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Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Trinity Homily Painting Commencement Homily
It is so wonderful to have our graduates here with us, especially to celebrate and give thanks to God for what He has accomplished in our lives. As I look out at you, I just can't wait to see what He is going to do with the rest of your lives. I know that will come through your continuance, and only come through your continuance, of your deepening, relationship with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
That is what we celebrate today. This great Feast Day of the Holy Trinity. Usually this is a day where priests dread preaching because we have to preach about this mystery of the Trinity: one God and three persons. And pretty much anything that we say is going to be a heresy. So I am going to try to avoid any jjjjheresy today and really help us understand this relationship of God.
That is what the Trinity really is: the essence of a relationship.
For the high school students, especially as you go into your lives, my hope and my prayer is that you have developed this relationship with God the Father, with God the Son, and with God the Holy Spirit.
The truth is, growing up Catholic, we oftentimes only have one relationship. Usually we are with one of the persons of the Trinity. Sometimes when we go to prayer, we are pretty comfortable praying with one of the persons. I just want to get an informal survey here. I want you to raise your hand one time and try to think about when you go to prayer. Who is your go-to person of the Trinity? When you go to pray, who do you normally pray with, the Father? The Son? The Holy Spirit?
We will start with the Father. First of all, when you go to pray, how many of you pray only to the Father? Raise your hand if you do that. Maybe about a quarter of the people, maybe less.
How many of you, when you go to pray, you pray to the Son? Raise your hand. And you are praying for somebody here.
How many of you, when you pray, you pray only to the Holy Spirit when you go to prayer? Raise your hand for the Holy Spirit. One, two, three, four. So the Holy Spirit is a little bit neglected.
But you know, I say this in all honesty because growing up, I only knew really how to pray to Jesus. He was the one I prayed to, and I was a little bit afraid of the Father and the Holy Spirit. I did not really understand the Holy Spirit or how to pray to Him. But the truth is, they are the three persons of the Trinity. So we are called to know and relate to each one of them in a very personal way.
For me, it did not happen until I went into the seminary and made my first eight-day retreat. The spiritual director asked me the same question. He said, "Who do you pray to?" And I said, "Jesus." And he said, "Well, I want you to ask Jesus to teach you and to tell you about what His Father is like and to tell you what the Holy Spirit is like." And that opened up for me this whole experience of praying with the Holy Spirit. You know I love God the Father, the Prodigal Father, and also this experience. I just want to you think about that.
First of all, who are you comfortable praying with? Then ask that person of the Trinity to introduce you, now, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As I was preparing for this, I started reading commentaries. I started reading some of the theological writings on the Trinity. And the more I began reading, the more confused I got. The more I thought, I thought I could never preach. I cannot use some of the theological statements and three logical understandings of the Trinity because you would all be bored to death.
I decided I would go to the Cleveland Art Museum and try to find a piece of artwork. If you haven't been to our art museum, it is amazing. They are done with their renovating. They have been renovating for eight years. It is absolutely breathtaking. However, I didn't know where anything was, so I could not find the Christian art. I pulled out my phone and I spoke into it. I said, "Help me find a painting of the Trinity." And it told me Room Number 109. Then I went to Room Number 109, and I found this beautiful image of the Trinity. I will put it on my website. You can see it there later.
I found this beautiful image. There is something about it that I was so drawn to that I could not walk away. I was standing there for about 10 to 15 minutes just studying. Then I asked one of the museum people a question. "I would love to have a chair. Could I have a chair?" I did not know this, but they will bring you a chair. They brought me a chair, and I sat down in front of this painting. I sat there for an hour. I opened up the readings for today. I was so inspired, so inspired and so enriched by the reality of the Trinity; that we have the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit. We are called to have this deep personal relationship with each one of Them. The more we come to know the Father, the more the Father is going to show us the Son; and the more we come to know the Son, the Son is going to send us the Holy Spirit; and we are going to come to know the Father. So by getting to know the persons of the Trinity, we get to know God more. I am just going to describe the painting for a little bit, just to give us a reflexion of God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus.
In the painting, to paint the picture for you, to give you a little imagination, it is one of those medieval paintings. It comes from the medieval times. There is the image of God the Father, and He has his arms out like this. He is holding the cross, and the cross is actually in His lap. It is kind of cool because it is sitting on His chest and it goes between His legs. He is holding the cross in His lap and His hands are like this on top of the wood. God the Father is looking straight out at you. That is what caught me about the painting. God the Father is just looking into your eyes. I think about God the Father now that I have come to know His love.
We hear in the second reading that the Father is known as Abba, Father, or Daddy. We are supposed to have this image of God the Father; that we can climb onto his lap. That this God the Father is always looking at us with great love. No matter what we do, He loves being there.
I think about you high school students. You have gone through everything. Even when you walked in graduation and commencement, you hoped your parents were there. You hoped they were watching you, right? You hope they are not, “not there” or if they are there, they are not reading the paper or something. That they could care less. But that they are totally interested in you.
