundations of the Catholic and Christian faith. We read that “His disciples began to believe in Him.” We want to follow Christ as disciples, too. So what exactly does a Christian disciple believe?

Can anyone identify this line from a movie: “It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Now, we do not believe in “the Force.” We believe in: God. The One, the only. Source and goal of all things. All-knowing, all-good, all-powerful. Everywhere, and greater than everything. Both more intimate and more transcendent than we can imagine. God. The Almighty.

Michelle Dockery Lady Mary DowntonWe believe in Him. We acknowledge that to deny His existence seems utterly irrational, considering things like sunsets, vast oceans, people as lovely as Michelle Dockery, not to mention the human soul. Only a fool denies the existence of God. But, by the same token, only a fool claims to know, to understand, to grasp God’s infinitely beautiful and spiritual mind.

When the disciples “began to believe” in Jesus, they did not begin to believe that He had a beard. They knew He had a beard. They did not begin to believe that He could attend weddings. They saw with their own eyes that He attended the wedding in Cana.

What they began to believe is: This man, Who turns water into fine wine, is God. He, Jesus, is The One in Whom believers believe. God made the heavens and the earth; He makes the mighty rivers flow. The disciples began to believe: Jesus of Nazareth is the One Who knit Michelle Dockery together in her mother’s womb!

Feel me? This is what we call faith in the Incarnation. We believe not just that God could become man, if He so chose–which of course is true, since God is God and nothing less than omnipotent God. But we believe not only that the Incarnation is theoretically possible; we believe that it has, in fact, happened. Therefore, we make a bigger fuss at Christmas than at anyone else’s birthday.

Okay, we done with the theology lesson? Not quite. St. Faustus did not say that the joyful marriage of man’s salvation involves confessing the Incarnation.

St. Faustus could have said that, but he didn’t. Because we begin by believing in the Incarnation. The Word became incarnate for a reason: to reveal the unfathomable secret of God.

When the Lord Jesus came up out of the Jordan water, as we heard about last week at Mass, He did not pat Himself on the head and declare with His own lips: “I am very pleased with myself.”

the_holy_trinityWhen He knelt to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not say, “Let this chalice pass from me. My own will be done.”

When He breathed His last on the cross, He did not groan and say, “Into my own hands I commend myself.”

No. When Jesus spoke, the One, eternal God spoke; the infinite and omnipotent spoke. The infinite and omnipotent Son prayed. He prayed to the infinite and omnipotent Father. God the Son has a father. God the Father has a Son.

And when God the Son finished the mission that God the Father had given Him to complete, God the Son sent the pure, glorious spirit of truth into the world. And that pure, omnipresent Spirit is God. But He is neither the Father, nor the Son, although He is, and can be nothing other than, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, anointed by the heavenly Father.

Trinity. The one and only God is tri-une. The disciples began to believe this. We have begun to believe this. And I say “begun” because we will not successfully finish believing in the Trinity until we actually gaze upon this mystery, totally unveiled before our eyes.

Believing in the Trinity is not confusing. This dogma of faith does not make a mess out of rational thinking. Just the opposite. Believing in the Father, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit of Pentecost offers the human race the only real path to a life that makes sense.

Our job is not to understand the mystery. Our job is to share in it. To live in communion with Jesus, loving and serving the Father. We profess our faith in words, to be sure, by reciting the Creed–words that we would rather die than deny. But the true profession of our faith is our lives. Lives lived–if I might dare to put it this way–lives lived “inside” the Trinity. By His life on earth, Jesus invited us inside the inner life of God. When we see, hear, react, think, judge, and act with Jesus, then we live in the embrace of the triune God.

Beautiful Church

"I don't know what he's talking about.  I'm from New Jersey."
“I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’m from New Jersey.”

“This Temple has been under construction for 46 years!” (John 2:20)

King Herod ruled when the Lord Jesus was born. Herod’s son Herod “ruled” when the Lord was crucified. The earlier Herod had great vision and skill as a builder of magnificent buildings. He laid out the plans to transform the small, unassuming second Jewish Temple into the enormous complex that Jesus drove the oxen out of.

Anybody know what happened on February 22, 1987, and then on November 25, 2001? On those dates, the Bishop of Richmond solemnly dedicated the buildings of our cluster parish churches. It hadn’t taken a full 46 years to build either of them. But it took plenty of blood, sweat, and tears.

Anybody ever been to the National Shrine in Washington? Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Washington has one very significant thing in common with Rome. Both cities have one huge Catholic church, which everyone thinks is the cathedral, and then another large Catholic church, which actually is the cathedral.

The Pope's cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
The Pope’s cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is not the cathedral of Washington, D.C. Anybody know what the actual cathedral there is? Right, St. Matthew’s.

What exactly is a ‘cathedral’ anyway? To know that, we have to know what a ‘cathedra’ is. Anybody?

The cathedra is the seat from which a bishop teaches, sanctifies, and rules the Christian people of his diocese. Simply put, then, the cathedral is the bishop’s church.

Who is the bishop of Rome? Papa Francesco, of course–the world’s most beloved Italian-American. Everybody thinks St. Peter’s is his cathedral. But it isn’t. St. Peter’s Basilica is where St. Peter’s bones are. San Giovanni in Laterano is the pope’s cathedral. It’s on the other side of town, in a more ancient part of the city of Rome.

St. John Lateran took about ten years to build, originally. It was solemnly dedicated 1,690 years ago this Sunday. The church has undergone a few expansions and renovations since then, involving people like Michelangelo and Bernini.

Buildings can help us a great deal, since we are not wolverines; we are not jaguars; we are not caribou. We cannot spend all our time outside. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have places inside, where we can celebrate Mass. And it helps us pray when these places express our faith in their appointments and adornments.

Continue reading “Beautiful Church”

Greedy and Envious? Try Poverty and Love

He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables…At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
(John 2:14-19)

The Lord Jesus drove the greedy merchants and money-changers from the Temple. The Jewish leaders envied Christ’s authority and power. So in the gospel reading, we have seen both greed and envy. These are two of the seven deadly sins.

cleansing
Continue reading “Greedy and Envious? Try Poverty and Love”