Sunday, May 31, 2015

Everyone Has a ‘Religion’. Is the Blessed Trinity at the Center of Yours?

(Trinity Sunday 2015: This homily was given on May 31, 2015 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 28: 16-20.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Trinity Sunday 2015]

“I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.”

Have you heard that line before?

I have—lots of times!

But what’s become even more common in recent years is for people to say, “I’m nothing; I have no religious affiliation at all.”

Sometimes you hear these men and women referred to as the “nones”—which has nothing to do with those women who taught some of you in Catholic school.

In this case, nones is spelled n-o-n-e-s, not n-u-n-s.

But the really interesting thing is, it’s not true!  It’s a misnomer.  There is really no such thing as a “none” (n-o-n-e).

If you ask one of these people, “What’s your religion?” they will say, “I have none.”

But that’s not the case!  Everyone—and that includes every atheist—has a religion, whether he realizes it or not.

What’s a religion, after all?

A religion is a belief system that guides your life!

At its core, that’s what every religion is: a series of beliefs that guides you in your thoughts, your words, your actions and your decision-making.

So, in that sense, EVERYBODY is religious—because everybody has a belief system that guides him in those ways I just mentioned!

·       Every Catholic has a belief system that guides him through life.  (Hopefully it’s the Catholic belief system—although it might not be.  Think of those who say, “I am a Catholic, but …”)

·        Every Muslim has a belief system that guides him through life.  (In some cases, sad to say, this includes the belief that it’s morally acceptable to kill innocent people.  Thankfully, not every Muslim believes that, but some certainly do.  We see evidence of this on the news almost every night!)

·         Every Protestant has a belief system that guides him through life.

·         Every Jew has a belief system that guides him through life.

·         Every Buddhist has a belief system that guides him through life.

·         Every materialist, every hedonist, every secularist, every agnostic—and, yes, even every atheist—has a belief system that guides him through life.

So the real question should NOT be, “Are you religious?” (since everyone is!); the real question should be, “To what extent is your religion rooted in truth?”

In other words, “To what extent does your religion teach the truth concerning God and life and the nature of the human person?”

For Catholics, the belief that there are three divine Persons in the one true God—that is to say, belief in the reality of the Blessed Trinity—is supposed to be at the very foundation of their religion.  Of course, as I indicated a few moments ago, it might not be for a particular Catholic person.  But it should be.  Here’s how the Catechism says it in paragraph 234: The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”.   The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”.

Let me give you a few examples now of some of the ways that having the Blessed Trinity in our “belief system” should guide us in our lives.

First of all, it should directly influence our view of love.  To worldly people in the 21st century, love is all about “taking”: “What can you give me, what can you do for me, to make me happy?”  The inner life of the Blessed Trinity teaches us that real love is about “giving”—giving yourself to another person for their good and happiness.  Jesus said in John 5: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.”

That’s an example of the kind of self-giving that takes place between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It’s intense, and it’s complete.  Needless to say, it’s a love without any selfishness.

Belief in the Blessed Trinity should also motivate us to make family life a priority, because the dogma of the Trinity teaches us that God is (in a certain sense) a “family” of Persons: a family of Persons united by an eternal bond of love.  This means that a Catholic who has the Blessed Trinity as part of the “belief system that guides his life” will always be working to make his relationships with his family members the very best that they can possibly be.

Which, of course, is not easy!  That’s why he’ll also pray a lot!

Belief in the Blessed Trinity should also impact our view of marriage.  In the Blessed Trinity, the Father loves the Son with an intense, perfect, eternal love.  That love is so intense that it’s actually another Person—the Holy Spirit—who, as the Nicene Creed tells us, “proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

So please notice, in the Blessed Trinity, love is fruitful: the Father loves the Son, and from that love the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally.

In a speech he gave in Africa in 1988, Pope St. John Paul II said this: “Christian family life is a reflection of the life of the Blessed Trinity.”  That, of course, really shouldn’t surprise us, because we’re made in the image and likeness of God.

So, obviously, if a marriage here on earth is to reflect the life of the Trinity properly, it must be FRUITFUL (or at least it must have the natural potential to be fruitful).

It must be fruitful (or at least potentially so), because the Father’s love for the Son in the Blessed Trinity is fruitful!

But a so-called “gay marriage” can never be fruitful, can it?  You learn that in Biology 101.  Two men cannot have a natural child of their own; two women cannot have a natural child of their own.  It’s impossible.  Only the marriage of a man and a woman has the natural potential to be fruitful!

So of all the reasons that can be mentioned as to why gay marriage is wrong, perhaps the most important one is this: It’s “anti-Trinitarian.”  It’s anti-Trinitarian because the love of the Father and the Son in the Blessed Trinity is fruitful.  The love in a gay relationship is not.

And it never can be. 

One more point needs to be mentioned today: Belief in the Blessed Trinity should also prevent us from ever buying into a lie like racism.  As we all know from watching the evening news in recent months, racially motivated violence has occurred in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri—and in many other places.

It’s a growing problem.

Well, no Catholic who has the Blessed Trinity as part of his life-guiding belief system should ever be a part of any of it!

That’s because the Blessed Trinity reminds us that those who share the same nature enjoy the same dignity.  Remember, in the Blessed Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct divine Persons.  However the Father is not “more divine” than the Son; the Son is not “more divine” than the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not “more divine” than the Father or the Son.  Each Person of the Blessed Trinity shares the divine nature; consequently each is to be worshipped as God! 

Those who share the same nature enjoy the same dignity. 

Well, in a similar way, every human person—regardless of their skin color or their age or their sexual orientation or their other personal characteristics—has a human nature, and so they deserve to be respected and treated with a certain dignity, from the moment of their conception in the womb to the moment of their natural death.  As the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity share the divine nature and are to be treated accordingly, so every human person has a human nature and is to be treated accordingly.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more Americans believed that—and if more Christians worldwide understood that saying you believe in the Blessed Trinity means that you MUST also believe in the dignity and equality of every human being?

In closing I ask you to think about your own belief system—the one that guides your life (your thoughts, your words, your actions, your decision-making process).  Is it the Catholic belief system—and is the Blessed Trinity at the center of it?   

If you answer that question honestly, it will tell you a lot about where your life is at—and a lot about where your life is going.