Saturday, May 30, 2015

From Biodata To Birthday


Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (B)

Picture: cc Manu Dreuil

Sisters and brothers, do you know the difference between biodata and a birthday? What do I mean? Well, imagine a family looking for a new domestic helper. A new maid. They go to an agency, where they are given several thick folders to browse. In these folders they find the biographical information of many people looking for work. Page after page of photographs, names and addresses, dates of birth, employment histories, and so on. The family has never met any of these people. But this is how they first get to know their new maid. Their initial impression of the kind of person she might be. By reviewing impersonal information found in a folder. By looking at biodata.

Now flash forward to five years later. The family’s chosen maid has been living and working with them for all this time. And it’s been a very good fit. The maid is hardworking and responsible. And she’s treated very well. Even as a member of the family. Today is the maid’s birthday. And everyone gathers for a celebration. Each family member gives thanks for the gift of the maid. For all that she is and does for them. As they did when they first visited the employment agency five years earlier, the family reviews their maid’s life. But they are doing it in a very different way. No longer only from a distance. No longer merely by browsing impersonal facts in a folder. But instead on the basis of a close personal relationship. Five years of living together has allowed the family and their maid to move from merely browsing through biodata to truly celebrating a birthday.

I mention this because I think we are called to experience a similar shift today. The solemn feast of the Holy Trinity is, of course, meant to be a celebration of God’s life. But it’s possible for us to treat it as we would a page of biodata. As though we were reviewing a collection of impersonal information about someone we’ve never met. Facts about one god who is supposed to be made up of three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. Of course, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that we don’t really understand exactly how God can be both one and three at the same time. But that’s not really a problem for us. Most of us have learned simply to accept it as a mystery. By which we mean something that we don’t need to bother ourselves too much about. Something that shouldn’t be allowed to hinder us from simply getting on with the rest of our lives. Until the next time Trinity Sunday comes around again.

But the approach in our readings is quite different. In the first reading, Moses addresses the people of Israel, just as they are about to enter the Promised Land. And what Moses invites Israel to do is not much different from what people might do when they celebrate a family birthday. He reminds them of all that God has done for them in the recent past. He encourages them to recall their own experience of the power of God’s word, especially in the Exodus. How, with mighty hand and outstretched arm, God freed them from slavery in Egypt. And gathered them to himself. Adopting them as God’s own family. Enabling them to cry out joyfully in the words of the psalmist: Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own. Empowering them to live the way God wants them to live. In ways that befit the members of God’s own family. By keeping God’s laws and commandments.

The scene in the gospel is similar. Just as Moses gathers Israel, before sending them into the Promised Land. So too does Jesus gather his disciples, before sending them out into the world. Reminding them of all that God has done for them. Except that, in the gospel, Jesus is not just the new Moses. He is himself also the Word-of-God-Made-Flesh. It is through the Mystery of Jesus’ Dying and Rising, that God has brought about a new Exodus. Freeing a people from the slavery of sin and death. And not just the people of Israel. But all the nations of the earth. Including you and me. In Christ, God has adopted us as God’s very own family. This is what Jesus means when he says, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. And it is the good news of this merciful act of adoption that all of us are sent into the world to proclaim. Go… and make disciples of all the nations…

Nor is this wonderful work of God only a thing of the past. Only something that Jesus did two thousand years ago. No. We continue to experience the power of this great Mystery today. For even though Jesus has ascended into heaven, he remains present to us just as he promised. Present in the Holy Spirit. Who, as the second reading reminds us, is a Spirit of adoption. A Spirit that bears witness to our new status as children of God, and co-heirs with Christ. How does the Spirit do this? By giving us the wisdom and courage to live as members of God’s family would live. In the same way that Jesus himself lived. As adopted daughters and sons of God. Sharing the Lord’s sufferings so as to share his glory.

My dear friends, isn’t this how Trinity Sunday is meant to be celebrated? Isn’t this why we locate this feast on the first weekend following the great season of Easter? Immediately after our celebration of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit? For us, Trinity Sunday is not meant to be just a review of impersonal information about someone we have never met. It is, rather, more like a birthday celebration of the head of our household.

A time to remember all that God, our loving Father, has been and continues to be, has done and continues to do, for and in us. Through the Son. In the Holy Spirit. Recalling not just memories that we all share in common. But also memories that are unique to each one of us. Memories of the many and different times in which we have experienced God’s care and concern for us. The many and different ways in which God has protected and provided for us. Inspiring our hearts to think the right thoughts. Strengthening our hands to do the right things. Guiding our steps to walk the right paths. Writing straight with the often crooked lines of our lives.

And as we do this. As we remember and count our many blessings. Something mysterious happens to us. We experience anew the energy that comes to the children of God. The power that is our birthright. We find new inspiration, new wisdom, new strength. So that we can continue to be sent out into our Promised Land. Into this broken yet beautiful world in which we live. To proclaim to all, by the lives that we lead, the love and joy, the peace and justice, of the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

Sisters and brothers, on this solemn feast of the Holy Trinity, how are we being called to continue moving from merely reviewing biodata to truly celebrating a birthday today?

3 comments:

  1. A lovely homily ... thank you, Fr Chris :)

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  2. O Triune God,

    Let me always RE-MEMBER the many times when YOU had saved me, in the nick of time, at the most unexpected moments, sometimes even within a close shave moment!

    Lord, teach me always to count my many blessings - let not darkness, doubt and despair come to me; instead let YOUR LOVE, LIGHT, JOY and PEACE always surround me, as YOU are always near to protect, guide, guard and lead me.

    O Holy Trinity,
    *God the Father, the Creator
    *God the Son, the Redeemer and
    *God the Holy Spirit the Sancitifer

    COME and DWELL in me always and let me never ever be parted from Thee. Amen.

    Sih Ying
    31 May 2015 Trinity Sunday

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