The Good, The True and The Beautiful

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

June 16, 2019

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Trinity

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Blessed Trinity, a mystery of our faith beyond full human comprehension. Clearly realizing this, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist religion said this:


Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man,
and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God.


Still, as we pray, we have some limited conceptualization of this Divine Mystery. We reshape it into human terms we can relate to:


Father, Son, Spirit
Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier


These give us some insight into the heart of the Triune God, but only from the limits of our human perspective. It is a mystery so infinite that even in heaven we may not plumb its depths.

Many theologians and philosophers have tried to stretch our perspectives. The great Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes:


The One, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, these are
what we call the transcendental attributes of Being,
because they surpass all the limits of essences
and are coextensive with Being.


It may be helpful in our prayer to think of the Trinity in these terms- The Good, The True, and the Beautiful. These concepts, while we can experience them clearly in an individual or an object, far surpass that one particular presence or circumstance.

So it is with the nature of the Trinity. We perceive it simply in glimpses. Though Its totality far surpasses our comprehension, perhaps these glimpses are enough:
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:


Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun
which you could never get from reading books on astronomy.
These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’
in the woods of our experience.


What does all this mean in our daily spirituality? How can we find a Trinitarian spirituality in our daily encounter with God? How can we find the “patches of Godlight”?

Pope Francis brings it down to our experience of family:


All of the love that God has in Himself,
all the beauty that God has in Himself,
all the truth that God has in Himself,
He gives to the family.


So, in the sincere love – given and received – of a family or community, we find the reflection of this immense mystery.

And St. Catherine of Siena confidently prays about this truth in this way:


You, Eternal Trinity, are my Creator,
and I am the work of Your hands,
and I know through the new creation
which You have given me in the blood of Your Son,
that You are enamored of the beauty of Your workmanship.


Music: Amazing Love – Billy Martin, Peggy Dequesnel, Steve Hall

Truth on Friday 13th

Friday, July 13, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071318.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we pray with the word “Truth”. The word appears 137 times in the Bible. God clearly has something to tell us about it!

Jn16_13

A truth theme runs through today’s readings like a magnetic thread, drawing us to deeper self-understanding. Friday the 13th is a good day for that, don’t you think – a day fraught with superstitions and falsehoods?

When I was a teenager, my parents decided to wallpaper our living room. Dad, a master craftsman at just about any DIY project, had been physically incapacitated by several heart attacks. So, while he was the architect, I was the contractor for this home project.

Dad was an exact yet patient teacher. I learned how to cut, paste and match seams. I absorbed the craftsperson’s essential mantra: measure twice, cut once. Even the mysteries and miracles of Dad’s old, treasured toolbox were opened to me.

One morning, Dad said we had to “true up” a wall and that we were going to “drop a plumb line”. It was Greek to me. But he explained that no building is perfectly level. If we didn’t begin our papering from a leveled line, we would end up feeling like our living room was a tilted funhouse. 

Don’t you sometimes feel like our world is that funhouse? But it isn’t really very much fun, is it? We live in a time when information and communication are at our fingertips. Yet, we are confused by half-truths and distorted facts. We are assailed with propaganda and cyber-manipulation. We are fed a diet of constant cabled lies AND we consume them to satisfy our biases. Even in our personal lives, we may be undercut by false friends and masquerading enemies. Like Pontius Pilate, we are left with the question, “Truth! What is “Truth”?

Today’s readings drop a plumb line into that skewed world. 

  • Hosea tells us, “Straight are the paths of the Lord; in them the just walk.” 
  • Our Psalm implores God to create in us a true heart. 
  • Our Gospel tells us that, even in the midst of deceit, that true heart will be guided by the Holy Spirit.

On this Friday the 13th, we can start by truing up our own spirits. Let’s pray for the grace today to be true friends – not fair weather; true patriots – not nationalists; true believers – not Pharisees. 

Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart,
and in my inmost being you teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(from today’s Psalm)

Music: Change My Heart, O God! – Maranatha Music

A Sacrifice of Praise

Monday, July 2, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070218.cfm

sacrifice of praise

Today, in Mercy,  our readings are harsh. We don’t want to think about our sinfulness, do we? We’re doing the best we can. Right?