Well, God the Father is completely interested in you. You have His undivided attention. He just cannot get enough of you. It is like that song from the "Jersey Boys," "You're just too good to be true. Can't take my eyes off of you." God is so in love with you and He delights in you! He wants to take in everything you do in life. The image in the painting, the Father's eyes are just so strongly gazing at you. Of course, He has the classic beard. He has the white beard and the white hair. He has kind of a face like this, you know.
My father is obviously older than I am, and sometimes he will say to me, "I don't feel comfortable praying to God the Father. I don't like God the Father." And I said, "Well, why, Dad?" And he says, "Well, the nuns always taught me that God the Father is kind of like, you know, He was always watching you and judging you. He was just waiting for you to do something wrong." I said, "Well, Dad, how old are you? Can't you grow up a little bit and realize that maybe the nuns didn't teach you the whole truth of God the Father?"
The reality is that we do have this Father, Daddy, or Abba who we can crawl onto his lap; that is just delighting in everything we do. He never takes His eyes off of us; not because He is watching us to see if we do something wrong, but because He cannot get enough of us. He is so interested in what we do.
I think about the graduates. He is just so interested now in what you are going to be doing with the rest of your life. He loves you and is there just to hold you and support you.
I think that is what it so cool about the images. The Father has the cross beams. He is holding His hands on the cross beams. It is almost like He is blessing Jesus and protecting Him. Even at the moment of His Son's death, He was there holding Him, blessing Him, and protecting Him. God the Father is with you in your life. He is blessing you. He is holding you. He is protecting you. No matter what happens in your life, no matter what suffering you are going through, he's there with you, protecting you and blessing you.
That is God the Father.
The second is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit we often see as a dove. In this image, it is a dove, too. It is amazing because the dove looks like it is just taking flight, and It is coming right out of the heart of the Father. Right out of the Father's chest comes the Holy Spirit. And it is in motion. I love this as an image for the person of the Holy Spirit. It is this energy. The Holy Spirit is usually imagined as a dove or as fire. This fire, this complete energy that wants to take hold of us and consume us.
One of my favorite titles for the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit has a number of titles) is counselor. The Holy Spirit is the counselor. If you think about life and if you think about people in your life that you want to model, that you want to become like, there are probably people that emulate qualities that you just love, well, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate. He is God. So He has these ultimate qualities.
What I want you to think about is, what are some of the qualities that you want to emulate? Think about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I will read them very quickly. What are the gifts or the fruits that you would just love to emulate from this person of God? And the great thing about the Holy Spirit, the person of the Holy Spirit, is He wants to teach you them. He wants to gift you with them. All you have to do is spend time with them and then we tend to emulate them.
The first are the seven gifts. Think about what you would like: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
We hear that if you are children of God, then heirs of God, and then fellow heirs of Christ. You are heirs of these gifts. They are meant to be given to you. The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are: Charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.
We think about this: the Holy Spirit is in motion and the Holy Spirit is wanting to give you these gifts. It is like the heart of the Father is just coming out into you and the Holy Spirit is the counselor who wants to teach you and help you to use these gifts.
And finally, so we have God the Father there, you have the Holy Spirit coming out of His breast, and then out of that you have Jesus being held right there in the breast of the Father. What is interesting about this painting is Jesus, his eyes are normally looking at you and icons. But this time, it is the Father looking. The Father looking at you, and Jesus' head is down, and His eyes are closed. I think that must be the moment of His final commendation of His spirit.
Into your hands, I commend my spirit. He closed His eyes, and He breathed His last and He died. In that moment, I would think, I would hope, I would believe that He is praying. When He closes His eyes, He is in union with the Father and He is praying.
When we pray to Christ, He shows us how to be in union with the Father. The truth is, for all of us, no matter what is going on in our lives, when we close our eyes and we imagine being held by the Father; we become the beloved son and beloved daughter.
Also in the painting are the wounds. The five wounds of Christ; two in his hands, and the two in his feet. Then there is a wound in His side. And that, I believe, is our entrance. We enter in through the wounded side of Jesus.
Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me." And it is ultimately through Him that we come to know the Father.
I invite you to think about that when you pray. Who do you pray to, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? And ultimately, we are called to know and to have an intimate and deep personal relationship with all three persons of the Trinity.
If you don't know one, like my father saying, "Well, I don't know them, the nuns never taught me about him," why don't you instead ask Jesus, say, "Tell me what the Father is like." Or ask the Holy Spirit or ask the Father, "What is the Holy Spirit like?" "Can you send Your Holy Spirit to me?" And do this as you go throughout your week and throughout your life. And as you do it, God is going to reveal Himself to you. It might be in a friendship that you see. It might be watching a grandfather with their grandchild. It might be in a sign as you are driving down the road. God will reveal Himself to you as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That is my hope and prayer for the graduates, especially as you go on into your life. You will continue to come back here and continue to know and love God deeper and deeper so that you may love the love of the Trinity and bring forth that love into our world.