mercredi, juin 10, 2009

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

With this Sunday, begins the time after Pentecost that will lead us toward the end of the liturgical year. We had the opportunity to meditate on two of the great mysteries of Faith, which are the Incarnation, during the Christmas cycle, and the Redemption during the Easter cycle. This new liturgical season begins with the feast of the Blessed Trinity, which is the third great mystery of faith.
Since the beginning of the liturgical year, we have contemplated the works of God in the history of men. Certainly, the moral aspect was still present in the liturgy, especially with the epistles of Saint Paul that we find throughout the liturgical year. The divine interventions of God in our world suppose an answer from men. The Revelation speaks first to our intelligence, but in order to move then our will. The Sundays after Pentecost will help us to answer in a right way by conforming our lives to our faith. We would say that the agenda of this liturgical season can be summarized by the words of Saint Paul: Walk in the spirit! (Ga 5,16) The gift of the spirit has been given to us: it is the gift of Pentecost. Now we have to use it well in order to achieve the will of God that is our sanctification.
We said yesterday evening during our meditation on the Holy Spirit that in order to act well, we have to know first our nature and our condition and to know the principles of spiritual life that unfortunately too many people ignore. The regime of grace in which we live now has its rules and principles that have been well described and commented by the Saints and the Doctors. It is precisely an effect of the Spirit that one lives according to these rules and principles of spiritual life. The progress of your soul depends basically on how you apply them.
The great principle of everything is in fact God himself, and it happens that God is Trinity, which means, as Saint Thomas says, trine-unity. And Saint Athanasius says: Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity is to be revered. It is certainly a great mystery that God is Three Persons, well distinct but truly equal. Yet, the fact that it is a mystery should not dispense us from making the effort of our intelligence that would be a fair answer to the gift of Revelation. And effort means sacrifice. The quest for God is difficult but it is worthwhile and salutary.
Seek God and your soul shall live, Psalm 69 says. But Saint Augustine warns us. It would be rash and dangerous to think that you know God. Our quest for God is never achieved in this present life. This is why the Psalmist adds in Psalm 104: Seek His face evermore. Similarly Saint Paul also says: And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he hath not yet known as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known by him. (1 Co 2-3) There would be a lot to say about this sentence. It is an invitation to humility and to charity. Whatever you know about God is still nothing and can even be dangerous because of a certain pride. It is a usual temptation that when you know, you want to be sure that others know that you know. So Saint Paul, well aware of this danger, invites us to love in order to be known by God. Yet, it is still true that we owe to progress in our knowledge of God. Saint Augustine encourages us by saying: Let us seek with the desire to find, and find with the desire to seek still more. Whatever you know, you still have more to know.
In order to know more about God we can look at ourselves, since we have been created to His image. Saint Augustine says that when I love something, I discovered three things, which are myself, the thing that I love, and love itself. If a soul loves itself, there is a certain identity between the lover and the thing that is loved.. There is a relation between two terms: the soul that loves and love. They are on a relative point of view two different things, but they are united together in one spirit.
Now, in order to love something, you have to know it first. A soul knows itself first and then loves itself. The soul and the knowledge of itself are two different things, but again they are united together in one spirit. So, Saint Augustine says that the soul, its knowledge and its love are three different things but these three things are only one; and when they are perfect, they are equal. Our soul, our intelligence and our will are finally the image of the Blessed Trinity. In God, there is a perfection of knowledge and of love, so there is a equality between the three terms: three things that are only one substance.
It is then in the right comprehension of intelligence and of love that we can apprehend as much as we can the mystery of God. Knowing and loving! Here is the principle of our religious life that is well conformed to our rational nature. Being created in the image of God, with an intelligence and a will, we have to use them in order to return to Him, our principle and our end. If you know God, as He truly is, which is Trinity, then we can love Him. If you love Him, then we are known by Him. We are incorporated into the relations between the Three Divine Person. In other word, we share the Divine intimacy with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is the gift of the Divine grace.

lundi, juin 01, 2009

Si scires donum Dei

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday

Si scires donum Dei! If thou didst know the gift of God!

