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Holy Trinity, June 2-3, 2012

posted Jun 4, 2012, 4:36 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

            Every human being lives by faith.

Every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth lives by faith.

Sadly, they don't necessarily live by Christian faith, but every human being lives by a kind of "natural" faith ... in the sense that we all depend for a lot of what we know (or what we think we know) ... we depend on what we've read in books or on the word ... the testimony ... of others.

A lot of the things we know, we have no personal experience, physical evidence, or empirical data for.

I have a friend who used to say that he didn't believe that there was really a state of Idaho.

And when asked about it, he would counter:

"Well, have you ever been Idaho?" ... "Well, no ..."

"Have you ever met anyone from Idaho?" ... Well, (at that point), no ..."

"Then, how do you know that there is a such a place as so-called Idaho?"

Well, it really is a matter of a kind of "natural" faith ... I believe that there is an Idaho because the government and teachers and maps and textbooks tell me that there is an Idaho ... so I "know" that there is an Idaho, really by a kind of "natural faith."

I know that there is a planet called Jupiter ... though I've never seen it.

I know that my body is made up of atoms and sub-atomic particles ... though I can't see them.

But I know those things by "faith" ... because others have told me so ... and I believe them.

 

            Christian faith, in that sense,  is not unlike "natural" faith.

Of course, we know that Christian faith is ultimately a gift ... God gives us the gift of faith which, if and when we accept it, we come to see things in a different way.

But a lot of what we know about our faith really is exactly that: a matter of faith ... taking the word of others ... without empirical data.

And so, for example, with today's feast: the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity ... in which we celebrate our belief that God is One in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now, at some level, with the gift of faith, we may have had some personal, spiritual experience of encounter with Jesus ... or the presence of his Spirit ... but we don't have any real empirical data ... any more than I have empirical data that there is such a thing as an atom.

But we believe in the Trinity ... and so many other mysteries of our faith ... because we have the gift of faith ... and based on the word, the testimony, the reflection of others.

 

            All of this means that faith depends on our trust in the reliability of the person who teaches us something of which we have no personal evidence.

We believed all (or at least most) of what our teachers taught us in school ... because we trusted our teachers ... or they seemed knowledgeable ... or we assumed that they wouldn't have been hired if they didn't know what they were talking about.

We believe all sorts of scientific facts because we're told by people with advanced degrees, who work in fancy labs, in top-notch universities ... and so we accept what they tell us because we believe their credentials.

Or, at a sillier level, we're told on TV that if we hook up these electrodes to our bellies, our fat will just melt away ... and then the commercial trots out these "scientists" in their white coats in what looks like a sports lab ... with charts and graphs and "scientific" evidence ... and, again maybe with a little skepticism, at least some people will fork out the money and buy the product ... because they have "scientists" who are telling us we should believe this stuff.

 

            Well, Christian faith ... while most basically a gift ... depends too on our trust in the reliability of those who teach us the basic beliefs of our faith.

The gift of faith allows us to believe what Jesus tells us.

But we also believe in doctrines like the Trinity ... or the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist ... or the reality of Heaven and Hell ... because countless intelligent, good people have believed this stuff—and staked their lives on it—for more than 2,000 years ...

We believe these doctrines because special people we call "saints" have taught them ...

... because learned theologians and bishops and popes have taught us ...

... because our parents have taught us.

... because a global, 2,000-year-old faith community believes it.

And we believe based on the reliability of those who we trust ... because of who they are to us ... or the credentials they have ...

 

            But faith isn't only about facts that we can know.

We don't just believe facts based on "natural" faith.

The young father says to his little son: "Jump, and I'll catch you."

Well, the little boy doesn't have proof that his father will, in fact, catch him if he jumps ... but based on their relationship, the child "has faith" in his father ... he believes him ... he trusts him ... and so the kid jumps ...

... and if his father does, in fact, catch him ... well, then ... the next time, that child will have even more reason to have faith in his father.

On their wedding day ... a man says to a woman: "I love you. I commit myself to you. I will be true to you for a lifetime ..."

Well, yes, she has a history of data on which to base her trust in what he's saying ... but, in the end, it's her belief in him ... in their relationship ... that allows her to have faith ... to believe ... and to commit herself to him.

An elderly man lies sick in a hospital ... and his wife of many, many years, says: "Honey, go to sleep. I'll stay here with you."

Well, he has no way of proving that she will, in fact, stay at his side if he sleeps ... but he really knows it ... and so he closes his eyes, knowing that she is keeping watch ... because he believes in her ... he has faith because of their relationship ...

 

            Christian faith too is dependent on a Person that we have come trust ...

Christian faith is dependent on the strength of a relationship that we have developed over time ....

Not too long ago, I had a woman in my office—a parishioner who comes to church, from time to time—and she was going through a very difficult time in her life ... and she told me that she was struggling with her faith ...

I didn't say it to her directly, but I thought: "Well, of course, you're struggling with your faith now. You don't really know the Person that you need to trust. You don't really have a relationship with Him. How could you possibly have faith in him now?"

Sadly, I see this all of the time in hospital rooms and funeral homes ... people struggling to hold on to—or to re-discover—their  faith in the hardest moments of human life ... because they have don't really know the one whom they really need to have faith in now .. they have no real relationship with the one whom they need most to believe in at that difficult moment ...

Christian faith is built on knowing God ... built on a relationship with him.

Faith doesn't magically appear when we need it.

We ought not to be surprised that we lack faith when we need it most ... if we haven't worked at when it seemed like we didn't need it at all.

 

            Today, in our first reading, St. Paul is telling us that God is inviting us into the deepest possible relationship with him.

He is saying that God wants us to see ourselves ... and act ... and relate to God ... as his very own beloved sons and daughters.
St. Paul is telling us that Almighty God in heaven wants to be a loving, caring, compassionate, generous Father to us.

God wants to call him—All Powerful Lord of heaven and earth—He wants us to call him "abba" .. "daddy" '...  "Papa" ...

And today, this feast of the Most Holy Trinity is telling us too that God is inviting us into his inner life ... into the love that exists between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ...

 

            And so, today, God is inviting us ... you and me .. into faith ... into the deepest possible faith ... based on the deepest, most intimate, most personal relationship with him.

This is the path to really believe all that the Church teaches us.

This is the path to really have faith when we need it most.

Relationship with God ... conversation with God ... friendship with God ... communion with God ... time spent with God ... praying to God ...

With it, we can have faith "to move mountains". .. without it, we won't have the faith to see us through the difficulties that we must all inevitably face in life ...

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