Well, maybe not. 

Our Old Testament brethren thought they were doing fine, too. But today’s reading from Amos lashes out at the societal sins of Israel: slavery, prostitution, systemic oppression of the poor, obstinate immorality, and idolatry. Beloved Israel – the nation that God had delivered from Egypt – had lost its way! 

The prophet Amos demands that the people look in a mirror to see what they have become. He tells them that they are not doing OK, that they are a selfish mess, that they face the crushing wrath of God!

Today’s psalm reinforces the dire warning:

~  You use religion to justify your misdeeds
~  You deal with thieves and adulterers
~  You lie and provoke violence by your words
~  You slander and spread rumors in order to keep power over others
Remember this, you who never think of God!

Sounds kind of familiar, maybe? Describes our 21st century reality too, doesn’t it? 

Many of us read these passages and think, “Thank God I’m not doing any of this terrible stuff!” But that’s not enough. What we must ask ourselves is how we passively contribute to any of these societal sins by a myopic faith, plastic morality, prejudiced politics, and unexamined cultural choices. 

Do we approve, or at least stay silent, when religion is used to ostracize people? When political power crushes the rights of those we disagree with? When our entertainment relies on violence and dehumanization of people? 

It is painful and difficult to do this deep examination of conscience. We might all find ourselves complicit, in some way, with the evils we hate and fear. 

Let the closing words of today’s psalm encourage us:

“Consider this, you who forget God,
lest I rend you and there be no one to rescue you.
The one who offers a sacrifice of praise glorifies me;
and to the one that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”

Music: Sacrifice of Praise ~ Alvin Slaughter

Lord I lift a song of worship
For Your glory and Your grace
Let my heart reveal all my words fail to say
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise

On the mountain in the valley
As I wait in my secret place
I will trust trust in the name of the Lord
Now receive this sacrifice of praise
Now receive this sacrifice of praise

You’re my shield. You’re my shelter
From the storm and from the rain
Cover me beneath the shadow of Your wings
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise

Hallelujah hallelujah
Hallelujah to Your name

For all You’ve done
You are and evermore will be
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise

The Tangled Web

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061618.cfm

Why do we lie? It gets us so mixed up!

I vividly remember a quotation painted along the chalkboard border of my 6th grade classroom. It is from Sir Walter Scott’s poem Marmion:

“O what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive.”

Perhaps the quote impressed me so much because I was entangled in a juvenile drama over smoking in the girls’ bathroom. Some supposed friend had reported two of us to the principal, a tiny nun who kept an unused  (but nonetheless threatening) cat-o-nine tails in her desk drawer. When confronted, what was there to do but lie?

Mt 5_37 yes_no

But, oh the complexity of it! Would my partner in crime tell the same story? Would any slight discrepancy render us convicted? Would she instead take the part of the informant? Would my smoker parents be brought in as investigators of the behavior they had inspired? Where would the whole quagmire end!

Wouldn’t it have been so much simpler to just tell the truth? So why do we lie? Why do we swear to what is not true? Why do we boast of things we cannot claim? This is the same challenge Jesus puts to his followers in our Gospel passage.

In my young case, as in many others, we lie because our behavior has fractured us from the image of who we are expected to be. We want to be respected, loved, powerful and right. These are conditions that should be earned by the integrity of our behavior. But when our actions cheat, we often lie, pretend, avoid, distract or otherwise compromise the truth.

Our world is full of this kind of lying. Our politics are crippled with it; our leaders unashamedly expert at it. Our culture is so poisoned with a lack integrity, that it seeps into our own relationships and choices almost unnoticed. Lying becomes normalized.

And the situation is not new. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is warning his disciples to avoid just such corruption.

A remedy? Here’s what Jesus says:

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the Evil One.”

It sounds simple enough. But it requires the hard work of prayerful self-examination, loving mutual correction, forgiveness (even of ourselves), and a good old “firm purpose of amendment”. (Remember that one from the Act of Contrition?)

It was a heck of a lesson I was taught in sixth grade – and, like most great lessons – it wasn’t in any textbook! I only hope I learned it somewhat well.