How ignorant are we of the things of God! We are certainly ignorant by nature, because God is a hidden God – Deus absconditus – as Isaiah says. We are ignorant of the things of God because our intelligence is limited while God is infinite. Yet, we know that our end and our perfection is the knowledge of God and we have seen during the past two weeks that only this knowledge can give true happiness. At this point, it appears that our end is not proportionate to our nature. For Saint Thomas Aquinas, this means that there is a certain necessity for a Revelation, and again, when we speak of necessity about God, it is always a relative necessity as God is totally free. The first Council of the Vatican would confirm the teaching of Saint Thomas when it stated that the Revelation is necessary because God has wanted to give men a supernatural end.
So, God is a hidden God, but He also is a revealed God – revelatus Deus. With the Revelation, we have now the knowledge of our end and the knowledge of the means that we must necessarily use in order to reach our end. But God remains hidden even in His Revelation. In fact, as Pascal says, the more God is disclosed, the more obscured God becomes. It is a paradox but it makes sense if you think about this. The Revelation and the Grace, which are both supernatural, do not suppress our nature and its way of operating, but rather elevate and sublimate it. In other words, the Revelation does not exempt us from thinking but rather calls us, encourages us and motivates us to think more. This fact has been well expressed by Saint Anselm with his famous “Fides quaerens intellectum” – Faith seeking understanding. Saint Augustine had already said: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”
The Revelation is the unveiling of the mysteries of God, in the meaning that it tells us about the existence of these mysteries. The Revelation is not the explanation of these mysteries. So, when I believe, out of faith, I acknowledge the existence of mysteries, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation or the Eucharist. But when I believe, I also acknowledge that I cannot understand them. God is now revealed to me, and God is still a mystery to me. The more God is disclosed, the more obscured God becomes. For Pascal, the descent of Deus revelatus-absconditus culminates in the Eucharist, which is the last hiding place where God can be, as Father McDade explains. The Faith is the Eucharist is precisely what separates true believers from many other Christians. Pascal writes that the veil of nature which covers God has been pierced by several non-believers, who, as St Paul says, ‘have recognized an invisible God by visible nature’ (Rom 1.20). Heretical Christians have known him through his humanity and adore Jesus Christ, God and man. But to recognize him under the species of bread, that is the distinguishing mark of Catholics alone: we are the only ones whom God enlightens to that extent.
It is not a coincidence if Jesus speaks about the Paraclete that the Father will send in His name during the last Supper when He institutes the Sacrament of the Eucharist. He will teach you all things! All things!
The Holy Ghost is truly the gift of the Father who reveals to us the hidden things about God. It is only with humility and gratitude that we can receive Him. He allows us to accept the mysteries of God and to understand that we cannot understand them. The great temptation would be to rationalize the mysteries and to try to find an explanation to all things. That is precisely the error of our Protestant brothers after Luther, especially on the subject of the Eucharist. When you realize that you cannot understand a thing, you are inclined to deny it.
But be aware, dear Brethren, that it is also a temptation for you, maybe not on the subject of the Eucharist or of any great truth revealed by God and taught by the Church, but about more practical involvements of faith in your daily life. There are laws and rules in the spiritual life that we must know and accept in order to grow in holiness. They have been well explained by the Saints and the Doctors of the Church. They come from the Holy Ghost who teaches us all things. It is also with gratitude and humility that we should receive them and then, put them into practice. Denying them is ignoring the gift of God. Many –and I am speaking now about faithful Catholics – ignore the gift of God, because they are still full of themselves, instead of God. Be renewed in the Spirit, Saint Paul says. We have to accept the work of renovation that the Spirit of God wants to perform in us, and that supposes a total abandon of ourselves. This is mainly the object of our preaching throughout the year, based upon the teaching of the great masters of spiritual life. My desire and my wish is that we finally end by understanding it. If thou didst know the gift of God!
The Church applies the words of the Scripture about Wisdom to Our Blessed Mother. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. She has a role of educator. She is the beginning of our supernatural education. From her we can learn how to receive the teaching of the Holy Spirit. It is first the teaching of faith, which is an intellectual knowledge. It is also the teaching of a way of living that must be in accordance to our faith: the practice of the virtues. It is what we receive with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, who is Himself the Gift of God – Donum Dei. If thou didst know the gift of God! May Our lady help us to know and to receive Him.