Family as Origin and Goal

(Homily for Trinity Sunday)

Bottom line: Trinity Sunday is about where we have come from and where we are going.

You may have heard about the American who got lost in Ireland. After driving around the Irish countryside, he finally encountered a native, "Please," he said, "can you tell me how to get to Balbriggan?"

"Well," said the Irishman, "If you take the first road to the that wouldn't about four miles and turn that wouldn't do either." Finally the Irishman scratched his head and said, "You know, if I was going to Balbriggan, I wouldn't start from here at all."

This Sunday - Trinity Sunday - is about where we have come from and where we are going. We have somebody with us this weekend who is going to give us a little bit of help. You have heard me talk about Dawn Eden. This weekend she is with us. Dawn was born into a Reformed Jewish household, but about ten years ago she experienced a conversion to Christianity that eventually led her into the Catholic Church. She has written a wonderful book titled The Thrill of the Chaste. "Chaste" is spelled c-h-a-s-t-e as in the word "chastity." Chastity is a virtue, that is, a power, a basic way of living.*

So, what exactly is the virtue of chastity? Dawn explains it very well in her book. For a single person chastity involve "abstinence," but not because sex is "bad." No, we believe that sex is so beautiful, so sacred that its use belongs in a specific context - the complete and life-long commitment of marriage. Chastity is about achieving a "beautiful love." Dawn expresses it this way: "chastity is seeing your sexual nature as part of a three-way relationship...between you, your husband - or if you're not married, your future husband - and God." To put in a few words: Chastity recognizes that human sexuality has a exalted purpose: the forming of families.

This drive, this call to form families ties in with today's Feast - Trinity Sunday. The Trinity is family: persons who are distinct, yet one. But the Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - is not just one more family. Maybe it will help to think about it this way: If your room is like mine, it contains a lot of things - books, a radio, an easy chair, a desk and a bunch of other stuff. God is also present in that room - but not as one more object. He contains every thing in the room, including you or me. And he is the one who makes those things possible.

Similarly, God the Holy Trinity is not simply one more family. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the ultimate family. They contain every other family. And they are the only completely perfect family. They are one in a way that totally respects the distinctiveness of each member: the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father and both of them are not the Holy Spirit. Yet the three are perfectly one - the same substance. You cannot get more basic than the Trinity. It is the foundation of the cosmos. The Trinity is the ultimate source of every family in this world.

This is not idle speculation. Someone asked an elderly priest what helped him become such a good pastor, what was the most important course in the seminary. Without hesitation he said, "the course on the Blessed Trinity." By meditating on the mystery of the Trinity, we discover who we are and the purpose of our lives. Like that American lost in Ireland, you cannot know where you are going unless you have some idea where you start from. If you and I are just a complex bunch of molecules, we are going nowhere. But if we have our origin in three divine persons, we have a destination. The doctrine of the Trinity gives a clue to our destiny, our purpose. If the Trinity, the divine family, is the starting point, then it makes sense to say that family is our goal - that you and I were created for family. In our better moments, we want family. We know that we are made for family.

We are made for family, but, you know, achieving family - and maintaining family - is difficult. Dawn Eden describes her own experience as a child of divorced parents. Her story is poignant and painful, but at the same time she reveals touching details about the relationship with her mother - and also with her dad. And with amazing frankness, Dawn tells about her own desire to meet the right man - and the many land mines along the way. She gives practical advice about dating, dealing with temptation and depression. She also discusses more mundane matters like clothes, dieting and what to do with one's time alone. But her book is much more than a manual for young people. Dawn keeps her eye on what ultimately matters - the relationship with God that involves every other good relationship.

Jesus said it today, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." All of us have fallen short - we have strayed from the ideal of family, the ideal God himself placed in our hearts. Yet Jesus did not come to condemn, but so we would have life through him: to become sons and daughters in him - by the power of the Holy Spirit. He invites us to join a perfect family - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus offers a free gift. At the end of her book, Dawn writes about receiving life as a gift, with a spirit of childlike wonder. She uses the example of eating a certain pastry on a New York subway. "As the sourdough sensation drifts across my taste buds," she writes, "I savor the pieces as though they are the last delicacy I will ever eat in my life." That sense of wonder makes all the difference. It is the difference between choosing a life of frustration and choosing a life of appreciation. A life of frustration comes from constantly demanding more and more. A life of appreciation result from marveling at gifts, both small and great. Today we hear about the greatest gift: "God so loved the word that he gave his only Son." Jesus call us to family - to form family by God's grace and to take part in the one perfect family, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Join me in that beautiful prayer: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


*In The Thrill of the Chaste Dawn tells about her own struggle to live that basic virtue. The book is poignant, frank, funny and wise. Dawn of course writes from the point of view of Christian woman, but young men will learn a lot from her book. It belongs in every Christian home and every young adult should read it. We will have the book for sale after Mass at a special price.

Final Version

Spanish Version

From Archives:

Trinity Sunday Homily 2007: Hope Does Not Disappoint
2006: Back to the Basics
2005: Alone Again
2004: I Was There
2003: The Name
2002: An Excellent Question
2001: The Image Within
2000: Out of the Midst of Fire
1999: A Capacity for God
1998: Foundation of the Universe

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Dawn Eden, Catholic Bible Study - Book of Genesis, Quotes from Darwin's Descent of Man)


How to help victims of natural disasters in China and Myanmar

Letter of Obama's Catholic Advisers to Bill Donohue

Bill's Answer


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