The National Catholic Review

Here is another homily from Fr. Bill O'Malley, who has an article in this week's America. The homily below is for June 19, Holy Trinity Sunday. Click here to read Fr. O'Malley's homily from Pentecost.

I know you’re all breathless with anticipation for the new liturgical changes that begin next Advent. One of the principal shifts will be that, in the Creed, instead of saying Christ is “one in being with the Father,” we’re now ordered to say, “consubstantial with the Father.” Now doesn’t that start your synapses sparking, doesn’t it just set every nerve ending a-tingle?

There’s a whole booklet out on understanding the changes that tells us how we’re really gonna like them. That’s sort of like my Mom telling me I’ll enjoy taking the shyest girl in the neighborhood to her senior prom, or the dentist saying, “This’ll only hurt just the tiniest wee little bit.”

These learned theologians give you the impression they really know what they’re talking about. I really, really believed that–-at least until I reached the age of reason. Which in my case, at least in reasoning about God, was about 32. Then I began getting very serious temptations to let my left brain open communications with my own right brain–-to let all the things I knew about science in the coldly rational lobe be seduced by all the warm and colorful images and symbols in the imaginative lobe. I began to think, for instance (as a voyeur on this at first improbable tryst), that–-if God pre-existed time--then God has never aged! That means, unavoidably, that God’s younger than we are. That God is nowhere near as stodgy as the pictures the Church has allowed. That God is infinitely more playful than the people who have been trying to box him in since the caves–-whether that prison was a totem pole or a definition in the Summa Theologica.

The theologian Sondra Schneider has a terrific insight: “God is not two men and a bird!” I find that denial far more satisfying than all the certified definitions.

What the theologians have kept secret from the ordinary Catholic (simply by stopping Catholic learning before age 32) is that even St. Paul had no worked-out idea of the Trinity. He simply accepted that it was, like presuming our mothers love us. The first time the Greek word for “Trinity” arose was in Tertullian, 200 years later, and the first time the Church came up with a reasonably firm assertion was in the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople–-350 years after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. And yet today’s bishops have issued a serious warning (I kid you not!) about using a feminine pronoun about the Holy Spirit–-when even the flinty John Calvin said “God has manifested himself to us as both Father and Mother.” Our bishops’ warning comes even despite Thomas Aquinas himself, declaring at his death, that everything he ever wrote about God was “nothing but straw” compared to the ineffable Reality.

Over the course of those 350 years, as Elizabeth Johnson says, “the monotheistic view of God flexed to incorporate Jesus and the Spirit.” Isn’t that so much humbler–-therefore closer to the truth--than certitude? “Flexed.” At first early Christians, she says, saw the One God as utterly beyond them, other-worldly. But then they began to realize God had now become historically present to them, in Jesus. Then, when he went back into another way of existing, his presence remained–-at one and the same time–-beyond and with. In fact, he was now within them as members of the same Body. That’s what comes when the dominating, “masculine” insight yields uncharacteristically to the submissive, “feminine” ways of understanding.

St. Augustine tried at least 20 times to find more accessible words for the Trinity, and the best he came up with (for me) was: “Lover...Beloved...Love.” The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, the Spirit is their Loving.

When Jesus tells us to love one another as we love ourselves, he’s suggesting we try to love them as whole-heartedly as God loves “Themselves.” The earliest Christian theologian, Paul, says we are a living Eucharist, because we are the embodiment of God, enlivened by His Spirit–-as Jesus was. WOW!

 

Comments

Tony Green | 6/19/2011 - 1:36am
O'Malley seems to go to great lengths to chronicle the Tradition of the Early church.  Some would suggest that the trivializing of this tradition by the subsequent acts of its leadership merits critique.  It's not the messenger who's making the bishops look like idiots.

An apostolic tradition that presumes that voices different from ''Peter'' are contrary to truth is itself contrary to the apostolic stewardship to which the bishops are entrusted.  They are called to truth - not to blind and spineless acquiescence.
Christopher Kellerman | 6/17/2011 - 6:11pm
Nothing like using your Sunday homily to:

1) complain about the text of the liturgy
2) complain about the bishops
3) complain about certain conceptualizations of God being recognized by the Church as preferable to others.. and then state which ones you prefer.
4) imply that contemporary liberal Christians understand Christianity WAY better than the last 2,000 years of believers and theologians in the Church [which always has assumed, in Scripture and Church Councils, that certain ideas about God need to be rejected, and that some concepts to describe God are better than others]. Boy, those Church Fathers and saints. If only they had had liberation and feminist contextualized theologies so that their faith could be as mature as ours!

What a beautiful homily drawing me closer to the Lord through his Church. Now that I know I'm a wiser Christian than the bishops, time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist!
Stephen Hutchison | 6/17/2011 - 5:44pm
 ''consubstantial with the Father.'' Now doesn’t that start your synapses sparking, doesn’t it just set every nerve ending a-tingle? Agreed...if we need to change why not change to a phrase we all understand (and for fleeting moments in life perhaps experience), like  “intimate with the Father, and with me” ?
Frank Bergen | 6/17/2011 - 12:19pm
I usually try to avoid commenting on the comments, as the discussion seems often to deteriorate.  However, I must say that the church needs more preaching and theologizing of the sort Bill O'Malley has given us in his Trinity Sunday homily.  The greatest of disrespect is that shown by a hierarchy that treats educated adults like kindergardeners.  Bravo, Bill!
Peter Lakeonovich | 6/17/2011 - 10:27am
The tone of this "homily" is disrespectful. 

The content of this "homily" is, pun intended, unsubstantial.  But perhaps that's a function of a small left and right brain. 

For example, no serious Catholic believes that the Church teaches that God is two men and a bird.  No Christian believes this.  These are religious symbols and imagery that help us understand mysteries of our Faith. 

If Fr. O'Malley was as smart as he thinks he is he'd understand that he is attacking the Chruch (the bishops) for something that it does not even teach.  This is pop culture, superficial theology at its worst.

Can't wait for the new changes.

AMDG

 
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 6/16/2011 - 2:27pm
Great stuff!
Fr. O'Malley should replace Fr. Weinandy.