Trinity Sunday – Fr. Bill McNeeley
June 15, 2019 – 5:00PM
Years ago, I was working in a New York City soup kitchen with my parish youth group and adult volunteers on a mission trip. My job was to control the flow of guests so that the food line didn’t get overcrowded. This was the largest soup kitchen in Manhattan that served more than 900 meals daily. It was also the only soup kitchen in Manhattan that served men between the ages of 18 and 35. It was a volatile group so the local police precinct stationed an officer at the door to keep from having to send a dozen officers there once or twice a week when fights would break out. As I am standing at the door with the officer I was letting two or three young men in at a time the young man next to me asked, “Do I have to be saved?” I looked at him and asked, “What?” He said, “Do I have to be saved?” I said, “No, we’re not Baptists. You are our guests. We’re not going to make you tell us you’ve been saved before you can eat.” He said, “Do I have to saved to go out with one of those pretty girls there in your youth group?” I said, “Yes, you have to be saved.”
You know, we’re like that. We need to be saved, and God keeps throwing us a lifeline with a preserver, and we keep pushing it aside, flailing about and crying for help. The Spirit of Truth, which is God’s word is our lifeline, but all the while, the devil is there throwing to us and that, all too often, is what we hold onto.
It is most appropriate that on this Trinity Sunday that the common thread that runs through our readings is that of the Word of God, the Divine Logos or Word that is Jesus Christ gathers together the people of God, makes them one, sanctifies them and leads them into the one truth. This same Spirit weaves its way through the readings. First in proverbs:
When the Lord established the heavens, I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
When he set for the sea its limit,…
I was beside him as his craftsman,
…and, I found delight in the human race.”
Then in the Epistle:
“…we even boast of our afflictions,
knowing that affliction produces endurance,
and endurance, proven character,
and proven character, hope,
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
And finally, the Gospel:
For – when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to all truth.
The truth is that God continuously throws us lifelines if we but take hold of them. That’s what the sacraments are, baptism, confirmation, communion, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage and ordination. God throws us these lifelines, but there are more. His word in the scriptures, this fellowship of community, the love we share and the care we give to one another, prayer, adoration and Christian education, these too are lifelines that can save us from drowning in a world that knows not how to save itself, much less how to save anyone else.
I was once at an open forum where the laity could ask the priest any question at all. One person stood up and asked, ‘What’s your favorite heresy?” I didn’t know exactly how to take it, but I answered it this way. It’s not that I have a favorite heresy of my own, but the heresy that I think is most prevalent in society today is that of Pelagianism. This heresy taught that people can begin at least their initial first steps an achieving their own salvation. There were actually six basic precepts of Pelagianism that show why it was designated as a heresy.
1. Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died.
2. Adam’s sin harmed only himself, not the whole human race.
3. Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.
4. The entire human race neither dies through Adam’s sin or death nor rises again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5. The Mosaic Law is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
6. Even before the advent of Christ, some men were without sin.
Without going into more detail, you can see why these precepts were inconsistent with the sound Christian theology. If you think Christianity with all its sects and denominations is confusing today, imagine what it would have been like if Pelagianism had been accepted. The thing is, however, is that Pelagianism is still alive and well in American society. People don’t say that Mosaic Law is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the church’s magisterium. People do say things like “God doesn’t care where you go to church or even if you go to church” or “I can have communion with God by walking in the woods as much as I can by going to church” and so on. Not only is Pelagianism alive and well in the world, but so are all the other heresies the church addressed over the centuries. You can spot them if you know what they were and how they morphed into their current manifestation. St. Augustine had a straightforward response to Pelagius and his teachings, and that was this. Apart from Christ, humanity is damned to hell. Oh, and have a nice day.
It is the living Word of God, which dwells in our hearts, which is our lifeline, and indeed, it is our lifesaver. It is our relationship with Jesus Christ which saves us and the teachings of the church which help us to hold fast to the truth that is Christ and keeps us from clinging to human knowledge and the wisdom of man which can drag us under. The more we put our hope and faith in God and not on ourselves or on the world around us, the more the Kingdom of God will be ours, both in this life and in the life to come.