for Sunday, June 15, 2014
A few years ago, I took my Mom on a trip to two nearby cities with historical significance, St. Augustine, Florida and Savannah, Georgia. Each was a place where explorers landed and claimed the land for their King.
On September 8th, 1565, Don Pedro Menendez de Avila landed on the northeast coast of Florida and established the first colony in the new world, St. Augustine. With banners flying and in full regalia, Menendez planted the Spanish flag and claimed the land in the name of Philip II, the King of Spain.
Just a four hour drive north of St. Augustine another colony was established for another king. 168 years after Menendez, General James Oglethorpe landed in Savannah and claimed the land in the name of his king, George II of England. The colony was also named after the king, and called Georgia.
Once a land was claimed for a king it was considered part of the Kingdom. Any assault on that colony would be treated as an assault on the Kingdom, not on a remote land.
When we were baptized we were claimed in the name of God. The priest or deacon poured the water and said, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." From that point the Kingdom of God was extended to wherever we might be. We came under the protection of the kingdom against any assault, particularly the assault of evil.
But why were we baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Why not simply in the name of Jesus Christ? Why were we not baptized simply in the name of God? We were baptized in the name of the Trinity because we were claimed by all that God is, the fullness of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today's celebration, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, reminds us that we belong to the fullness of God. The readings each give a glance at one of the Persons of the Trinity. In the first reading from Exodus God is presented to Moses as Creator and Lawgiver, as Merciful and Gracious, caring for His People. These are the attributes given to the first person of the Trinity, the Father. The action of the Father's love for us is proclaimed in the Gospel, as Jesus explains that God's love is so great, that He gave his Son to us save us from the assault of evil. The second reading presents Father, Son and Spirit as St. Paul prays that we continue to enjoy the union with the Holy Spirit, the Power of God working through us and uniting us into the Church.
The heart of the mystery is simply that God dwells within us. Some people continue the concept held by many during revolutionary times that God is removed from us. That is not what God told us. In John 14 Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." He is not out there somewhere. He is in here, in the spiritual life that makes a human a child of God. Jesus promised us that He would never leave us alone, and we are not alone. He is with us always, not just outside of us but within us. The ability to call upon the power of God and to be vehicles of this power for ever is the gift of Pentecost, the presence of the Holy Spirit, received at baptism and particularly called upon from our confirmation.
Our dignity as sons and daughters of God is far more than a title. We have been claimed by God. We belong to him. He belongs to us. We have to keep this in mind when others present as normal the theorty that God cannot be found. We need to ask ourselves, "Is God in the room, in the house, at the party?" If people are enjoying His gifts while still honoring His Presence, then we know He is there. If people are flaunting the most simple dictates of morality, then we know He is not there. And we know that it is beneath our dignity as children of God to be there ourselves.
In the sacrament of penance, good people come to a recognition that they have not behaved as well as they should. Sometimes people will have a huge laundry list of really serious sins they wish to confess. They will go on and on talking about sexual sin, sins of hatred, sins of disrespecting themselves and others, etc. When they finish, they will often look at me sheepishly expecting a scolding or something. I don't scold people. I simply mention to them, "You are better than that, and so am I." By better I don't mean simply that we can avoid sin, far deeper, I mean that we are sons and daughters of God. We are children of God. We are better than the forces of the world that are trying to destroy us.
St. Augustine was not just a remote colony. It was part of the Spanish Empire. It could claim the King of Spain as its protector. Savannah was not just a remote colony. It was part of the British Empire. It could claim the King of England as its protector. And we are not just members of a religion. We are part of the Kingdom of God. We can call upon our God to protect us from all that is trying to destroy us.
Today we are reminded both of who God is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and who we are, his children who carry His Presence into the world.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Exodus 34.4b-6, 8-9
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 13.11-13
Gospel: John 3.16-18
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: