Homily – Trinity Sunday May 18, 2008 “Then . . . . and Now”

Homily — Trinity Sunday MMVIII May 18, 2008

“Then . . . .and Now”

The most fundamental of Christian beliefs is that the One True God is a Trinity of Persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This basic truth is hinted at in the Old Testament, began to be revealed in the New Testament, and was clearly the teaching of the ancient Church everywhere, for the first Three Centuries of Christianity.

But while today we take for granted this central Mystery of our Faith, there was a time in Church history when Christians suffered much for their belief in the Holy Trinity, and were under great pressure to renounce it.

For almost 100 years, roughly the whole 4th Century, this was the case almost everywhere in the Church. In the early 4th century, a heresy called Arianism, which denied the Divinity of God the Son, spread like wildfire throughout the Church. And no sooner had Arianism been taken care of than in the late 4th Century, a heresy called Macedonianism, which denied the Divinity of God the Holy Spirit, did almost as much damage.

Neither Arianism nor Macedonianism had a leg to stand on based on Scripture or Tradition. But these errors became so widespread that for a while, nearly every Bishop in nearly every diocese not only taught these things, but persecuted Bishops and others who believed that God is Father Son and Holy Spirit.

But what really made things bad was that the civil government at the time wasn’t a neutral bystander in this issue, it rather favored the heretics, and made life miserable for the Orthodox Catholics.

For example, St. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the few Bishops who refused to renounce his Catholic Faith that the Son is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God”, as the Council of Nicea in 325 had defined several years prior. Because of his orthodoxy, Athanasius was exiled five times from his diocese by the pro-Arian government.

And St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, lived for years under constant threat of exile and confiscation of his possessions, because of his belief that the Holy Spirit is God, equal in dignity to the Father and Son, when every other bishop around him taught that the Holy Spirit is not God, not equal in dignity.

It was courageous men and women like St. Athanasius and St. Basil who stood against the rising tide and turned their culture back to Orthodox Catholic belief in the Holy Trinity. And by the 5th century and up until today, Christians everywhere have been able to believe this most fundamental belief in the Holy Trinity, and teach it in Churches and in Catholic Schools without hindrance from the government.

But while that is happily the case, and may it continue to be, there is another fundamental teaching of our Christian faith that currently under attack in the culture we now live in, and in certain parts of our country, it has already led to persecution of the Catholic Church by our government.  I am referring to the current movement to redefine the institution of Marriage.

We Catholics have always believed marriage to be the lifelong union of one man and one woman. We base our belief not only on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, but also on the Natural Law, which men and women of all faiths have been given to live by.

But now, many states have moved toward changing the legal definition of marriage to include same sex couples. This past Thursday, the Supreme Court of California, the largest state in the country population wise, struck down a state law against same-sex marriage (that its citizens had voted in), and joined Massachusetts in legally recognizing gay marriage. Four other states — Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Hampshire — have civil union laws which are marriage laws in all but name for same sex couples.

And just as Ss. Basil and Athanasius and others suffered in their day because they believed and taught that God is Father Son and Holy Spirit, so Christians in states that have legalized same sex unions are starting to suffer for believing and teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Take the Church in Boston, just north of us, for example. The Archdiocese of Boston had one of the oldest adoption agencies in the United States. Notice I said “had.” Cardinal O’Malley was forced to close the agency, three years after the legalization of same sex marriages, as it was being forced by law to allow same sex couples the right to adopt.

Take the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist Church-affiliated group in New Jersey. It lost the tax exempt status for it’s Chapel when it refused to allow a civil union ceremony for two women to be conducted in it. Note that New Jersey has only legalized same sex unions.

Finally, take what’s been happening in the state of Colorado. In 2007 a bill was presented that would forbid employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The law was amended to exempt religious groups who would be opposed and passed 60-2.

But this year, a new bill has been proposed saying that any religious organization that gets any state or federal funding wouldn’t be exempt. This would include Catholic Charities of Colorado. But Denver Archbishop Chaput isn’t being intimidated: “When (Catholic Charities) can no longer have the freedom it needs to be ‘Catholic’, it will end its services. This is not idle talk. I am very serious.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to wake up and see the serious threat same-sex marriage and civil unions are to our Catholic Church in America.

If marriage is legally redefined, it may one day be considered bigoted to teach in Catholic Schools that marriage is the union of one man and one woman; also, Catholic clergy who refuse to marry same sex couples will probably lose our right to witness marriages.

But while all of this is very sobering and scary to think about, we’ve got the truth on our side, as well as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who is with us at all times.

May the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity give us the wisdom we need to see the truth, the courage we need to suffer if need be rather than compromise the truths of our Faith, and the virtue and charity we need to transform our culture with the Gospel message.

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