June 6, 1993
First Reading: Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9
Responsorial Psalm: Daniel 3:52-56
Second Reading: 2nd Corinthians 13:11-13
Gospel: John 3:16-18
(Originally preached on the occasion of the First Mass celebration of Fr. Michael Meyer, Trinity Sunday 1993)
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. For many years, this feast has perplexed me, because most of the feasts in our Church calendar celebrate events. Like the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord; Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension; or like last Sunday, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church. But today is not an event. It is an idea--we believe in a God who is Father, Son and Spirit, and today we celebrate that belief.
As I was preparing to preach, I suddenly realized that even though today is not an event, it is an experience. We come together to celebrate the experience of God in our lives. As Father, this God created our world. As Son, this same God entered our world to redeem us and make us whole. As Spirit, our God has gifted us and continues to inspire us.
It's easy to experience the Creator God who made our world and us. At first that might seem odd--just look around. We have polluted our streams, rivers and oceans. We have made our air unbreathable. We have even felled ancient rain forests in an unquenchable and ignorant desire for progress. Still, each day is given that we might experience creation and see the face of God.
In the might of a waterfall, the power of a lion; in the majesty of a sunset, the delicate beauty of a butterfly; in the gentle melody of a bird, the wondrous birth of a child; in all these things we experience the never-ending creation of God. And whether we call this God Father or Mother, (the Bible uses both), we enter the mystery of evolution which springs from the very heart of the Creator.
It can also be easy to experience Jesus, whom we know as Savior. Many modern spiritual writers have discussed the brokenness in our world. Sometimes it seems overwhelming. Reconciliation and peace are only dreams in a world where revenge and getting even are the norm. In our personal lives we lash out at loved ones through anger, and write off anyone who offends us. Our families are torn apart by dissension, and our youth are confused by the pressures and lures of the world. Still, each day is given that we might experience salvation and become one with Jesus.
Each time enemies join hands and reach out for peace, Jesus saves us again. Each time we choose to speak words of love instead of words of hate, Jesus saves us again. Each time a husband and wife recall the love of their youth and bridge the distance of time and indifference, Jesus saves us again. Each time a young person rejects the values of the world and chooses to walk with Jesus--Jesus saves us again.
It is different with the Spirit. In some ways, I think the Spirit is the most important experience of God--at least in today's world. At any given moment, the Spirit both frightens us, and makes us calm. The same Spirit both agitates our lives and brings us peace. We associate many gifts with the Holy Spirit, among them, wisdom, knowledge and courage. Yet of all that the Spirit gives us, perhaps nothing is greater than inspiration. Deep down I think we all know that, and that is why we run away from God so hard and so fast. Inspiration frightens us.
In January of 1961, Robert Frost read one of his poems for the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. It would not be until 1993, 32 years later that another poet, Maya Angelou, would read again at a presidential inauguration. I don't believe that was an accident.
In our society, we do not value the poets and the dreamers. We do not honor the teachers and the artists. We no longer admire the priests and sisters. Even though these people may be inspired by the Spirit, they do not represent success as we have come to know it and to want it. Very few of these people are wealthy. We are so obsessed with money and material things, that we cannot take a chance on inspiration. In the process we have lost sight of one of our most fundamental truths: We will never be truly happy and fulfilled unless we are doing what God has called us to do.
None of us is here by accident--we are all part of God's plan. And unless we fulfill our reason for being, happiness and peace will always remain just beyond our reach. That's where the Spirit of God comes in. The Spirit knows our gifts and talents. This Spirit gently probes our hearts and desires, drawing out of us what is best within us. When I look at this congregation, I know that there are poets and artists and teachers among you. I have to believe that there are priests and sisters among you. It is only a matter of trusting the Spirit of God.
Without the Spirit, there is no Trinity. To my colleagues here, that may sound like sophistry. But in reality, without the Spirit, nothing else matters. What difference does it make why God created us if the Spirit does not lead us to fulfill our potential? We know what Jesus saves us from. But without the Spirit, we cannot know what Jesus has saved us for. Only through the inspiration of the Spirit can we know our gifts and become what God has created us to be.
In the musical play "Nunsense", there is a character called Sr. Mary Amnesia. She had an accident, and didn't know who she was. She didn't remember anything about her past. But she knew something about her present--she was a very gifted singer. Toward the end of the play, she sings a song about what she could be. I'd like to share the words with you:
I'd like to be a country singer like Loretta Lynn
with a deluxe Winnebago that I would travel in.
I'd have wigs like Dolly Parton.
I might even pierce my ears.
I'd have rhinestone-studded cowboy boots
And a sequined gown from Sears.
I'd have me some backup singers
and a real live blue grass band.
And I would go to Nashville
and appear at Opry land.
I'd sing songs of inspiration
I'd sing songs in time of strife;
Songs like "Drop-kick me Jesus
Through the goal posts of life."
Wait a minute, wait a minute.
It's all coming back to me.
I was gonna be a country singer
And there was a contest, a big contest.
And I remember walking out
walking out on a huge stage.
And when they turned on that spotlight
all that glittered there was me.
The people; they all were sayin'
She's another Brenda Lee.
Oh I could have gone to Nashville
and become a country star.
But something deep inside of me
was callin' from afar.
I started my new life
inside the convent wall.
Brenda Lee had given way
to Sister Mary Paul.
Sister Mary Paul; Sister Mary Paul.
That's it: I'm Sister Mary Paul.
I remember it all.
Oh I could have gone to Nashville
and become Loretta Lynn.
But something much more powerful
was callin' from within.
Oh I could have gone to Nashville
but I came here that day.
I must say a little thank you prayer
that it all turned out this way. AMEN
Sr. Mary Paul had set her course. It was only the intervention of the Holy Spirit and her own willingness to listen that led her in a new direction—a direction that would enrich the lives of so many more people in so many different ways. Once she surrendered to the inspiration and the motivation of the Spirit, she accomplished more than she could have ever dreamed. She was more fulfilled than she could have ever imagined. And her AMEN was yes to God and all he had done in her life.
Most of us have predetermined what path we want our lives to take. Sometimes our choices are based upon the talents and gifts we possess. Sometimes we are driven or attracted by the possibilities we see ahead of us. Whatever, I wonder how many of us have tried to listen to the voice of God as we plan our future and pursue our desires. I wonder how many of us are willing, Like Sr. Mary Paul, to trust the movement of the Spirit in our lives. I wonder how many of us would be much more fulfilled if we did?
It’s never too late. I believe that for each of us there is an AMEN to be sung. Maybe now is the time for us to listen, to trust and to act.