Archive for the ‘*Faith / Church’ Category

Turn room speaker off as necessary, such as during a Vatican II oriented homily, most or all songs and some Eucharistic Prayers.

Can also lower shade to eliminate view of choir.

During the consecration, close eyes and imagine an image below.

TM St. Charles's Church Vienna, Austria

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

What a Storm at Sea Teaches Us of the Christian Life

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

The Gospel for the 12th Sunday in Cycle B is something of a storm journal. It presents a kind of picture of the Christian life as we journey through a stormy world with winds contrary to the gospel. There are distinctive stages, beginning with Jesus’ call to cross to the other shore. As we do so we are assailed by storms and difficulties, but the charge to keep making the crossing remains the same. Let’s look in more detail at the stages of this Gospel and see how the disciples get over to the other shore with Jesus.

This Gospel was omitted this year due the Feast of St. John the Baptist, but it is still an important one to review it. Here is the full text, followed by my commentary.

When that evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” After they had dismissed the crowd, they took Jesus with them, since He was already in the boat. And there were other boats with Him. Soon a violent windstorm came up, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So, they woke Him and said, “Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?” Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the sea. “Silence!” He commanded. “Be still!” And the wind died down, and it was perfectly calm. “Why are you so afraid?” He asked. “Do you still have no faith?” Overwhelmed with fear, they asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mk 4:35-41)

The CALL Let us go across to the other side. This is not merely a call to cross an ancient lake some 2,000 years ago. This summons echoes down to each of us today. It is the call to journey to the other shore, to Heaven.

Such crossings are not uncommon in the Scriptures. The Jewish nation crossed the Red Sea, which God parted for them. They set out as pursued slaves, crossed over, and reached the other shore to enjoy the glorious freedom of the Children of God. Then they crossed the River Jordan to enter the promised land, which symbolizes entering Heaven. Having made that crossing, they received their inheritance.

Many of the old spirituals contain such symbolic references. Here’s a well-known one:

Michael, row the boat a-shore Hallelujah!
Then you’ll hear the trumpet blow Hallelujah!
Jordan’s river is deep and wide,
Meet my mother on the other side.
Jordan’s river is chilly and cold.
Chills the body, but not the soul
.

Allow Jesus’ call, Let us go across to the other side, to be your summons to follow Him to Heaven. The disciples boarded a wooden boat to get to the other side; we cross to Heaven by the wood of the cross.

Listen to Jesus’ call and then set out. Heaven lies ahead, just over on the other shore!

The COMMENCEMENTAnd leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was. It is one thing to be called by Jesus to cross to the other shore. It is quite another to respond and set out with Him. The second stage of this gospel depicts the required response: to commence the journey.

Note three things that are said in the gospel about the commencement of the journey:

1. They Renounce – The text says that they leave the crowd. We are called to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil. In our baptism we renounced the devil and by extension the world, of which he is prince. Scripture says,

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:3-4).

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Mat 6:24).

I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (Jn 15:19).

Therefore, the text says that they “leave the crowd.” They forsake the wide, popular road that leads to destruction and go out on the narrow way of the cross that leads to the other shore. You cannot have both Jesus and the world; you must choose. Jesus warns, Woe to you when all speak well of you (Lk 6:26). We must be ready to leave the crowd, forsake popular ideas, and embrace the “foolishness” of the cross.

2. They Receive – The text says that they took Jesus with them in the boat. That is, they receive Jesus into the “boat” that is their life. They agree to journey with Him, not with the world. They let Him pilot their ship. In the baptismal liturgy, not only do we renounce Satan and the trappings of this world, we also accept Christ and profess our belief in God—Father, Son, and Spirit—and in the Church, which is Christ’s Body. Now Jesus enters the “boat” of our life and leads us in the crossing to the other shore. Jesus’ command is simple: Follow me (e.g., Jn 12:26, Lk 9:59, Mk 2:14, Mat 9:9).

3. They respect – The text says that they “took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was.” Even in the Greek, this text is a bit complex. What does it mean that they took Jesus in the boat “just as he was”? Many think that the text is trying to indicate that Jesus was in fact already in the boat. Thus, one possible understanding is that they took Jesus with them in the boat because he was already on board.

For our purposes here, though, let’s take the text less literally and assume it indicates that we are to accept Jesus into our life just as He is, placing no conditions on His admittance. It means to accept the real Jesus, not some fake or refashioned one. The real Jesus is complex. He sets impossible demands but then forgives the worst of sinners. He is kind and understanding one moment, but stern and refusing of any excuses the next. He consoles and challenges, affirms and unsettles.

