Dear Loyola Parishioners & Visitors:
As many of you know, Fr. Cwik (Our Beloved Pastor) has been away this past week. All he’ll say is that he was in an “undisclosed location.” I say let’s humor him on that. In any case, as a columnist, I am but a poor substitute.
We’re hearing a lot about the Holy Spirit these days, and not just in Luke, which is sometimes called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Sunday’s readings for the Ascension of the Lord are no exception. Each passage mentions the Holy Spirit. In Acts, Jesus tells the disciples that they can expect to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians, the Apostle prays that the disciples be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation. And in the Gospel, Jesus directs the disciples to baptize in the name of the Father (following the tradition of using masculine pronouns for God,even though God has no gender), the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In theological terms, the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity. Lots of Catholics (including many seminarians!) find the Trinity difficult to understand, and even wonder why the Church insists on a concept that is not found in Scripture – at least not in so many words. But the three “persons” of the Trinity are found in Scripture. Starting with this fact, theologians from every age have sought to explain how God could be one (for Christians, like Jews and Muslims, are monotheists) and yet could be fully present in God, in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Trinity:
One God, Three Persons. Like all of theology, the concept of the Trinity is an attempt to explain something that words cannot explain.
Even the most carefully-chosen language cannot capture the reality of God: uncreated, infinite, outside of time and yet within time, having no beginning and no end, and yet fully
present to every aspect of creation, always and everywhere. And so the concept of the Trinity puts forth one God with three Persons, each of Whom is fully God – in other words, Three distinct Persons with One essence or nature. In Medieval terms, God the Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit, even as God is the Son and the Holy Spirit. Confused? Maybe adding another idea will help. Essence or nature refers to what someone is; Person refers to who someone is. Consubstantial – as in the Creed – means of the same substance, or essence, or stuff (to use a technical term). My beloved cousin Scott – a Lutheran pastor – likes to think of the Trinity as if it were a cherry pie. The pie is of one essence, a wondrous blend of cherries and their juice, running together, and yet the same pie can be divided into three distinct pieces – big pieces. Delicious pie, delicious Trinity.
What’s the point? Beginning with Scripture, the Trinity explains What God is, Who God is, and how God is active in our world. As Jesus ascends, we are given the Holy Spirit – fully God, as Jesus Christ is fully God. The Spirit moves those of us who in some sense say “yes” to God to be, inasmuch as finite creatures can be, like God: loving, forgiving, merciful, constant, just, consoling,and present. If we pay attention, we see the work of the Spirit everywhere. Certainly we see the Spirit in the good people of Manchester, reaching out to help the victims of terrorist violence. But by God’s Grace, the Spirit is no less present here in Denver and here at Loyola. We see that in those engaged in protecting immigrants, protecting the vulnerable, befriending the lonely, feeding the hungry, consoling the sorrowful, and standing for equity and mercy and justice. By the Grace of God, we walk together, we walk in the Spirit, and we live in the Mystery of God. Thanks be to
Fr. Dirk Dunfee, S.J.