09 June 2020

How do you lose your flavor?

10th Week OT (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Priory, NOLA

How does salt lose its power to season and preserve? It can grow stale with age, through lack of use. It can be diluted, dissolved into a stronger, more aggressive flavor. And salt left too long in the elements is really only good for making icy roads passable. Jesus tells the apostles that they are the salt of the earth, those sent to season the nations and preserve the Gospel. As preachers of that same Gospel, we too are called to be the salt of the earth. Are we awake to the possibility of losing our power to season and preserve? That it's possible our salty witness can be diluted by the more aggressive flavors of this world? That it's possible our commitment to the Truth can be dissolved into the corruption of sentimentalism and tribalism? If we are left too long exposed to the elements of this world – prideful self-assertion, violence, fear, hypocrisy, hatred, false humility – we can lose what power we have to offer the flavor and preserving graces of Christ. If our salt looks and tastes like everyone else's sugar, cinnamon, or sage, then – to mix a metaphor – we've hidden our light under a bushel basket. As Dominican preachers we have an 800+ year old tradition of calling on the seasoning and preserving powers of both faith and reason, a centuries-long legacy of bearing witness to the truth, goodness, and beauty of seeing and knowing God through both the heart and the mind, the intellect and the will. Jesus suggests that only salt can preserve salt. Thanks be to God then we have a vast treasure trove of Dominican salt to draw from. So, as the world around us seems to swirl the cosmic toilet bowl once again, do we have the patience, courage, and fortitude to mine these treasures?

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

07 June 2020

He is Three in One

NB. Deacon is preaching tonight, so here's one from 2013.

Most Holy Trinity
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

If we were to wonder about the fundamental difference between scientists and believers, we could say that scientists work to expose the mysteries of the universe by use of reason alone, while believers—Christian believers—work along side mystery in reason and wonder to expose themselves to God and His handiwork. Scientists hope to learn more about the universe for the sheer delight of gaining practical knowledge. Believers hope to learn more about creation so that their joy may be complete by growing closer to their Creator. The fundamental difference btw science and faith hinges on mystery. For science, a mystery is a problem is to be solved. For faith, mystery is a truth not yet revealed. What we share with science is the alluring power of Not Yet, the seduction of knowing just enough to keep us motivated to learn more. When Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” scientists hear a challenge but believers hear a promise. The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled at Pentecost. And with the coming of the Holy Spirit, God reveals the central mystery of the faith: He is Three in One.

How to describe this essential mystery? We could say that the Trinity is like a single drop of water in three forms: fluid, frozen, vaporous. But the Trinity is Three in One simultaneously, while a drop of water cannot be fluid, frozen, and vaporous all at the same time. We could say that the Trinity is like a woman who is simultaneously a mother, an aunt, and a sister. But the Trinity is Three in One absolutely, relative only to one another, while a woman is a mother, an aunt, and a sister only in relation to her children, her nieces, and her siblings. We could say that the Trinity is like a person with three jobs: Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. The Father creates; the Son redeems; and the Spirit sanctifies. That's not wrong as such but if the Three are One then all Three must each be Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. You begin to see the problem, right? How do we describe what is essentially unsayable, indescribable? We know that God is Three Persons in One Divinity, but how do we make sense of this mystery? We wait. Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. . .” He doesn't say that we can never bear all that he has to tell us; we just can't bear all the truth right now. So, we wait and trust and hold ourselves in hope that the fullness of this mystery will be revealed when we are finally perfected.

What do we do in the meantime? Between knowing the little that we know and knowing the whole truth, what do we do? Jesus reassures us, “. . .when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” If the Spirit of Truth comes to guides us, then we must make our ready to be guided. And how do we do that? Writing to the Romans, Paul, teaches: “. . .we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint. . .” As followers of Christ, we boast about both our blessings and our afflictions. We boast of our blessings to show the world the mercy of God. We boast of our afflictions to produce endurance, character, and hope. What we do btw imperfect and perfect knowing is live our lives in that sure knowledge that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. . .” When our imperfect knowledge of God's mysteries fails us, love never will b/c God is love and He never fails. And that is the definition of hope: knowing that God never fails. He never fails to provide, to forgive, to honor His promises. We prepare ourselves to be guided by the Spirit by hoping, by accepting the truth that God will not/cannot fail us.

If we accept this truth and live this truth, then we are living with God who is Three in One. We are living trinitarian lives. Since the first century of the Church, our ancestors made a distinction btw the theological Trinity and the economic Trinity. The theological Trinity is the Trinity as He knows and understands Himself. Reason alone cannot help us know or understand God as He knows and understands Himself. So, how do we know anything at all about the Trinity? Since all of creation abides in God, and we live and move and have our being in God, we can look to creation and see the Trinity's presence there. The Trinity works in creation, works through His creatures to reveal His truest nature. This is the economic Trinity. When we love forgive, provide, bless, create, trust, sacrifice, and bear witness to Christ, we manifest—imperfectly, of course—we manifest the Blessed Trinity. Each one of us is a sliver of the mystery that is the Trinity working in creation. Each one of us reveals how we are the Father's favored child, the Son's brother or sister, the Spirit's student and servant. Each one of us is a piece of God's peace, His assurance that all is well, that everything will always be well with Him. 

And we know that all will be well with Him b/c, as the Catechism teaches us, “The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity” (n. 260). The whole point of God's cosmic plan of salvation is to bring us to Him to live perfectly united in Him. Do we need a scientific understanding of the divine mysteries to be perfect? No. Besides, science cannot perfect us. Do we need to work along side the divine mysteries in wonder and reason in order to be made perfect? Yes. B/c we cannot be made perfect, we cannot be brought to God w/o our consent and help. Mysteries of the faith—like the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection—are all revealed truths that we do not yet fully understand. We know that God is Three Persons in One Divine Being. We know that Christ is fully human, fully divine. We know that Christ was raised from his tomb body and soul. And we even have some inkling of what these mysteries mean to our daily lives as followers of Christ. What we don't yet know, what we cannot yet bear, is the weight, the fullness of these truths completely revealed. For that we must wait to see God face-to-face. And to see Him face-to-face, we must submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit urges us to live trinitarian lives. We read in the Catechism: “Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him” (n. 259). Open yourself to being drawn by the Father to follow Christ. Open yourself to being moved by the Spirit to follow Christ. Follow Christ—wholly abandoned to him—and you will find yourself working along side the mysteries of faith in wonder and reason, opening your heart and mind to all that God has to show you. When Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” scientists hear a daring challenge but believers hear a loving promise. Christ promises to make us strong enough, whole enough, beautiful enough to bear up under every truth, all truth, fully revealed and wondrously arrayed. And because of this promise “we boast in hope of the glory of God.” 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->