Many today have attempted to remake Jesus into a kind of “harmless hippie” who told pleasant stories and went around blessing everyone. While He did bless many, He was a stumbling block for others. Jesus was a master preacher and storyteller, but He also warned in those stories that some were sheep and some were goats, some were wise and some were foolish, some were at the feast and others were cast out into the darkness, some heard “Come blessed of my Father” and others heard “I know you not, depart from me you evildoers.” Jesus warned, Unless you come to believe that I AM, you will die in your sins (Jn 8:24).

Jesus is complex, and we must learn to accept Him into our lives “just as he is.” St. Paul lamented, For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached … you put up with it well enough (2 Cor 11:4). Learn of the real Jesus and accept Him just as He is.

So, having taken Jesus into the boat, they commence the journey to the other shore. The journey is not always smooth, for the waters of this world are choppy and the winds are contrary.

The CONCERNAnd a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. Here they are, the inevitable storms of life that will test and purify our faith. Such aspects of life often trouble us greatly.

Why does God permit such things? Why do they last so long? Why does God, who could instantly solve all things, allow trouble to go on?

He has His reasons, most of which are mysterious. However, we can surely understand some of the ways in which trouble helps to purify and strengthen us. When we are in trouble we discover gifts we didn’t know we had; we gain wisdom; we learn detachment and humility. In living our questions, we deepen our search and grow to appreciate the answers and the truth more. Trouble often brings maturity and helps us to hone our skills. With no tension there is often no change. Trouble is also tied up in the freedom God allows His children. Some abuse their freedom and cause harm.

So, although we can get a glimpse of why God permits trouble, much is still mysterious.

Some people even notice that storms in their life increase rather than decrease after they begin to follow Christ! Well, take that as a compliment. Maybe there was a time in your life when you were traveling in a similar direction to Satan and you barely noticed him on the periphery. Then you turned around and ran right into him! Do not despair; you are still going in the right direction and Satan doesn’t like it.

Another reason that those who set out on a voyage to cross the sea often encounter more storms than the “land-lovers” who stay back in mediocrity is that there are more storms at sea. The “sea” here is a symbol of the way of the cross as opposed to the wide road that leads to destruction (cf Mat 7:13). The way of the cross is bound to have special troubles, but the cross, though not comfortable, is necessary. Jesus says, If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. But since you are not of the world, for I have called you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (Jn 15:19). So again, take storms like these as a compliment, a sign you have set out with Christ across the deeper waters.

Thus, this storm at sea is a picture of our life in this storm-tossed world. There’s an old hymn that says,

When the storms of live are raging stand by me.
When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea,
Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me
.

The CALM – Jesus’ calm brings peace to the others: But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

It seldom helps to panic in life. If you want to bring peace, you must be at peace. Jesus is not unaware of the storm, but He is not alarmed by it. He is able to sleep through it just fine. In life, two people can be involved in the same incident and yet have very different experiences.

Some years ago, I was out walking with a friend when a large dog, a Golden Labrador, came lumbering toward us. I had grown up with dogs and could tell the difference between a dog moving aggressively and one approaching benignly seeking merely to establish contact. My friend, however, harbored the memory of being bitten by a large dog as a youngster. Each of us looked at the dog approaching us. We saw the same scene but reacted to it very differently. My friend was afraid, while I was delighted. He reacted angrily and defensively, while I put my hand out and greeted the dog, patting it on the head and letting it smell my hand. With my experience, I was able to bring peace to the situation. An agitated reaction might well have provoked the dog into aggression.

We see something similar here in the boat. Jesus is able to sleep peacefully in the storm, but the disciples are panicked. Jesus knows His Father; He also knows the end of the story. Do you? Have you not read that for those who love and trust in the Lord all things work together for good? (cf Rom 8:28) Why are we so afraid? Storms will come, and storms will go, but if we love God we will be saved, even if we die to this world.

If you have this peace, you too will calm storms. Peaceful people have an effect on others around them. We cannot give what we do not have. Ask the Lord for a heart that is at peace, not just for your own sake but for that of others. Because He is at peace, Jesus can rebuke the storm. How about you?

The CHARGE “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

In this way the Lord charges them to grow in faith so as to be at peace and to bring peace to others. How do we lay hold of this peace? By growing in our experience and in our wonder and awe at what the Lord can do, by learning to trust that God is bigger than our storms and concerns. We also learn that some of the storms are beneficial; they help to strengthen us, even speeding our journey along.

Faith is a way of knowing. We who grow in it are less terrified of storms. We have come to experience how God delivers us and strengthens us, often in paradoxical ways, and have learned that none of the things of this world can destroy us if we have faith.

