Holy Trinity

(This is the homily I gave on June 2-3.  You’ll have to use your imagination just a little bit.  I began by making the sign of the cross (+).  Naturally, the people in the pews followed suit.)

+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen!  Do you see what you did there?  I made the sign of the cross and you did it too.  You didn’t have to do it.  We don’t normally make the sign after the Gospel.  It’s not in the book.  But, as Catholics, we’ve been taught that when someone else, especially someone standing at the front of the room signs themselves, we’re supposed to follow along.  It’s a Catholic thing.


In fact, + (sign) is probably the second-most recognized hand gesture in the world.  The peace sign might be first.  I’m not sure.  But, like I said, it’s a Catholic thing.  If you see someone crossing themselves, they’re probably Catholic.


So……the sign identifies us as Catholics.  It also tells anyone who knows our faith what we believe.

That IS in the book.


I believe in one God, [not multiple gods like the Romans of the Greeks, I believe in the one and only God.  I don’t worship cats, or the sun, or the earth.] the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.  My God isn’t part of nature.  He created nature out of nothingness.


If that were all there was, things would be very simple.  But, like they say on the infomercials, “But wait, there’s more!”


I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.


This word “begotten” must be important.  We say it twice in one paragraph.  See, there was a guy running around in the 4th century saying that Jesus wasn’t really God.  He was just some “super” angel, better than us, but not as great as God.  The Church held a council and promulgated this creed, establishing once and for all that God and Jesus are one and the same.


According to the new translation of the Creed that some of us are still learning, Jesus is CONSUBSTANTIAL” with the Father.  Remember, we used to say “one in being with the Father”, which isn’t enough to describe who Jesus really is.  You and I are one in being with the Father because everything in the world is created through Him.  Consubstantial sort of means “of the same substance”.  God IS the Father and the Son.


The Creed goes on to tell us what Jesus did, how He suffered and died and rose again on the third day to save us from our sins.



I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.


When Jesus returned to heaven he left us an Advocate, His Holy Spirit.  In last week’s Gospel He said He would send the Advocate “whom I will send you from the Father.”  Notice the words.  Jesus would send the Spirit from the Father.  He proceeds from the Father AND the Son.


Just today (yesterday) nine men were ordained to the Permanent Diaconate at the Cathedral Basilica.  The Archbishop laid hands on them, just like he laid hands on me ten years ago next week, and he said, “Lord, send forth upon him the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace to carry out faithfully the work of the ministry.” 



Of course we all receive the Holy Spirit at baptism and at confirmation as well.


That’s it.  That’s what we believe about God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Our problem as humans is that we want to understand things.  We want proof.  But there are just some things that are beyond our understanding.  Saint Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the Trinity, each leaf representing one of the three persons.  Since he’s my patron saint, I’d like to say that it was the perfect analogy.  Unfortunately it wasn’t.  That’s why God has given us this thing called “faith”.  As Christians we have to believe some pretty unbelievable stuff.  Jesus turned water into wine.  Jesus turned bread and wine into His body and blood.  Jesus died and was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  God is one but He exists as three different persons.


Don’t try to figure it out.  Just accept it.  He’s God.  He can do anything.  He’s our Father, our Brother, and our Advocate; He’s existed since the beginning of time and He made everything in the universe out of nothing.  I know you believe it because I hear you say it every week.  Don’t question it.  Just be thankful that it IS.


In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic-#36 The Sign of the Cross

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I’m including the Sign of the Cross as a part of Catholic coolness, even though it’s not the exclusive property of the Catholic Church, because I think when most non-Catholics see someone crossing themselves, they assume that person is Catholic.  Yesterday, we dealt with an 800 page book that contains everything we need to understand our faith.  Today we deal with the fastest, simplest way to express what we believe; Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  It’s something we do ourselves and something we can have done to us.  At Baptism, we ask the parents and godparents to trace the sign on the baby’s forehead.  This is called the “small cross” and dates back to at least the second century, probably all the way back to the Apostles. The priest blesses us with the sign of the cross at mass and at other times.  The SOTC can also be made over objects.  For example, just a few days ago on Ash Wednesday, the priest or deacon made the sign over the ashes, blessing them for their use.

This simple sign dates back centuries.  Theodoret wrote about the blessing of the sign of the cross way back around 400 AD.  It’s so much a part of our Catholic culture that we often do it without thinking.

The sign of the cross is sort of a shorthand way to ask God for any number of things and to thank him for those same things.  When we sit down to a meal, we make the SOTC to say, “Please, God, don’t let there be any arsenic in these mashed potatoes.”  Or a soccer goalie, especially those from the Latin American countries may make the SOTC before the game begins as a way of saying, “Please, God, don’t let me slam my head into the goal post.”  Think how much better a place the world would be if all of us blessed ourselves before we started work.

Of course, the reverse also applies.  The SOTC after a meal is a shorthand way of saying, “Thank you God.  There wasn’t any arsenic in the mashed potatoes.”  Or the goalie might make the SOTC to say thanks to God for not letting him crash head first into the goal post.  Hopefully you get the idea.  Baseball players often sign themselves before they enter the batter’s box and when they cross the plate after scoring.

Here’s a fun fact that you might use to amaze your friends at the next cocktail party.  Here in the west we make the Sign of the Cross from forehead to stomach to left shoulder then to right shoulder.  Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians do it the other way.  Forehead/stomach/right shoulder/left shoulder.  Try it the opposite way.  It feels weird.

When we make the sign of the cross we ask God for His blessing which is always a good thing.  When we sign ourselves in public, we’re proudly declaring that we’re members of the Catholic Church, the Church founded by Jesus Himself.

And that’s really cool!