Sunday, June 11, 2017

Homily – Most Holy Trinity – A Most Memorable Baptism

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
2nd Corinthians 13: 11-13
John 3:16-18

One of the biggest blessings for our Christian community is getting to witness baptisms and witness the Holy Trinity in action. 
Baptisms are usually joyous occasions.  Whether during Mass or in a private ceremony, baptizing a child “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” is a rewarding gift for the child, parents, Godparents, family, friends, parishioners, even the minister of the Sacrament.
This special day is filled with so much joy and hope, and endless possibility as a child’s soul is bonded to Christ for eternity.   
Although, there are times when the recipient of the sacrament is less than enthusiastic about the experience. 
I remember baptizing a rather rambunctious two year old once.  Thankfully, at his parent’s request, the baptism was done at a private ceremony (that should have been a hint about what was to come).
The young boy was more interested in running around the Church than participating in the sacred moment.
When time came for his dad to hold him over the baptismal font, he was having none of it. He screamed bloody murder and tried to wiggle from his father’s firm grasp. 

With an abundance of parental patience, the Sacrament was administered. 
When it came time to apply the Sacred Chrism, this deacon did his very best to get the oil on the top of the boy’s head, more a rapidly moving target.
And all the while, the young man had yours truly locked in a death stare.  If looks could kill, I’d be a dead man.
After the baptism, he returned to his whirling dervish ways. 
As the family was leaving and embarrassedly thanked me for the baptism, the young tot promptly ran up and kicked me in the shin. 
Let’s just say it was a memorable experience, one that taxed all in the Church. But even this baptism was joyous occasion. 
Although I must confess, the whole time I was praying, “Come Holy Spirit.”  
And “Jesus, forgive him for he knows not what he’s doing.”
Even though this child was making a scene, he was made perfect in Christ. Baptism makes each of us spotless; we become a new creation.
The Catholic Church baptizes using Trinitarian formula which is   “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  It is not considered a valid baptism unless these sacred words from Christ are spoken.

For those formed with the Baltimore Catechism, you might remember these questions about the Holy Trinity:
                      “How many persons are there in God?”
            “In God there are three Divine persons, really distinct, and equal in all things – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
“What does ‘trinity’ mean?”
            “Trinity’ means three-fold or three in one.”
            “Can we find an example to fully illustrate the mystery of the Blessed Trinity?”
            “We cannot find an example to fully illustrate the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, because the mysteries of our holy religion are beyond comparison.”
            “Is there but one God?”
            “Yes; there is but one God.”
Just a sampling of what the Baltimore Catechism taught about the Most Holy Trinity.
Perhaps you had a nun teach these lessons using a three-leaf
clover. Or in recent years had a theology teacher use the example of the three states of water (ice, steam and liquid) to illustrate the Trinity.
            Even the Pope's two primary ministries are reflective of the Holy Trinity: The Ministry of Unity (reflected in one God) and the Ministry of Diversity (reflected in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – three in one).  To quote Saint Pope John Paul the Second:  “Unity not only embraces diversity, but is verified in diversity.”  The Vicar of Christ, currently Pope Francis, is expected to maintain Unity while promoting Diversity. Sounds paradoxical and a little confusing, not too unlike the Trinity.
On this Most Holy Trinity Sunday, it is important to remember that from the very beginning of our Christian lives, we all were sealed in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

That’s why every time we enter the Sanctuary we use Holy water to recall our own Baptism with the sign of the cross, and honor the Holy Trinity, this singular belief, this one dogma: one God, in three persons.
Or when Mass begins with the sign of the cross, Father uses the familiar words from today’s second reading from St. Paul: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Well-known Catholic blogger Deacon Greg Kandra said this about the sign of the cross:
"Just think of what that simple gesture means.
We touch our heads for the Father – the one whose mere idea, whose smallest thought, created us. This is where we began, in the mind of God.

We touch our hearts for the Son – the one whose unceasing love took him to the cross, and the one who taught us, as well, how to love through his own Sacred Heart.
We touch our shoulders for the Holy Spirit – the one who gives us strength, and who carries us on His shoulders — on His wings, if you will – and who enables us to be God’s arms, working on earth.”
We celebrate this important Solemnity one week after Pentecost to honor one of the greatest gifts of our faith:  The Blessed Trinity.

As Moses said to the Lord in today’s first reading from Exodus, we (the children of God) are a stiff-necked people,” but we are “pardoned from our wickedness and (our) sins.” And He receives us as His own.
Gospel writer John reminds us today, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him will not be condemned.” 
I will now forever remember these words when reflecting fondly on my encounter with an angry two year old.
We are all living and breathing icons of the Most Holy Trinity, from the time we are baptized, and born in Christ, to the time when our lives end on earth and we die in Christ to everlasting life. 
We are truly blessed for all eternity thanks to the beautiful gift of the Most Holy Trinity.