In my own life I have made this part of the journey to greater faith. I used to be anxious about many things. Today I am seldom anxious because I have learned by faith and experience that God is working His purposes out. Most of the things I was anxious about in the past turned out fine, or at the very least OK. Even the stunning blows contained secret gifts, hidden at the time but later revealed. This is the knowing of faith that brings calm in the storms of life.

Our charge is to have faith.

Here, then, is a quick sketch of our life as disciples. We hear the call of the Lord to set out. We commence our journey with Him. Whatever the concerns or storms, we learn the calm of Jesus and let it reach us by the charge of faith.

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

The Mission of St. John the Baptist – A Homily for the Birth of John the Baptist

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

We briefly step out of the “green” of Ordinary Time to celebrate the birth of the last prophet of the Old Testament, St. John the Baptist. In so doing, we not only commemorate a great prophet of history, but we also consider the office of prophet itself, one to which we are summoned by our baptism.

As we consider John the Baptist, we also learn of our own duties as prophets and as those who must be open to the proclamations of those who are appointed prophets to us. Let’s consider four aspects of the life and ministry of St. John the Baptist.

1.  His PREPARING PURPOSE – In the first reading today, The Church applies these words of Isaiah to John the Baptist to describe his purpose:

The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. … You are my servant, he said to me, through whom I show my glory … to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:1-6).

The Lord wanted to save His people, to restore and raise them up. But as He had warned in the Book of Malachi, it was necessary to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah, for should He come and find them unprepared, there would be doom.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. And all the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble. For the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty.

“So, remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; lest I come and strike the land with doom” (Mal 4:1-6).

In His love, God promised to send an Elijah figure to prepare the people for the great and terrible day of the Lord, so that they could not only endure it but even consider it bright and sunny with its warm and healing rays. John the Baptist was that Elijah figure. Jesus, who came to cast a fire upon the earth (cf Lk 12:49), tells us this truth:

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men [also] attack it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear (Matt 11:12-15).

In other words, it’s time to get ready. Either the Lord will come to us or we will go to Him. Not wanting us to be lost, God sent Elijah and John the Baptist. He sends the Church. He sends parents, priests, and teachers. The great day of judgment dawns for each of us, and in His love, the Lord sends prophets to prepare us.

2 . His PENITENTIAL PROCLAMATIONJohn heralded [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance (Acts 13:24). Matthew reports John’s words: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near! … Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him (Matt 3:1).

At the heart of getting ready to meet God is repentance. In recent decades, some in the Church have soft-peddled the themes of repentance, human sinfulness, and worldliness, but the true prophet cannot prescind from them. God is holy, and the holiest among us are the first to acknowledge that it is an awesome thing to fall into the hands of a living and holy God. He is surely rich in mercy, and the reason for that is that we are sinners.

Repentance is more than a reform of our moral behavior. The Greek word translated here as “repent” is metanoite, which means more literally to come to a new mind, to come to a new way of thinking, to have different and better priorities, to exchange worldly notions for heavenly wisdom.

A true prophet is steeped in God’s Word and the teachings of the Church. A true prophet preaches and announces what God reveals and sees everything else in the light of it. A true prophet summons God’s people to truth that He proclaims, and exposes lies and errors for what they are.

In summoning God’s people to repent, the prophet seeks not only to reform and inform them but also to transform them by God’s grace. If we are transformed, then when God summons us to His presence we will already be adjusted to the temperature of His glory, our eyes will be adjusted to the radiance of His love, and our souls will be conformed to the values of His heavenly kingdom.

Repent! That is, come to whole new mind, a new way of thinking and understanding, a new heart, a new love. Come to a new behavior and a new way to walk that makes “straight paths” for and to the Lord.

3. His PERSISTENT POINTING to Christ – John the Baptist was a kind of rock star in his own time; it is difficult to overestimate his renown. Such fame often leads to megalomania and personal disaster, but John humbly points to Christ: What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.

It was John who pointed and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (Jn 1:29)

The true prophet points only to Christ, only to God. John did not look to his own glory or fame, he looked to Jesus. He did not try to figure what it would cost him to follow Jesus, he just looked and pointed to Jesus. If anyone pointed out John’s glory and gifts, he simply pointed to Jesus and said, He must become greater; I must become less (Jn 3:30).

The true prophet is turned toward Christ, looks for Him, and eagerly points to Him.

4.  His PRESENT PERSON – John the Baptist was a real person who ministered to the real people of his time in order to get them ready to meet Jesus Christ. Here are two questions to consider:

Who is John the Baptist for you?

