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Sunday Readings for June 19, 2011 (TrinityA)
By Fr. Alex McAllister SDS
Today as we come to the end of a whole sequence in our liturgical cycle which celebrates the Pascal Mystery and just before we revert to what is prosaically called ‘Ordinary Time’ we are invited to contemplate the very mystery of God.
What we know about God is not made up. It is not a fable invented by our ancestors. What we know about God is revealed by God himself.
God did this through a series of interventions in human history and the theological discipline that explores how this came about is known as the Theology of Revelation.
Of course, we only ever know God partially. We know what he has chosen to reveal to us humans; we will only know him fully when we encounter him in the life to come.
We only know him partially because to know him fully would be beyond our capacity as human beings in this life. And not only this, because sin gets in the way too. Sin further obscures our vision of God.
To understand this you only have to think of the saints, those exceptional people who have heroically dedicated themselves to a life of holiness. It is self-evident that these saints are much closer to God than us lesser mortals.
In order for us to get to know God we need to do two things: to root out sin and to cultivate the qualities that bring us closer to him. We call these qualities the virtues: faith, hope, charity and all the rest.
God has revealed himself to humanity in different ways. In the days of the Old Testament he revealed himself to specific persons such as Abraham. It seems that on occasion he spoke directly to them, giving brief indications of what he is like, issuing commands, leading them on a journey of faith and so on.
The most important thing that God did was to identify the descendents of Abraham as the Chosen People and make a Covenant with them. They were to be the ones with whom he would develop a special relationship and they would play a crucial role in God’s revelation of himself to the whole world
As time went on God further revealed himself through the prophets who had great insight into what he was like and he expected from us. They proclaimed his word and on occasion worked miracles, all the while trying to bring the Chosen People back to fidelity to God.
Then in due time he revealed himself definitively in the person of his only Son, Jesus Christ. As we say in our doctrinal definitions: Christ is the fullness of divine revelation. In the person of Christ, God has made a new and eternal Covenant with the human race.
As we have said, Christ is the full and definitive revelation of God and there will be no further revelation. However, God continues to unfold himself to us. Essentially we learn nothing new but discover new depths to what we already know.
This is accomplished through the action of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church. First of all this took place through the divinely inspired pages of scripture and then through the doctrinal definitions of the early Church. It continues down through the ages in the official teachings of the Church, in its liturgy and through the words and example of the saints.
Indeed this revelation is something that we are all involved in as we explain the faith to our children and help them to come to know and love God. It continues in this community which is a living community of faith gathered around the two altars: the altar of the word and the altar of sacrifice.
We have seen how the distinct roles of Father, Son and Spirit seem to have been emphasised at different times in history. But of course they were all three were involved in the creation of the universe. We know this from the pages of scripture.
We may consider that this is the age of the Spirit, the Pentecostal age when the Holy Spirit comes into his own. The Spirit guides, leads and inspires the members of the Church on its great pilgrimage of faith.
The Holy Spirit is portrayed on the Day of Pentecost as a powerful and unsettling Spirit who impels the Apostles to go forth from the Upper Room to preach the Gospel to each person in his own language.
Today, though, we seem to experience the Spirit in gentler and more subtle ways. Indeed it is often necessary to bring stillness into our lives if we are to hear his voice.
All too often other voices crowd him out; our heads are frequently filled with a great deal of trivia and unimportant nonsense. We often fall prey to the influences of the outside world and forget to listen to the inner voice.
Sometimes though, the Holy Spirit can make his intentions known in more dramatic ways. On occasion he can really force us to pay attention to him. Things can happen in our lives which are unmistakably the action of God, forcing us to come to our senses, compelling us to listen to what God wants from us.
It is hard to give examples because these things are so tailored to our individual life circumstances that they can rarely be replicated. However, it often takes a shock such as an illness or an accident or some other catastrophe to realise that God wants us to change direction. Other times it can be a person who walks into our lives with a pressing need.
Frequently situations or opportunities can occur at work or in school or in the home which present us with the chance to do great good for others, to correct wrongs, to bring justice to the lives of the oppressed, to stand up for what is right. There are a million ways in which God can influence us and place choices before us.
We Christians need to be open to the action of God in the world. We need to develop a special sensitivity to the way God acts. We need to be ever more aware of the power of prayer and the great amount of good that is going on in the world.
Make no mistake about it; the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the world and in our lives. The Christian is one who understands this and places their life at God’s disposal knowing this this is what brings glory to God, fulfilment in life and good to the world.