On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the heart of our faith – an encounter with a God of love. The Trinity has often been described using images that in the end always limp and fail to capture the glory and sublime beauty of a doctrine that is only able to be encountered in prayer, rather than described by theology. The divine dance between the three persons of the Trinity is capable of holding and sustaining every one of us, as we share in this call to be loved and share that love with others.
Perhaps on a Sunday when we celebrate the experience of love at the heart of God, it is proper to reflect on another love that is in the news with the results of the referendum in Ireland and the new private members bill by the leader of the Opposition to legislate for so-called Gay Marriage. In response, the Australian Bishops have released a document (available on the parish website). It is a good document, but like the public sentiment that it is responding to, the arguments are not deeply convincing. Because we have ostracised anyone who is different and actively discriminated against certain people – whether that difference relates to skin colour, gender, nationality, religion, size, shape, height, weight, dominant hand, looks, wealth, and of course by sexual orientation – for so long, the debate has centred around questions of equality, fairness and discrimination. As much as the church attempts to argue that this is not a case of discrimination, the fact that this is where the debate has (wrongly) landed the church in arguing for a traditional understanding of marriage appears to be discriminating. Which is unfortunate, to say the least.
The word marriage in our society has already been misappropriated. What the state understands as a legal or valid civil marriage can be radically different from the fullness of the Catholic appreciation for the beauty of sacramental marriage. For example, it is perfectly legal in a civil understanding for a man and a woman to enter into a marriage with no intention (borne out by the pre-nuptial agreement) for permanence, fidelity or fruitfulness. The exclusion of any one of these essential ends of marriage automatically annuls a marriage in the Catholic understanding – but not for the civil variety. A couple in a civil marriage can agree to ‘marry’ for as long as the love lasts, not to have any children, and have other partners when the desire arises. That this kind of arrangement has been allowed to wear the (false) title of a marriage is one of the significant problems in this debate. If this kind of relationship can be called a marriage, then it quickly descends into a question of discrimination when a similarly described same-sex relationship is not able to be celebrated. Is marriage the most appropriate word to describe either relationship? No, of course not. And this strikes at the heart of our dilemma as we continue to move forward as a society without adequately addressing the state of our history and the discrimination and hatred that continues to lurk just beneath the surface.
You may object that the scriptures clearly condemn homosexuality – and by extension any version of a same-sex union. Without getting into the arguments about what exactly the six-or-seven verses that condemn sodomy were against – although in that society, homosexuality was more about temple and ritual prostitution, acts of violence, inhospitality and pederasty – so all of these should clearly be condemned. Even so, the fact that it is only six-or-seven verses in a library of 73 books (in a Catholic bible) which together contain some 35,526 verses help put the issue into a scriptural perspective. And although Jesus says many things about money, justice, prayer and some things about human sexuality – he doesn’t actually say anything specifically about homosexuality. Which does leave one wondering…
Recorded at St Col’s, Vigil (10 mins)
Trinity Sunday, Year B.
To fully appreciate the significance of the celebration of Pentecost you need to remember the origins of the Jewish festival of Shavu’ot. Although according to the Book of Leviticus the festival celebrated a week of weeks after Passover (the fifty days) was a Harvest festival where the first fruits of the seven kinds of grain were offered, in the intertestimental period (the period after the Hebrew Scriptures were written) the Rabbis added an additional significance to the festival – the gift of Torah on Mount Sinai. The second reading for the Vigil Mass retells the covenant proposal found in Exodus 19 as God wooed an ordinary ragtag tribe of people who were called by their previous Egyptian captors the “dusty ones”. But ever since their father Avram was called by the Lord to leave his homeland of Ur (Gen 12) to a land that God will show him, and Avram went, this people began to rewrite human history. They began to realise that god could be bigger than a local totem, that history is linear rather than circular, and that they were now being claimed by a God who was a verb not a noun who was calling them into a future marked and shaped by hope. Because of the resurrection and the events that occurred on this particular remembrance of the covenant festival, this tiny group of Jewish believers were going to be transformed into a people marked by an even greater hope because of the new covenant that the wind of the Spirit opened up to them and us.
Recorded at St Cols. Pentecost Sunday, year B.
When Jesus is described by the scriptures as ascending into heaven and clouds cover him to hide him from the eyes of the apostles who are standing and watching this spectacle dumbfounded, we are left clinging to a whole series of unhelpful categories to try to deal with this. So much of this is as a result of our attempts to fit the Christian faith within the categories of Greek philosophy rather than in the much more helpful world of Jewish / Hebrew spirituality. It is only when you clearly understand what heaven is really like and how it relates to the earth and the church that you can begin to have any sense of the gift of this feast of the Ascension.
Recorded at St Col’s (10 mins)
We often struggle with some very basic questions – like who are we? When we meet people for the first time, conversations invariably begin with a process of classification – so, what do you do? Where do you live? The Gospel today takes us to a much deeper place in our relationship with God. It begins with the declaration that we have been loved into existence by a God who is love. Although God has no need of our love or friendship, the love that is shared by the Trinity is so abundant that it longs to overflow and share it with us as well. It is this love that called us and chose us so that we might experience something of the very joy that Jesus already experiences as a result of his relationship with the father.
Recorded at St Col’s (Vigil and 9am available)
Sunday Easter 6, Year B.
Acts 10:25~48; I John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17
Today we hear the final of the seven “I am” declarations that punctuate the Gospel of John – “I am the true vine.” This declaration is also unusual because it is the first time one that is explicitly relational: I am the vine; you are the branches. We should be in no doubt after hearing this declaration about the sense of connection with the divine that has been opened up to us as a result of the ministry of Jesus.
Across the centuries, but especially since the rise of individualism and capitalism, Christianity has been infected with the same idea that ‘the gods help those who help themselves.’ This tendency reached a high point in the teachings of the British monk Pelagius, who was condemned by various councils and especially in the writings of St Augustine. Pelagainism as his school of thought was called taught that the first moves towards God were always our initiative and we could basically move towards a life of holiness and grace with just a little assistance from God. The Gospel today should clearly show that it is never enough for Jesus to be merely an inspiring moral figure or teacher for us. No the Christian life is not about our response to God – but about participating in the very life of God organically.
Recorded at St Col’s, 9am (8min 53 sec)
Sunday 5 in Easter, Year B. John 15:1-8