The Church certainly has this role of being like John the Baptist in preparing us to meet God. The Church proclaims repentance and points always to Christ. Many scoff at the Church because of her role and because of the gospel. Certain aspects of the gospel go in season and out of season. Yet, though she be a voice as of one crying in the wilderness, still she prophesies: “Repent and believe the Good News. Prepare the way for the Lord. Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Seek that which is above, rather than the things of earth.” Yes, the Church is surely “The Prophet” for us.

Others such as parents, teachers, and pastors also play this role of John in our life. The Church is not an abstraction, she has members who take up her voice. The first place that most people hear of Jesus is not from a papal encyclical or even the Bible. They hear of Jesus at their mother’s knee, from their father’s voice, from a religious sister, or from a teacher. All these people together say, “This is the way; walk in it.” Yes, John the Baptist is still present in the prophetic ministry of the Church and others.

How are you John the Baptist to others?

Just as you have had the benefit of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist from others, so are you called to take it up for others. To whom have you witnessed? To whom have you declared, “This is the way; walk in it?” To whom have you have you said, “Repent and believe the Good News?”

When you were baptized you were given the office of prophet. Have you taken up this role? Have others been made ready through you to meet God?

God had John the Baptist long ago; whom does He have now? It looks like you. You are John the Baptist!

Here’s John the Baptist, complete with a British accent!

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

God Has His Seven Thousand: A Word of Encouragement from the Life of Elijah

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

This week in daily Mass we read of the struggles of Elijah the Prophet, who spent his life fighting the influence of the Canaanite god Baal in Israel. Up on Mt. Carmel, Elijah was strong and fearless, but he also had moments of deep discouragement.

Many of us today are discouraged in these times of cultural confusion, times when so many Catholics have fallen away from the practice of the faith or so easily dissent. It makes me think of the prophet Elijah at his lowest moment: he was in a cave, anxious and fretting, so depressed he could barely eat.

Those were very dark times, when huge numbers of Jews fell away from the exclusive worship of the LORD and bent the knee to Baal. Jezebel, the foreign wife of the Jewish King Ahab, was instrumental in spreading this apostasy. Elijah fought against it tirelessly and at times felt quite alone.

There he was, fleeing from Queen Jezebel (who sought his life) and deeply discouraged by his fellow Jews, who were either too confused or too fearful to resist the religion of the Baals demanded by Jezebel. Perhaps he thought he was the last of those who held the true religion. In the cave, Elijah pours out his lament.

And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Ki 19:9–10).

God will have none of this despair or complaining. He says to Elijah,

Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And him who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have seven thousand in Israel, that have never bent the knee to nor bowed to Baal, nor kissed him with the mouth (1 Ki 19:15–18).

There are others after all! It is a small remnant to be sure, but Elijah is not alone. A small remnant remains faithful and God will rebuild, working with them.

Elijah is commanded not to give way to discouragement, but rather to keep preaching and to anoint leaders and a prophet who will keep preaching after him.

This is a lesson for all of us.

In times like these, it is hard not to feel like Elijah: deeply disappointed and even discouraged in the face of our current cultural decline. How many of our countrymen and even fellow Catholics have bent the knee to the Baals of our time, accepting the doctrines of demons? How many have been led astray by the Jezebels and the false religion of the Baals of our time, setting aside the cross and substituting the pillow of comfort and selfish desire? Now, like then, many are told to immolate their children, to kill the innocent through abortion (and call it “choice,” “women’s healthcare,” or “reproductive freedom”). There is widespread misunderstanding of marriage, rampant divorce, cohabitation, fornication, children being born out of wedlock, sweeping approval for same-sex unions, and even the open celebration of homosexual activity. All of this causes grievous harm to children by shredding the family—the very institution that needs to be strong if they are to be raised well.

Euthanasia is back in the news, and the legalization of polygamy may be on the horizon.

So here we are today in a culture of rebellion. Sadly, too many in the Church (including clergymen and those in the Church hierarchy) seem bewitched, succumbing to false compassion.

Lest we become like Elijah in the cave, discouraged and edging toward despair, we ought to hear again the words of God to Elijah: I have seven thousand in Israel that have never bent the knee to nor bowed to Baal.

God has a way of working with remnants in order to rebuild His Kingdom. Mysteriously, He allows a kind of pruning, a falling away of what He calls the cowards (e.g., Judges 7:3, Rev 21:8). With those who are left, He can achieve a great victory.

Consider that at the foot of the cross there was only one bishop (i.e., one priest, one man) who had the courage to be there. Only four or five women possessed such courage. But Jesus was there; and with a remnant, a small fraction of His followers, He won thorough to the end.

Are you praying with me? Stay firm! Stay confident! Do not despair! There are seven thousand who have not bent the knee to the Baals of this age. With a small group, the Lord can win through to the end. Are you among the seven thousand? Or do the Baals hold some of your allegiance? Where do you stand?

