On Trinity Sunday we consider the name of God, Father, Son, and Spirit. It is more than a theological dogma about God. It is also a doctrine about us. It is an expression of who we are. We are baptized in the name of God.
May 28, 2021
Readings: Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 19-40;
Romans 8: 14-17; Gospel: Matthew 28: 16-20
In 939, the poet TS Elliot wrote a book of poems called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. His poems were taken verbatim and transformed by Andrew Lloyd Weber into a musical piece that first appeared in London, then became a hit in New York, where it operated for nineteen years. You probably know the musical: Cats.
In his poems, TS Elliot says that all cats have three names. The first name is the name given to it by the people with whom the cat lives. You will notice that I did not say the people who own the cat. No one ever owns a cat, they just find a way to live with the cat the best they can. Either way, the guests in the cat house give the cat a name – like Fluffy or Bitsy or Garfield. According to TS Elliott, the cat has a name that other cats know. The cat could be called by others, McCavity the thief cat, or Mephistoholes, the magic cat, or Old Deuteronomy, the wise old cat. But, says Elliott, the cat also has a third name. It’s a secret name that reflects everything the cat really is. In poetry, the cat spends its entire life contemplating its real name before God.
TS Elliott didn’t write about cats. He wrote about people. In some ways we can all be considered to have three names. There is the formal name that we receive from our parents. There is the name that our friends use. And then there’s this special name that we get from God that reflects who we really are. For example, I have a formal name, Bishop Joseph A. Pellegrino. My second name is the one my friends call me, Fr Joe, or Msgr, Joe or Mojo. I have another name, a third name, which I don’t know well. It is the name that indicates who I am in my relationship with God. I received this name from God at my baptism. It expresses my deepest intimacy with God. This name speaks, in a simple voice, the unique reflection of God that I was created to bring to the world. I was given this name at my baptism. I don’t know that name well. I will have to spend the rest of my life acquiring a deeper and deeper knowledge of who I am before God. I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life learning what my name is. You also have three names. The first is your official name. The second is the one that those who know you use. The third is the name that proclaims to the world your unique relationship with God.
On Trinity Sunday we consider the name of God, Father, Son, and Spirit. It is more than a theological dogma about God. It is also a doctrine about us. It is an expression of who we are. We are baptized in the name of God. The purpose of our life is to find the special and unique expression of the love of God that we have been empowered to make present in the world. The purpose of our life is to reveal our deepest name.
All who are baptized in the name of the Trinity are called to the Father in Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are called to the Father. The journey of our lives is a journey to God. It can follow the paths of marriage and parenthood, as many of you have taken. This journey can follow the path of the committed celibate Christian. The path can be that of religious life or of sacred orders. All trips derive their meaning from their final destination. The journey of our lives is full of small chores and major events. Even our routine tasks derive their meaning from their final destination. Changing baby’s diaper, telling your child for the hundredth time to tidy up their room, putting up with their partner’s moods, giving up going out with friends to spend more time as a big brother or big sister, going to work and all what this entails, going to school and accomplishing all of your tasks, all of this takes on their meaning in the context of our journey towards the Father.
We are called to the Father in Christ. Jesus Christ is the Word of God become flesh. Our celebration of Christmas is a celebration of His Presence, not just among us, but as one of us. He teaches us who the Father is and how we can best serve him. Jesus teaches us with his life what love really is. Love, true love, is sacrificial, even to death on a cross. As we walk to the Father through Jesus, we are united with the Huge Lover in His eternal sacrifice of himself to the Father. The biggest steps we take on our journey to God are the steps we take to move away from our own selfishness. Christian is our name and our claim. We do not seek God through loss of personality like so many cults, or through reaching a clear state of consciousness like Scientology, or even through loss of thought. We are not looking for God in some kind of inner energy. We seek God through sacrificial love. We are called to the Father by Jesus Christ, the great Lover.
We are called to the Father by the Son in the Holy Spirit. We are given the power and grace to love as God loves so that others can experience the presence of God at work in us. We are the vehicles of the Holy Spirit. Our journey to God is not simply a matter of our individual relationship with God. We walk towards God so that others join us in the path that gives meaning to life. We travel to God so that others can see him in us and be led to his presence as well.
The intimate name we have been given is the name that best reflects our unique sharing in the Holy Trinity. Baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are called to give meaning to our life by being faithful to our name. In a hundred years, in a thousand years, in ten thousand years, our participation in all the little desires, desires and ambitions that the world has decreed are the marks of a successful person will be forgotten. No one will remember if we owned a Rolls and a yacht, or a Hyundai and a canoe. But in a hundred years, in a thousand years, in ten thousand years, the world will still benefit from the impact of our lives if we have illuminated the world with our own unique reflection of God. The world will be a better place if we make the way to the Father through the Son with the power of the Holy Spirit .––By Bishop Joseph A Pellegrino