Sunday, June 7, 2020
Allow the Trinity to Help Us
Heal the Virus of Racism
Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity is a Dogma of the Church.
A dogma is a truth pertaining to faith or morals; revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles in the Scriptures or by tradition and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful.
Although the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the earliest formulation of the Trinity is given to us from St. Paul about 25 years after the Resurrection of Jesus. That formulation can be found in Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
The Trinity is a mystery that ultimately is undefinable and yet the Church attempts to define it.
It took four centuries, but by the end of the fourth century the theologians of the Church defined the mystery of the Trinity into this dogma: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are consubstantial, one Godhead, one power, one substance, of equal dignity and majesty, but in three perfect hypostases or Persons.”
So that is what we celebrate today … Isn’t that exciting??
I do not think it is!
We give thanks for the Spiritual Writers and Mystics who over and over again, through the centuries, in describing the mystery that is God, simply said: God is community!
The very nature of God is community: three persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.
When we choose to live in community, we choose to live in God…
Community has been the mission of the Church from the very beginning…
Think about it!
What is the first, the oldest, and continuously existing (for over 2,000 years) Multi-national Corporation on Earth?
The Church! The term we use is the Universal Church…Catholic means universal. That has been our nature from the very beginning.
The Apostles and Disciples within a few years after the Resurrection of Jesus went to the ends of the known world at that time and extended a welcome and invited everyone into community with Jesus.
People of every race, language, and ethnicity were invited to come and be Church…the Church reflected and was meant to be a reflection of the diversity of the entire human race.
Everyone belonged to God and God belonged to everyone…
Needless to say, it has never been easy…the human tendency, the human weakness, is to run off and hide in our own ghettos--of ethnicity, language, skin color, politics, economics, different understandings of the faith…
Recently someone asked me, “Fr. Mike, you often use the term “Global Village?”
What does that mean?
I was surprised by the question…with modern communication and air travel, the Earth has shrunk…we are a tiny village and it would behoove us to better know each other, interact with each other, come out of our ghettos, and work to be community, to be a reflection of the Universal Church…to be a reflection of the Trinity…to be a reflection of God…a God who has revealed his nature as community…
As the Universal Church, as the Catholic Church, our mission is to help create a better world… we are called to serve the Global Village by witnessing to the message of Jesus for this time and to this place.
And sadly in these days, in the midst of this pandemic, we are once again facing another pandemic, the pandemic of systemic racism which has once again raised its ugly head.
As Church, we must be willing to accept this difficult challenge, to turn toward the challenge and not away from it.
As we do, we find ourselves asking: “Have we made progress?” or “How much progress have we made?” and “What must we do…what can we do?”
The first thing we need to do, before acknowledging systemic racism in society, is to acknowledge it in our Catholic Church in the United States. We need to take a critical look at our history, and listen to Black Catholics, clergy and lay.
I share with you a personal story: I was a seminarian, 21 years old and getting ready to vote for the first time. I was living in Detroit, and the mayoral election was taking place…two men were running, one White and one Black…the city was racially divided Black and White; the population of African-Americans was increasing.
I happened to be talking to my Pastor, and he asked me who will I vote for?
I told him that I would be voting for the Black candidate and gave him my reasons.
His response: (I apologize for using the word) “You are going to vote for that ‘nigger?’”
Needless to say that I was shocked…a Catholic priest…a religious leader…my Pastor…
I realized then how ingrained racism was in the institution. That was not just some off-the-cuff comment. It was a deeply held belief, and a belief that was promoted by Church Leadership throughout the Parish.
This negative experience propelled me even more to the priesthood…to be an antidote to that virus…
My point is that we must first own our story. We need to acknowledge our own racism. Growing up and living in Detroit provided me with many opportunities to face my own racist attitudes.
As we acknowledge our own racism, then we can widen the view to include that of our Church and of the wider society.
Then we must listen to Black voices sharing their stories…then we dialogue…then we walk together to begin and continue the hard work of making our Church and our World to be a reflection of the Trinity…a reflection of community... a reflection of the nature of God…a reflection of God…