Elijah was reminded that he was not alone. Hearing of the faith of so many of you readers reminds me that I am not alone. When I hear the Amens coming from my congregation as I preach the “old time religion,” I remember that I am not alone. When I gather with other coalitions of believers, I am reminded that there are many good souls still to be found. Seek them out. Build alliances, and stand ready to resist, to fight the coming and already-present onslaughts.

I cannot be certain of the fate of Western culture (frankly, it doesn’t look good). I am not sure if these are the end times or just the end of an era. But of this I am sure: Jesus wins and so do all who stand with Him and persevere to the end. Get up, Elijah. Go prophesy, even if you are killed for it. Keep preaching until the last soul is converted..

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

One and One and One Are One – A Homily for Trinity Sunday

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

There is an old spiritual that says, “My God is so high you can’t get over Him. He’s so low you can’t get under Him. He’s so wide you can’t get around Him. You must come in, by and through the Lamb.”

It’s not a bad way of saying that God is “other.” He is beyond what human words can describe, beyond what human thoughts can conjure. On the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity we do well to remember that we are pondering a mystery that cannot fit in our minds.

A mystery, though, is not something wholly unknown. In the Christian tradition, the word “mystery” refers to (among other things) something that is partially revealed, something much more of which remains hidden. As we ponder the Trinity, consider that although there are some things we can know by revelation, much more is beyond our understanding.

Let’s ponder the Trinity by exploring it, seeing how it is exhibited in Scripture, and observing how we, who are made in God’s image, experience it.

I. The Teaching on the Trinity Explored

Perhaps we do best to begin by quoting the Catechism, which says, The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons: [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] … The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God, whole and entire (Catechism, 253).

There is one God and each of the three persons of the Trinity possesses the one divine nature fully. The Father is God; He is not one-third of God. Likewise, the Son, Jesus, is God; He is not one-third of God. And the Holy Spirit is God, not merely one-third of God.

It is our human experience that if there is only one of something, and someone possesses it fully, then there is nothing left for anyone else. Yet mysteriously, each of the three persons of the Trinity fully possesses the one and only divine nature while remaining a distinct person.

One of the great masterpieces of the Latin Liturgy is the preface for Trinity Sunday. It compactly and clearly sets forth the Christian teaching on the Trinity. The following translation of the Latin is my own:

It is truly fitting and just, right and helpful unto salvation that we should always and everywhere give thanks to you O Holy Lord, Father almighty and eternal God: who, with your only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance. For that which we believe from your revelation concerning your glory, we acknowledge of your Son and the Holy Spirit without difference or distinction. Thus, in the confession of the true and eternal Godhead there is adored a distinctness of persons, a oneness in essence, and an equality in majesty, whom the angels and archangels, the Cherubim also and the Seraphim, do not cease to daily cry out with one voice saying, Holy, Holy, Holy

Wow! It’s a careful and clear masterpiece, but one that baffles the mind. So deep is this mystery that we had to “invent” a paradoxical word to summarize it: Triune (or Trinity). Triune literally means “three-one” (tri + unus), and “Trinity” is a conflation of “Tri-unity,” meaning the “three-oneness” of God.

If all of this baffles you, good! If you were to say that you fully understood all this, I would have to say you were likely a heretic. The teaching on the Trinity, while not contrary to reason per se, does transcend it and it is surely beyond human understanding.

Here is a final image before we leave our exploration stage. The picture at the upper right is from an experiment I remember doing when I was in high school. We took three projectors, each of which projected a circle: one red, one green, and one blue (the three primary colors). At the intersection of the three circles the color white appeared. Mysteriously, the three primary colors are present in the color white, but only one shows forth. The analogy is not perfect (no analogy is or it wouldn’t be an analogy) for Father, Son, and Spirit do not “blend” to make God, but it does manifest a mysterious “three-oneness” of the color white. Somehow in the one, three are present. (By the way, this experiment only works with light; don’t try it with paint!)

II. The Teaching on the Trinity Exhibited – Scripture also presents images of the Trinity. Interestingly enough, most of the ones I want to present here are from the Old Testament.

As a disclaimer, I’d like to point out that Scripture scholars debate the meaning of these texts; that’s what they get paid the big bucks to do. I am reading these texts as a New Testament Christian and seeing in them a doctrine that later became clear. I am not getting into a time machine and trying to understand them as a Jew from the 8th century B.C. might have. Why should I? That’s not what I am. I am reading these texts as a Christian in the light of the New Testament, as I have a perfect right to do. You, of course, are free to decide whether you think these texts really are images or hints of the Trinity. Here they are:

1. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Gen 1:26)

God speaks of himself in the plural: “Let us … our …” Some claim that this is just an instance of the “royal we” being used. Perhaps, but I see an image of the Trinity. There is one (“God said”) but there is also a plural (us, our). Right at the very beginning in Genesis there is already a hint that God is not all by himself, but rather is in a communion of love.

