WHAT I’VE LEARNED THUS FAR –3 Points for Trinity Sunday
By Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.
From Sunday’s Scripture Readings:
Excerpt from Deuteronomy 4: “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.””
Excerpt from Matthew 28: And Jesus words confirm all this: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
What follows is a more detailed expression of my thoughts. For the Sunday Mass, I spoke on what follows more extemporaneously. (I did not include the RED text on Sunday)
It actually happened! 25 years! I’m humbled and grateful for these years of faith and service and I am thankful to the Paulist Fathers without whom I never would be living a life in continual dialogue with the Scriptures and the People of God in extraordinary, intimate ways. Today’s readings also remind me how in debt I am to the 10 Commandments and Jesus’ teachings. They bring true freedom. Observing them as closely as we are able, we may place our heads on our pillows each night and sleep soundly embraced by amazing grace. We may wake up each morning as a child awakes filled with hope and enthusiasm, conscious of God’s love and energized for the day for the good, the true and the beautiful.
In celebration of TRINITY SUNDAY on which we contemplate the Christian understanding of ONE GOD in Three Persons—we affirm that GOD IS RELATIONSHIP ITSELF—that’s the true meaning behind “Father, Son and Spirit.” Indeed, as God is the SOURCE OF LIFE, THE FORCE MAINTAINING THE COSMOS, an UNDYING ENERGY FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT –God extends God’s very essence expanding loving relationship to and through humanity and all creation. Relationship is the heart of life—all people, the entire cosmos is inter-related in ways we need to keep exploring, understanding and celebrating. And the best way is to keep cultivating the awe and wonder and freedom of childhood. On this Anniversary Celebration I would like to share 3 (3 ½) insights I’ve gained from my 25 years as a Paulist priest. Here we go:
- Point 1: “Whoever does not accept the Kingdom like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18: 16-17
- An energized adulthood demands that we cultivate and grow in our childhood JOYS. Are childhood joys comprise the essence of who we ARE, and Who God CALLS US TO BE. Share who we are! That’s the mission. . .. Don’t gauge your joys and talents in terms of money you make from them. That’s not the point. We must keep developing our childhood happiness whatever our ultimate livelihood. Get out those guitars, gardening tools, baseball gloves, science kit, puzzles or whatever it may be that keeps you fully alive. Let your lights shine!
- THE SHADOW SIDE OF CHILDHOOD: Childhood inevitably imparts wounds, too. True growth engages us in “un-learning” negative patterns bestowed on us by exploring healthy patterns of thinking and living. Faith offers us the “bigger picture” we need to trust in a Loving God, accept the truth that people who mistreat, manipulate or domineer are transmitting pain they received in their childhoods. We never deserved their cruelty, and, ultimately, safe distance may be required, yet in our hearts we need to develop compassion for ourselves and our family’s and institutions’ failures so that we don’t let our hurts prevent us from living and loving.
- In Exodus the Scriptures reveal God as saying God will be about “inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation.” All that means is that God allows the consequences of wrong actions -be they selfish, greedy, violent—to play themselves out and they do, indeed, impact many subsequent generations. Meanwhile, both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures affirm God never abandons us as we work through the harmful residues of the past.
- Later the prophet Ezekiel assures the people saying, “The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. Justice belongs to the just, and wickedness to the wicked.” This implies, in part, what I’ve come to understand: God invites each new generation to correct, amend and extinguish the sins of the past –be they that of our parents, grandparents or ancestors, or our nation’s or our religious body’s—so we keep ever-growing in the ways God set out in the beginning: the 2 GREAT COMMANDMENTS: Love of God, self and neighbor as self. Strong faith gives us the COURAGE to do just that. It’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Pick up your cross and follow me” and “I am with you always, even unto the end of time.”
- Strong feelings from childhood are often evoked in contemporary situations that nonetheless must be distinguished from the situations and contexts of the past. We must learn to deal with these and the distinct people involved in them in healthier, more creative ways, detaching from our past. e., the person who treats us ill today is not our parent, our wicked 4th grade teacher, the abusive boss from our last job. He/She and we are in a different situation now. We must calm our bruised inner child and live in the present. We must assert ourselves because we don’t need other’s good behavior to claim our self-esteem as children of God. Claiming our foundational dignity in God’s love, no one can take it away. We can then see the person and his/her inappropriate or hurtful behavior as someone in pain; someone who tries to claim their dignity at the expense of another because they are deeply insecure. Assured of who we are as Loved by God, we can move from anger, to pity, to compassion for the wounded, insecure fellow (without ever telling him or her that they are wounded or insecure—that won’t get us anywhere!). Centered in this way, we are far more able and likely to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6) and advance to the Biblical Vision: “With firm purpose you maintain peace (O, Lord!); in peace, because of our trust in you.” 4 Trust in the Lord forever! (Isaiah 26)
