Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 7, 2020
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity,
celebrating the most sublime article of our faith:
that God is One,
but also three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I say it’s “sublime”
because it reveals something amazingly wonderful about God:
that He is a personal communion of three persons
sharing one life and one love.
So that at the heart of God’s very being…who He most truly is,
is this eternal, total, complete, mutual self-gift
between the three Divine Persons in love,
that is at the center of their absolute unity.
And I say it’s “the most” sublime article of faith because it is really
the beginning of all meaning in life
and the end to which all life is directed:
living in the communion, or unity, of the love of God.
The Bible begins, book 1, chapter 1, by telling us that we were created
in the image of God.
So that when Jesus reveals that God is a Trinity of Persons
we come to understand that human beings
are created in the image of this amazing Trinitarian love
in order to share in that life and love, both on earth and in heaven
by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,
and by loving each other.
We see this unity and love of the Trinity reflected in the things
that make us most happy:
the unity and love of marriage,
the unity and love of a family,
the unity and love in the Church,
AND the unity and love between all of us in civil society.
But on the other hand,
we see how the lack of love and unity make human beings most unhappy.
Again, in the unhappiness of marriages, families, the Church and society.
As Catholics we know that the opposite of love is sin
—sin is a failure to love as we should.
So that sin is at the root of all problems of disunity and division.
Sin always divides.
Think of it: Sins of lying, stealing, killing and adultery always divide.
And in the last 2 weeks we’ve seen a vivid example
of the way another particular sin divides: the sin of racism.
Nowadays there are several definitions of racism floating around
—unfortunately, some truly foolish and even evil.
So let’s use a simple definition we’ve used for centuries, that racism is:
a belief that different races, including different ethnic groups,
are inherently naturally superior and inferior to each other.
It’s the idea that all people of a particular race
are always inherently better than other races,
and so that just by birth they’re entitled to higher privileges and rights,
that the inferior races are not entitled to.
And that is a terrible sin: Racism is absolutely contrary to the unity and love
of the God in whose image we are all created.
Now, it’s important to make some distinctions.
For example, what if you think a particular culture is better than another
—is that racism?
I’m of French descent, but I’ve always had a preference and admiration
of the British culture.
I just like the way the Brits do things.
At least when it comes to most things.
For art, I think the Italians have them beat.
But I prefer Shakespeare over Cervantes and Maya Angelou.
But none of that means I’m a racist.
Because none of that is based on my thinking that simply being white, or French,
is better than being brown or black or British.
There is no lack of love—there is simply personal preference.
Or what if you have a clear prejudice about a particular group
—especially a racial group?
Well even here you have to make distinctions.
Remember, “prejudice” means pre-judging people
before you know them, or know them well.
So, for example, I have a prejudice in favor of Filipinos,
because I’ve found over the years that Filipinos are very kind to priests
—and I like that.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
But that’s not rooted in some sense of natural inferiority or superiority,
And it’s certainly not rooted in hate.
I just like it when people like me.
Another example: today I am exercising a prejudice against elderly people.
We’ve said, if you’re 65 or older, you should probably not come to Mass now.
That’s a type of prejudice: I’ve prejudged a whole group of people based on age.
But not because of inferiority or superiority, but simply out of reason and love.
And if an 80 year old comes to Mass, great,
I love them enough to respect their choice,
even though I may still prejudicially worry for them.
But prejudice can also be unreasonable or unjust, and so, contrary to love,
even when it’s not based on racial superiority.
So, for example, a white businessman might interview a young black man
who was raised in a really tough, crime and drug infested neighborhood,
and think “you can take the man out of the neighborhood,
but you can’t take the neighborhood out of the man.”
That’s a prejudice based not strictly on race, but on a lack of love, or respect,
for that young man as created in the same image of God the white man.
On the other hand, you have some who say,
that same young black man has been so oppressed
that elite white people have to tell him
how to think, what to say, and even who to vote for.
Again, not based on reason, and not loving.
Now, let me clear: I’m NOT excusing racism and prejudice.
Racism is a sin because it rejects the fundamental truth
revealed by God in Christ
that all men are created equal in His image,
and created to live and love together,
in the image of the Trinity, God the Father, Son and Spirit do.
And prejudice is a sin when it is unjust, that is, contrary to love.
But prejudice is not a sin when it is truly rooted in and leads to love.
The thing is, how do we fight racism if we don’t understand what it is and is not?
If we don’t look at the facts with reason and love,
instead of being carried away by mere emotional responses.
Lately that’s what been happening in our society:
letting our feelings sweep us away and dominate our lives.
Especially the emotion of fear.
Fear of the virus led freedom loving Americans to allow the government
to effectively lock us in our houses
and forgo all sorts of fundamental human rights,
like freedom of religion and assembly.
Now the fear of racism is all around us.
We see it dominating the media.
And we see it in polls, as good people are afraid that racism is systemic.
And we see it on the streets of our major cities
as thousands abandon the fear of the virus to protest in fear of racism.
For some this fear has manifested itself in senseless violence and mayhem.
But as with the coronavirus, we don’t have to be constantly afraid.
The coronavirus is deadly, and racism is a deadly sin, a mortal sin.
But not every cough is someone spreading Covid19,
and not every pre-judgment we make is rooted in or spreading hatred.
So what is the answer to the problem of racism?
First, we have to see things as they are, with reason and love.
But it will take something more than that.
America will not be saved from the sin of racism and unjust prejudices
by fear, anger, hatred or violence.
America can only be saved, only be the UNITED States,
if individual Americans, like you and me,
accept that we are all created in the image
of the unity and love of the God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Acknowledging that this is the very basis of the founding principle of our country,
that, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights…..”
And so understand that racism and unjust prejudice,
are directly repugnant not only to the love of God
but to the very meaning of what it means to be a human being.
As we now enter into more deeply the mystery of this Holy Mass,
and are drawn more profoundly into the Trinitarian Communion,
let us beg them to shower graces on our country.
By the grace of this Most Blessed Sacrament
may God the Father, through the sacrifice of God the Son,
and the working of the Holy Spirit
renew the unity of our country
and help us to love one another as we were created to.