2. Elohim

In the passage above, the word used for God is אֱלֹהִ֔ים (Elohim). It is interesting to note that this word is in the plural form. From a grammatical standpoint, Elohim actually means “Gods,” but the Jewish people understood the sense of the word to be singular. This is a much debated point, however. You can read more about it from a Jewish perspective here: Elohim as Plural yet Singular.

(We have certain words like this in English, words that are plural in form but singular in meaning such as news, mathematics, and acoustics.) My point here is not to try to understand it as a Jew from the 8th century B.C. or even as a present day Jew. Rather, I am observing with interest that one of the main words for God in the Old Testament is plural yet singular, singular yet plural. God is one yet three. I say this as a Christian observing this about one of the main titles of God, and I see an image of the Trinity.

3. And the LORD appeared to [Abram] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said (Gen 18:1-5).

From a purely grammatical standpoint this is a very difficult passage because it switches back and forth between singular and plural references. The Lord (singular) appears to Abram, yet Abram sees three men (some have said that this is just God and two angels, but I think it is the Trinity). Then when Abram addresses “them” he says, “My Lord” (singular). The tortured grammar continues as Abram suggests that the Lord (singular) rest “yourselves” (plural) under the tree. The same thing happens in the next sentence, in which Abram wants to fetch bread so that you may refresh “yourselves” (plural). In the end, the Lord (singular) answers, but it is rendered as “So they said.” Plural, singular … which is it? Both. God is one and God is three. For me as a Christian, this is a picture of the Trinity. Because the reality of God cannot be reduced to mere words, this is a grammatically difficult passage, but I can “see” what is going on: God is one and God is three; He is singular and He is plural.

4. Having come down in a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses there and proclaimed his Name, “Lord.” Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” (Exodus 34:5).

When God announces His name, He does so in a threefold way: Lord! … The Lord, the Lord. There is implicit a threefold introduction or announcement of God. Is it a coincidence or is it significant? You decide.

5. In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is 6:1-3).

God is Holy, Holy, and yet again, Holy. Some say that this is just a Jewish way of saying “very Holy,” but as Christian I see more. I see a reference to each of the three persons of the Trinity. Perfect praise here requires three “holys.” Why? Omni Trinum Perfectum (all things are perfect in threes). But why? As a Christian, I see the angels praising each of the three persons of the Trinity. God is three (Holy, holy, holy …) and yet God is one (holy is the Lord …). There are three declarations of the word “Holy.” Is it a coincidence or is it significant? You decide.

6. Here are three (of many) references to the Trinity in the New Testament:

  1. Jesus says, The Father and I are one (Jn 10:30).
  2. Jesus also says, To have seen me is to have seen the Father (Jn 14:9).
  3. Have you ever noticed that in the baptismal formula, Jesus uses “bad” grammar? He says, Baptize them in the name (not names (plural)) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). God is one (name) and God is three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Thus Scripture exhibits the teaching of the Trinity, going back even to the beginning.

III. The Teaching of the Trinity Experienced – We who are made in the image and likeness of God ought to experience something of the mystery of the Trinity within us, and sure enough, we do.

  • It is clear that we are all distinct individuals. I am not you; you are not I. Yet it is also true that we are made for communion. We humans cannot exist apart from one another. Obviously we depend on our parents, through whom God made us, but even beyond that we need one another for completion.
  • Despite what the Paul Simon song says, no man is a rock or an island. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Even the private business owner needs customers, suppliers, shippers, and other middlemen. He uses roads he did not build, has electricity supplied to him over lines he did not string, and speaks a language to his customers that he did not create. Further, the product he makes was likely the result of technologies and processes he did not invent. The list could go on and on.
  • We are individual, but we are social. We are one, but we are linked to many. Clearly we do not possess the kind of unity that God does, but the “three-oneness” of God echoes in us. We are one, yet we are many.
  • We have entered into perilous times where our interdependence and communal influence are under-appreciated. The attitude that prevails today is a rather extreme individualism: “I can do as I please.” There is a reduced sense of how our individual choices affect the community, Church, or nation. That I am an individual is true, but it is also true that I live in communion with others and must respect that dimension of who I am. I exist not only for me, but for others. What I do affects others, for good or ill.
  • The attitude that it’s none of my business what others do needs some attention. Privacy and discretion have important places in our life, but so does concern for what others think and do, the choices they make, and the effects that such things have on others. A common moral and religious vision is an important thing to cultivate. It is ultimately quite important what others think and do. We should care about fundamental things like respect for life, love, care for the poor, education, marriage, and family. Indeed, marriage and family are fundamental to community, nation, and the Church. I am one, but I am also in communion with others and they with me.
  • Finally, there is a rather remarkable conclusion that some have drawn: the best image of God in us is not a man alone or a woman alone, but rather a man and a woman together in the lasting and fruitful relationship we call marriage. When God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26), the text goes on to say, “Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God then says to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). So the image of God (as He sets it forth most perfectly) is the married and fruitful couple.