2. Point 2: I’m continuing to discover and develop the virtue of Abandoning Aesthetics regarding human persons.
- We are all nurtured in aesthetics based on our family backgrounds and communities. We learn what our group deems appropriate for dress, personal hygiene, decorum, and proper pleasures. This is natural. As we grow and assert our individuality, we adopt, adapt or reject aspects of what we’ve learned and apply them to ourselves. In addition, Education invites us to develop critical thinking regarding works of art, music and literature; Church and Society cultivate ethics regarding social norms and proper politics. The gift of critical thinking is essential to life and advancing public mores.
- Yet, we fail to engage in the Gospel, when we view another human being according to the criteria we deem best for ourselves or evaluate them as if they are a theatre piece or literary work. We can project our expectations upon them and fail to see who he or she really is. Jesus emphatically insists: “Stop Judging, and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned; Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6). It’s letting go of aesthetics and critical evaluation of a person–even his or her actions –that help us see a fellow human being as God sees him or her.
- Judgment and Condemnation create chasms between people and prevent us from working together to solve problems, to undo the damage that is done. Instead of saying “How can you wear that? Say that?” or worse, “How dare you!” “How could you!” I’m learning to keep silent and inwardly pray about my evaluations of another. Only when someone’s actions warrant it, I find it’s better to ask, “What’s going on within you that brings you to speak or act in this way?” or “Please, help me understand your choices in this matter. Might there be a more productive way to deal with this? How may I help?” (In truth, even compassionate statements such as these can rile another person, so this approach it’s not a guarantee for successful dialogue. In the realm of human relations, there is no perfect panacea. Furthermore, our own emotions can get in the way of our best intentions, making what we think is a “kind response” received by another as anything but. (God help us!)
3. Point 3: “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? 26 If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? “(Luke 12). To follow Jesus is to “Come Down to Earth.”
Our Christian faith is centered in God who enters human history through the Incarnate Word, in Jesus of Nazareth. To follow Jesus, we must “come down to earth,” too. Living in a “down to earth” way, we may more readily “live in the present moment” with much less anxiety. Here are life’s bare bone essentials to always keep in mind when in relationship with others but especially in times of conflict:
- Everyone needs air and water. (Deprive any one of these and the issues before us have no weight, no matter.)
- Everyone needs food, clothing and shelter. God created us as beings that must cooperate, collaborate to provide us with these bare necessities. No one can obtain all these essentials on his or her own. This basic concept assures us that we are all in this world together.
- Everyone needs LOVEFORGIVENESS –I understand this now as ONE WORD. Each dynamic is inseparable from the other. Mere Existence becomes LIFE in its fullness when this irrefutable, indivisible dynamic is nurtured and maintained. Besides, no one can live without it. Now, LOVEFORGIVENESS doesn’t mean we can’t hold people accountable for their actions but it does mean that the accountability offers hope and opportunity to change while taking responsibility for his or her actions. We must assist ourselves and others always to claim and re-claim our true dignity as children of God. (Another dimension of “Pick up your cross.”
- Everyone needs STORY to endow meaning to all the other fundamentals I’ve stated. Our FAITH provides the greatest and foundational stories, and in our diverse and heterogeneous world, we need to dialogue and discern the commonalities in all people’s stories –religious, national and personal—to create the solidarity in addressing the problems we face. So many Religious Traditions affirm Unity, Harmony and Peace as God’s goal for the world. We all need to know our stories and keep learning from them.
- Everyone dies. Humble recognition of this truth may help us advance LIFE and LIFE-GIVING CHOICES for as long as we are on this earth because our earthly life is inextricably linked to our life and relationship with God and others for all eternity. Detaching from our emotions or taking “time out” from an argument or discussion when emotions are strong can keep us alive and well until our time is up.
Keeping life “simple” is the best way to live, for, in truth God is the simplest, most uncomplicated essence of Being, of Personhood and Relationship there is—all generative, all creative, all overflowing love.
I would like to close with the song I sing at the opening of every parish mission I offer: Leonard Bernstein’s SIMPLE SONG with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
You can hear me sing via this YouTube link:
(This was recorded several years ago. I think I sang it better on Sunday!)
God bless you all for reading and sharing in my reflections.