30 May 2021

Doubt but Worship

Most Holy Trinity

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP


One of the strangest sentences in the Bible occurs in the readings this evening: When [the disciples] all saw [Jesus], they worshiped, but they doubted.” They doubted him, but they worshiped him despite their doubt. I think this sentence strange b/c we moderns usually need to have something like “without a reasonable doubt” before we grant the status of fact to a mere claim. Jesus has made all sorts of bold claims in the disciples' hearing. Now, (at the end of Matthew's Gospel) he's been crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, and is appearing to them, making more claims that sound a little dodgy. Yet. They worship. What does this sequence of events – we doubt yet we worship – teach us? It teaches us that we can have our doubts, we can be not quite sure and still offer to God through Christ our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. To the finite mind only finite knowledge is possible. A plastic gallon jug can only contain a gallon of liquid. It cannot contain two gallons, nor can it contain a bonfire. Nor can we say that that jug contains all the liquid in the world simply b/c it's full. The disciples doubt. But they worship. So, we can say: worship is a means of coming to know.

What we can't come to know through our human reason must be revealed to us. We have to be shown that which we cannot figure out on our own. Jesus reveals in his last commission to the disciples the central mystery of the faith: the Holy Trinity. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. He doesn't explain the mystery. He doesn't give them a handy diagram or a flowchart or a glossary of philosophically useful terms like person, nature, substance, procession. What he does give them is a mission: go out; make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all I have commanded you. Make disciples through baptism and then teach them. NB. being a baptized disciple comes before the learning. Why? Because whatever the disciple learns must be grounded firmly in faith. For this to happen he must first through baptism receive the gift of faith – the God-given habit of trusting in God's loving-kindness and that He has kept His promises. With faith, the disciple can bring worthy worship to God, offering Him praise and thanksgiving and, as a result, experience the mystery of the Divine Life to the limits of his capacity. With the revelation of the Holy Trinity, Jesus plants a seed and provides a way for that seed to be sown.

At our baptism, we were planted with the seed of the Holy Trinity. Baptism makes us disciples. Learning about Christ, the Church, the Scriptures makes us educated disciples. And faithfully living out Christ's commandments perfects our discipleship, making our sacrifices to God holy and acceptable. None of this would be possible unless we participated in the Divine Life of the Holy Trinity, unless we shared in the one divine nature of the three persons of the Trinity. Since we are finite creatures, our participation in the Trinity is necessarily finite. But we can perfect our finite participation through worship. Grounding ourselves in baptism and discipleship, we approach the altar of God fully aware that we are not worthy of His love, yet He has made us worthy to be loved. And so we are. And b/c we are, we are gifted with the possibilities of coming to know and love Him to the limits of our capacity. If and when we exhaust our capacity to know and love Him, He readily enlarges us, increases our capacity, giving us more and better opportunities to perfect our participation in the Divine Life, to live and love more wholly with the Blessed Trinity.

Our worship is the immediate means of perfecting our participation in the Divine Life of the Trinity. Worship brings the whole person to the task. Body and soul. Intellect and will. Worship gives us ways of encountering the Divine Life that nothing else can. We are together. One Body, one Faith, one Baptism. With one voice we offer thanks and praise to God. With one sacrifice we offer ourselves as an oblation to the Father. With one love we offer ourselves to the Son to become his hands and feet in the world. With one blessing we offer ourselves to the Holy Spirit to be His word and presence to those who cannot yet see or receive His gifts. When you come to the altar bring it all! Bring everything you have collected. Bring your anger, your impatience, your hatred, your need for revenge, your failures. Bring your tribalism, your prejudices, your cramped biases. Bring your legalism, your entitlement, your selfishness. But also, bring your joys, your triumphs, your loves, and your blessings. Bring thanks and praise. You live and move and have your being in the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity. Bring all you are and all you have and give it to God. Be perfect as He is perfect.

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