We must be careful to understand that what humans manifest sexually, God manifests spiritually, for God is neither male nor female in His essence. We may say that the First Person loves the Second Person and the Second Person loves the First Person. So real is that love that it bears fruit in the Third Person. In this way the married couple images God, for the husband and wife love each other and their love bears fruit in their children (See, USCCB, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan”).

So today, as we extol the great mystery of the Trinity, we look not merely outward and upward so as to understand, but also inward to discover that mystery at work in us, who are made in the image and likeness of God.

 

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Why Is There Such Strong Hatred for the Church?

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

In the final week of Easter, there were frequent references in the readings to the fact that the world would hate true Christians. For example,

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:18-20).

The word “world” here obviously does not refer to the planet Earth itself, but to the collective attitudes, philosophies, economies, priorities, political powers, and cultural stances that are arrayed against God and His teachings. It is an accumulation of demonic influences and sinful human connivances, tendencies, and preferences. Because this “world” involves people, human and demonic, it is capable of hate.

The world hates us to the degree that we are true Christians.

Sadly, many Christians work hard to ensure that the world does not hate them. We do this most often by compromising the faith and hiding whatever practice of the faith we do have. It is also due to a love and preference for the world. While this is often done out of weakness, it is a deeply sinful drive. Scripture warns,

Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

These are strong words to be sure, but deep sinful drives require strong medicine.

If we are on a path to becoming truer Christians, we will encounter increasing resistance from the world and from worldly people who sense that we are not quite on board with the current culturally-blessed belief system. Somehow, they sense an independence and freedom in us that they rightly assess will erode their power.

Let’s consider a few related though distinct versions of the world’s hatred of true Christians.

1.  The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited by agreeing to part with our money.

Scripture says this of the fear of death:

Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, Christ too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Most marketing schemes exploit the fear of diminishment, which is a version of the fear of death. Find out what a person fears and you can control him. Most people are desperately afraid of rejection, of being diminished in the sight of their fellow human beings.

Many are ensnared by this and are easy targets for exploitation. This fear of diminishment is brought out by delivering the message that you are not measuring up in some way. Here are some examples:

  • You’re not attractive enough.
  • You’re not slim enough.
  • You don’t have the right style or color of hair.
  • You don’t drive the right sort of car.
  • You don’t have a modern enough cell phone,
  • You don’t live in the right kind of house in the right kind of neighborhood.
  • You’re not smart enough.
  • You’re not cool.
  • Your neighbors are laughing at you behind your back because they are richer, more glamorous, and happier than you are.
  • You’re missing out on life because of all your shortcomings.

“Never fear,” the message goes, “$19.95 (plus shipping and handling) will get you our product and make you less pathetic, more esteemed, and less diminished in the eyes of your neighbors.”

When a person is less obsessed with human approval and more focused on divine approval, when he has the “fear of the Lord” rather than the fear of men, the worldly realize that he is less easily exploited. A true Christian is more satisfied with God’s love and therefore less concerned with the world’s esteem and approval. The world senses this and develops a kind of disdain and hatred for the true Christian and for Christianity itself because it cannot so easily exploit the fear of diminishment.

2.  The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited for worldly power or political gain.

There is power in ideas. Sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. Thoughts and ideas are powerful things. This insight is at the heart of the proclamation of the Gospel. No longer be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). The Church and the world are engaged in a battle of ideas and the battle for the mind.

One of the tactics of the world is to market ideas so as to gain power and influence. This is a worldly sense that if certain ideas and ideologies can be implanted in people, they can then become a base for marketing, politics, and worldly power.

Identity politics, tribalism, race, and highly specific grievances increasingly form a basis for political and worldly power; ideas become ideology.

Reason and shared human values are less the basis for the appeal; fear and competition through organized power become more common. In an increasingly crowded marketplace of divergent ideas, loyalty and an “us vs. them” mentality are insisted upon. Intimidation, both subtle and obvious, is the daily fare.