Music: Tell the Truth ~ Eric Clapton (Get ready to jam! Lyrics below.)

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

There you sit there, looking so cool
While the whole show is passing you by.
You better come to terms with your fellow men soon, cause
The whole world is shaking now. Can’t you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. Can’t you see it?

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

It doesn’t matter just who you are,
Or where you’re going or been.
Open your eyes and look into your heart.

The whole world is shaking now. Can’t you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. Can’t you see it?
I said see it, yeah, can’t you see it?
Can’t you see it, yeah, can’t you see it?
I can see it, yeah.

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

Hear what I say, ’cause every word is true.
You know I wouldn’t tell you no lies.
Your time’s coming, gonna be soon, boy.
It doesn’t matter just who you are,
Or where you’re going or been.
Open your eyes and look into your heart.

Songwriters: Bobby Whitlock / Eric Patrick Clapton / Robert S. WhitlockTell the Truth lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Music Sales Corporation

Let Your “Yes” Be “Yes!”

Friday, May 25, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052518.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we once again are faced with “tough talk” readings. James is simply that kind of preacher. And, in the Gospel, Jesus takes on the gnarly topic of adultery. So it’s not going to be sweet inspiration today!

What both readings have in common is the quintessential call to integrity at the core of committed Christian life. Our word, given in compassion and mercy, should be our bond. Our loving care for ourselves and all Creation should be trustworthy and persevering. For a person of faith, “fake news” and “alternative facts” are simply code for the deceitful avoidance of our duty to love one another.

We should not allow deceit, indifference, pretense or abuse to ever adulterate our efforts to love. Respect for ourselves and for other human beings requires that we say “Yes” and “No” honestly. Our reverence for God demands that we offer the same loving veracity to God.

The covenant of marriage, or of religious profession, places this obligation in a particularly bright light. When we give ourselves in commitment to another, and receive their commitment in return, we imitate the Blessed Trinity who exist in the unity of selfless, creative love. This “Yes”or “I do” is tied to our very identity as a person capable of living in the mutuality of love as God does.

James and Jesus tell us today to take every care to treasure and protect such precious commitments by the deep integrity of our hearts.

Holy Trinity Icon by Andrej Rublëv, an Eastern Orthodox monk, considered to be one of the greatest medieval Russian painters of Orthodox icons and frescos.

Music: Russian Orthodox Chant ~ Srtensky Monastery Choir

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VyREJRz8wNI

I Greet the Holy within You

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Acts, Paul continues his prayer for those who will safeguard and carry the faith into the future. In the Gospel, Jesus does the same thing. Both Jesus and Paul talk about the “consecration“ of those they are praying for.

Consecration is the act of making something sacred – setting it apart in God. Each one of us, by our Baptism, has been so consecrated. Jesus tells us that “the world” (read: the influences of greed, power, and self-absorption) will challenge what is sacred in us. These influences will fight against the Truth that we, and every other creature, are holy because Christ died for us.

On occasion, at very special liturgies, the celebrant will venerate the altar and the congregation with incense from a thurible. At funeral liturgies, the body of our loved one is so venerated. These acts recognize the holiness within us. In Hindu culture, the greeting, “Namaste” captures this understanding because it literally means, “I greet the Holy in you.” I was deeply moved to learn this word, many years ago, from one of our missionary Sisters returning from India.

Today’s readings encourage us to reflect on this question: Is my life an act of veneration to the sacred within me and everyone I meet?

Acts 20_32

Song: Holy Now by Peter Mayer

Can Love Survive Without Truth?

Monday, April 16, 2018: Today, in Mercy, we meet Stephen, proto-martyr of the Christian faith. Like Jesus, Stephen is persecuted for his goodness. Like Jesus, Stephen had false witnesses presented against him. How can Love survive in the absence of Truth? And yet, as today’s Gospel assures is, it does. We live in a time that has forgotten the essence and value of truthfulness. We live in a world where some people’s lives are a lie – a pretense of who they truly are as children of God. But our faith calls us to truth, mercy, justice and commitment to Christ’s teachings. May we be inspired by the witness of Stephen and his companions to tell the truth, be the truth, call for truth in others.

Ps119_30