Welcome to St Austin's Catholic Parish, Stafford
Listen to this Sunday's Gospel reading by visiting the website www.sundaygospel.co.uk.
The Most Holy Trinity (27.05.18)
Are we justified in asking if perfection exists on earth? The question follows, naturally enough, when we acknowledge that both humanity, and the planet we inhabit, is permanently evolving and perfection, as we define it, means that point where no further enhancement is possible. Perfection means different things to people in the constantly changing circumstances of life. We can imagine how a seriously dehydrated person will relish the first trickle of drinking water as the most perfect thirst quencher. Likewise, a composer hearing, for the first time, the fullness of his or her months of demanding composition may be elated by, to their ears, its perfection. Or how, for the utterly weary, spiritually, mentally and physically exhausted refugee, a warm smile and a sincerely welcoming word can be the perfect antidote to months if not years of persecution. But even these, and all similar so-called perfect ‘moments’, pass.
We, the inhabitants of this world in flux, are within ourselves constantly changing. We have no proof of how it was for our first parents before, what is called ‘the fall’ namely, when they disobeyed God. Is there a sense of timelessness, and therefore changelessness, in the pre-fall Biblical description of Eden? (Genesis 2.)
Sin, resulting from Satan’s temptation and our fore- parents’ capitulation, fundamentally changed the previously perfect relationship between God and our first parents:
“God saw all that he had made
and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31).
The resulting disrupted relationship has subsequently afflicted generation upon generation. It has gathered momentum and caused ever greater disunity both between humanity and its Creator God and between person and person. (Genesis 3:8-24)
Yet humanity has never ceased yearning for that perfection of relationship it enjoyed with its Creator God at the outset. The seal of that perfect relationship is indelibly inscribed on each eternal soul. Our drive for knowledge, our reaching out into the unknown, if we only could recognise it, has but one ultimate goal namely, to rediscover that unique relationship of a total fulfilment that does not pass.
Those who believe in Jesus Christ and strive, daily, to follow his teaching sense in their communion with him the pathway to that perfect fulfilment. Their hope is not based on their own efforts or determination but rather on the mercy of their heavenly Father. God welcomes all who are willing to try to walk in the footsteps of his beloved Son, Jesus, God-made-Man.
Truly selfless loving requires a heart and soul unimpaired by sin because one consequence of humanity’s original sin is the impairment or contagion of selfishness. No matter how selfless we imagine our love to be it is contaminated, inescapably, by self-love because we are, on this earth, never more than recovering sinners. In just the same way, the alcoholic who has never touched an alcoholic drink for decades continues to define him/herself as a recovering alcoholic.
To selflessly show love to another, following the example of Christ, requires a heart reclaimed from sin be it personal or corporate. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are called to confess not only our personal sin but also our share in the sin of the world. Despite differences of language, culture and ethnicity we are one people, one human race. The fundamental ‘good’ of each person reverberates beyond that person just as a drop of water falling into the oceans increases the volume of the oceans. So, too, any evil that we allow to pass, without reparation, in our individual life, in our city, society or universe increases the volume of evil in this world. Remember the truism:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for a good person to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke in a letter addressed to Thomas Mercer).
Among solely humans, Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God is unique for, by Divine intervention, she is without sin either personal or corporate. In her own words at Lourdes Mary identified herself to St. Bernadette and companions as ‘The Immaculate Conception’. Because Mary is without sin, the love she gives is truly selfless.
The bond uniting Jesus and Mary transcends the bond uniting a mother with her child. The mother/child bond is commonly regarded as the closest of all human bonds yet the bond between Jesus and Mary surpasses it uniquely and in a way that will never be repeated.
God became a child in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit; pure uncontaminated love in communion with pure uncontaminated love. It is not a communion of equal with equal but of Creator with created. Mary, the Immaculate Conception, received within her womb the wholeness of God-made-Man thereby initiating, in human history, the process of humanity’s eternal salvation.
Mary, for believers, is the living proof that humanity’s ultimate fulfilment and perfection is only to be found in the indwelling of the Living God. All else will pass, including evil which will be expelled.
Mary proclaimed when she responded to Elizabeth’s greeting:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
Because He has looked upon
the lowliness of his handmaid …”
Where The Holy Spirit dwells, there also is The Father and the Son. When Jesus walked, taught and suffered on this earth, the Father and the Holy Spirit were present within him. When Jesus is affronted God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is affronted. When Jesus is acclaimed, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is acclaimed.
In the life on earth of The Son of God-made-Man Christians glimpse, in an extremely limited way, the inner life of perfect love. St. Aelred, a revered English Cistercian monk and Abbot of Rievaulx, from 1147 to his death in 1167, expressed what he glimpsed in his book the ‘Mirror of Love’, from which the following is taken:
“If people wish to love themselves appropriately they must not allow themselves to be corrupted by indulging their sinful nature. If they wish to resist the promptings of their sinful nature they must enlarge the whole horizon of their love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of Christ. Further, if they wish to savour the joy of the love of the brethren with greater perfection and delight, they must extend even to their enemies the embrace of true love. If they wish to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let them keep the eyes of their souls always fixed on the serene patience of their beloved Lord and Saviour.”