The world rightly assesses that a true Christian is less easily intimidated. As our faith grows, our ideas become more rooted in perennial truths rather than in the ephemeral views of today. We see things by the light of the Gospel and more quickly understand the errors of much of modern thinking. As we grow in our faith we trust God more and come to delight in the truth He proclaims, experiencing greater liberation. Rooted in this way in clear and lasting truth, we are less easily deceived, controlled, or intimidated. The world and the prince of this world are instinctively aware of this and thus hate us and the faith in which we strive to grow.

3.  The world hates us because our call to moderation threatens their wild excesses.

This is basically the summation of the first two points. The Christian faith calls us to moderation and sobriety. We are taught that happiness is not rooted in the multiplicity of things or pleasures, but in the moderate enjoyment of lawful pleasures. This limits the ability of marketers to sell us more and more. It also limits the inroads of political and worldly philosophies that often traffic in inciting dissatisfaction that others have more that we do. The world rightly perceives that a true Christian is less easily provoked to excessive consumption and less easily enlisted in causes rooted merely in possessions or power.

We are an “ugly” reminder to the world that it has lost its way.

In the Book of Wisdom this form of hatred is described in this way:

Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end…. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them. And they did not know the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense for holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward (Wisdom 2:12-24).

Deep down, the worldly know that what the Church teaches is right. She touches something deep in the consciences of even the most jaded of modern thinkers. Rationalizing away, resisting, and ignoring the still, small voice of God echoing in their hearts is hard work. Even a small poke from the Church through Scripture or her teaching incites loud cries of pain and anger because they know the Church is right.

Perhaps, too, there is vague awareness that the Church is still going to be here preaching the gospel long after this current experiment of a godless and truth-less “culture” has run its course. Indeed, in the age of the Church empires have come and gone, nations have risen and fallen, heresies have been presented and resisted. Yet here we are still, preaching the gospel.

There is something mysterious about the particular hatred that the world reserves for Jesus and His Church.

In the Western world most religions are tolerated, even if largely ignored. Buddhism, Hinduism, and other eastern religions receive a nod from the cultural elites. New Age “spiritual but not religious,” “god-within” movements are often thought trendy and touted as substitutes for biblical religions. Strangely, despite numerous terrorist attacks and an ideology almost diametrically opposed to Western liberalism, the Muslim faith gets a pass.

Don’t even mention Christianity, let alone Catholicism, to most of them. The reaction is often “over-the-top.” It is not enough for them to dismiss us as irrelevant; they actively oppose us with legal efforts to keep our voice out of the public square. Prayer must go. Christmas must be called “the Holidays.” Mangers are forbidden. Even the colors green and red have been banished from some schools during this time. Easter break is “spring break” and Good Friday is just another teacher in-service day. Ramadan and Rosh Hashana are still mentioned by name. One can express almost any motivation for a view—except a religious one (especially a Christian or Catholic one). One can be a proud supporter of abortion and Planned Parenthood and a proud supporter of same-sex “marriage” and other LGBTQ causes, but one cannot oppose these for sincerely held religious reasons without being labeled a dangerous zealot trying to impose your views on others.

The depth of the fear, anger, and hatred is mysterious. If we are so “irrelevant,” why is it necessary to oppose us so fiercely? Do we really have an ability to impose our views? Why are we said to be “imposing” our views when we voice them while others are free to hold and express their views without backlash?

The anger, fear, and hatred is both obsessive and excessive. It is far beyond rational opposition.

Ultimately the mystery is not so deep that it defies explanation. There is evidence in the behavior of cultural elites and worldly leaders that Jesus and Christianity (especially the Catholic part of it) are public enemy number one.

Satan certainly has a raging fear of Jesus. As the “prince of this world,” he spreads his fear to the world. Thus, despite our many compromises with modernity, Catholicism remains the staunchest opponent to the views of most cultural elites. Our doctrines are stubborn things, even for some inside the Church who would like to change them. The Rock of Peter, whatever the human limitations of the individual popes in history, has a great deal of inertia by the Lord’s own design and grace. By God’s own promise, the gates of Hell (an image of power) slam against the Rock but cannot prevail.

The hatred of the Catholic Church is not really mysterious after all. It is a hatred far more cosmic and sweeping than merely that of those who live today. The special hatred for Christ and His Church are the great evidence that He is true Savior and Lord. Satan cannot keep a “poker face” in the presence of Christ and His Bride, the Church. He nervously rages, and all his worldly structures, philosophies, and those he inspires rage with him.

Be sober and yet at the same time amazed at the evidence of the true Church and Faith.

And the dragon was enraged at the woman and went to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. (Revelation 12:1

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