Sunday, June 19, 2011

Port Lincoln: A homily, reflections and photos

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
19 June 2011
Ex 34:4-6,8-9
Dl 3:52-55
2 Cor 13:11-13
Jn 3:16-18

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  This celebration forces us to consider the essential dogma of our faith.  We recall this dogma every time we begin and end Mass.  We invoke the Trinity every time we pray.  We call upon the Trinity whenever we say the words  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What we call the Trinitarian formula is critical to every one of the Church’s sacraments; from baptism to the anointing of the sick and dying.   The Sign of the Cross begins and ends everything the Church does.  As it should.

We read in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Christians are baptized In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith.” (#232-234)

Every time we make the Sign of the Cross, we recall a mystery that remains inexplicable. The Trinity remains inexplicable despite the vast number of books written about it.  While each book may contain a bit of insight into the nature of the Trinity, none captures the essence of the Trinity.  No book, or the sum of all books, will ever capture that essence.  The dogma of the Trinity depends on faith.

What is faith?  One definition of faith is: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”  Another definition of faith from the Letter to the Hebrews is very short: “Faith is the conviction of things unseen.”   Both definitions tell us something important in light of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  There never will be a logical proof of the dogma of the Trinity. Thus, we must become comfortable with the definition of faith at its deepest and most mysterious because, despite the absence of logical proof, despite the impossibility of philosophy or science to begin to explain the Trinity, one cannot call oneself Christian if he or she denies the Trinity. 

How difficult is it to understand the Trinity?  Back when I was in grade school over 50 years ago I first heard a story that illustrates the impossibility of understanding the dogma of the Trinity.

St. Augustine was walking along a beach trying to understand One God in Three Divine Persons. He wanted to explain the Trinity through logic.   He noticed a child who had dug a hole in the sand.  The child was walking back and forth between the water and the hole with a small cup.  He would fill the cup at the water’s edge and then empty it into the hole in the sand.  Augustine observed this for a while and then ventured closer to ask what he was doing.  The child responded that he was emptying the sea into the hole.  Augustine asked, “How do you expect to be able to empty something as vast as the sea into this small hole?”  The child responded, “I can empty the sea into this hole more easily than you can understand the Trinity.” 

The child’s point is still valid.  We can understand some things through faith that our inadequate intelligence will never be able to comprehend.  Even if we were to comprehend the Trinity the limits of human vocabulary and the emptiness of all languages would not allow us to explain it in a way that others would understand.

It is important to note that the word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible.  Rather, the understanding of the Trinity grew in the early years of the Church as theologians and others began to consider what Jesus had said and done during His time on earth. Remember, we heard in the second reading that Paul already spoke of the Trinity.

What is the doctrine of the Trinity?  It is the doctrine that in the unity of God there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these three Persons is God. There is only One God, yet the Persons are distinct.  Thus, Jesus always speaks of His Father as distinct from Himself, but also notes that “I and the Father are One.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.  We are accustomed to persons being distinct and not the same.   We have a hard time wrapping our minds around three in one, the same yet distinct.  Thus, Augustine’s walk along that distant shore. 

Over the past weeks many of the gospel readings have been taken from the farewell discourse toward the end of John’s Gospel. In this discourse Jesus refers to both the Father and the Holy Spirit in reference to Himself several times. Ultimately though, the Trinity is, and will remain, a mystery.

At the end of the second reading we heard Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians:  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 

Grace. Love. Fellowship.

What more could we desire?

Port Lincoln.

I arrived in Port Lincoln, South Australia at about 8:30 Friday night.  Michael and I left the community in Pymble at 11:30 AM for the Sydney Airport.  We took off on time from Sydney and arrived in Adelaide a bit after 4:30 PM.  Note, South Australia, which contains Adelaide, is one-half hour behind Sydney time.  As Michael was to remain in Adelaide he was met at the gate.  The odd thing about that was that he was met AT the gate.  Airport security is a tad more relaxed here  than it is back home.  One also wears shoes and belt through airport security.  Nice.

I had a 3 ½ hour layover.  The Adelaide Airport is nice.  It is quiet, clean, lacking those wretched carts that beep with an eardrum destroying sound, does not play crappy music in the background and it is easy to escape the televisions on which the volume is set to NORMAL.   Plenty of shopping (window) opportunities and reasonable food options.  The time passed quickly enough before the 45 minute flight to Port Lincoln.   It was, nonetheless, a long day.

PL is a lovely town that sits on Boston Bay (really).  Saint Mary of the Angels is three blocks from the water.  It is a  large complex with church, assembly hall (the small original church) a 1 through 12 school that has 40 borders in the boarding house, a convent and the rectory.  

The pastor is Fr. Brian.  Brian is a candle maker by hobby.  He does very nice work.  I took a few photos of some of his stuff.  Later he has asked if we can collaborate on step-by-step photos of the candle making process.  Thus the test shots I took in the outdoor shed-workshop. 

The people are very and welcoming.  They have coffee, tea and toast after the 9 AM Mass.  Vegemite is optional for the toast.  I did not, and will not, exercise that particular option.  In three weeks Brian he is leaving on vacation and I will be the substitute parish priest for two weeks.  That should be interesting.  Night call.  Again.  

The parish is about three blocks up the street.  The ocean and pier were directly behind me. 

Here is the early arrival for the 9 AM Mass this morning. 
The last four are various photos in the candle making shed. 

+Fr. Jack

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