Levels of Happiness

(Homily for Trinity Sunday Year C)

Message: The Trinity - the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit - exists from eternity. We only find lasting happiness by entering that relationship.

Last weekend we celebrated Pentecost - the Feast of the Holy Spirit. You might remember that we used the example of Pope Pius XII and Joe Ox.* They show how the Spirit leads in the midst of complexity and teaches us the simplicity of discipleship: Jesus, I trust in you. We can only make that prayer by the power of the Spirit.

It makes sense that after the Feast of the Holy Spirit we should celebrate the Trinity. In order to understand the role of the Holy Spirit we need to know about the mystery of the Trinity. Early Christian writers expressed it this way: The Father is God, Jesus the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, but there are not three gods, but one God. They used other formulas: The Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty, but there are not three almighties but one Almighty. You could also say, the Father is eternal...

Well, you get the idea. Everything we can say about the Father we can also say about the Son and Spirit, except this: We designate God as Father because he has a Son. Jesus is the Son because of his relationship to the Father. A father begets a son.

A guy once told about the biggest change in his life. His wife said to him, "we are pregnant." He held her in his arms and then placed his right hand over her abdomen. Inside her he sensed his own child. He later realized, his son. Everything changed. He is now a father and he has a son.

The Bible tells us God the Father has a son. What does this mean? The Bible also says that Adam is the son of God. So is David. And as we learned last week, "those led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." What's the difference between Jesus and us?

Here's the difference: You and I were born in time. We all know our birthday and could even calculate the approximate date of conception. You could look up the date of your baptism and perhaps remember when you accepted Jesus in personal way. However you look at it, we were born in time.

Jesus though was born eternally. As we say in the Profession of Faith Jesus is "the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God..." Here on earth a father is always older than his son. Not so in heaven. That relationship of Father and Son exists eternally. And the love between them is a distinct person - the Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches that the purpose of our existence is to enter that eternal relationship. We are called to become sons and daughters of God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit.

How does this happen? I received great help from a Jesuit priest named Fr. Robert Spitzer. He starts with philosophy. As Fr. Spitzer points out, the great philosophers tell us that we all desire happiness and they distinguish four levels of happiness: sensual pleasure, ego gratification, service and transcendence. Sensual pleasure - a steaming bowl of linguine pasta; ego gratification - some achievement a person can pride in; service - being helpful or valuable to others. And finally transcendence - connecting with the good, the beautiful, the true.

Fr. Spitzer explains that each level of happiness has its place but only in transcendence do we find happiness that can endure. You see, we are made by God and for God.

Yet there is a problem. We are made for God, but as St. Paul teaches, in our natural state we feel distant from God, we fear him, we run away from him. We think he is going to take away our freedom, that he will judge and condemn us.

In spite of all this distance, even hostility, we hear today that in Jesus "we have peace with God." Those are wonderful words. In Jesus we have peace with God. Jesus reveals the Divine Mercy. He lifts us to the Father.

For that reason we lift up Jesus - not by our own power, but by the Holy Spirit. Next week we will see how we literally lift up Jesus in the Eucharist. We will celebrate Corpus Christi - the Body and Blood of Jesus. I'll start by quoting an unlikely source - Lady Gaga! It may surprise you what she had to say - it certainly did me - but that's for next Sunday.

For today we have this message: The Trinity - the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit - exists from eternity. We only find lasting happiness by entering that relationship: perfect goodness, beauty, truth. Jesus alone can lift us to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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*Here is an audio version of the homily if you missed last Sunday's homily or wish to listen to it again.

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Trinity Sunday - Year C):

2013: The Desire to be Known
2010: I Have Much More to Tell You
2007: Hope Does Not Disappoint
2004: I Was There
2001: The Image Within
1998: Foundation of the Universe

Complete List:

2016: Levels of Happiness
2015: Disciple Makers Week 9: The Final Goal
2014: Who Look Into the Depths
2013: The Desire to be Known
2012: Ultimate Freedom
2011: Origin and Goal
2010: I Have Much More to Tell You
2009: Purpose of Our Existence
2008: Family as Origin and Goal
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

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

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Fr. Brad's Homilies

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Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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