Homilies

Trinity Sunday
Exodus 34:4-6,8-9; 2 Cor. 13:11-13; Gospel of John 3:16-18
Can I Possibly Become a saint?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of the Good Shepherd - Singapore, on 11th June 2017

As we celebrate Trinity Sunday today, it is good that we reflect on the revealed Truth of the mystery of the Three Persons in One God.  The mystery of the Trinity is not as abstract as many believers tend to think.  In fact, the mystery of the Trinity is constantly experienced by us in our daily living.  The Trinity is essentially experienced by us as a God who loves us infinitely, unconditionally and personally.

God is first of all Our Father.  We pray to Him in all our prayers, in fact Jesus His Son, taught us to pray to Him in the “Our Father” prayer.  God our Father, who is in Heaven, is a God who not only gave us our life as Creator, but “gives us our daily bread”; He sustains us in all our needs.  As parents, you know what it is like for your children to obey you, we as children of God our Father is also to live our lives in accordance and obedience to God our Father’s Will.

When we reflect on Jesus, the Son and Second Person of the Holy Trinity, we immediately know and believe that Jesus who is born of Mary His Mother, has come down to be one like us, Fully Divine and yet also Fully Human.  We have all experienced Jesus personally as our Saviour and Lord in different situations of our lives.  The fact that we are all here in this Mass is the clearest evidence and experience that Jesus is Real for us and that we are united with Him in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist. 

And the fact that we are all able to believe that the Bread and Wine that we are about to receive is Truly the Real Body and Blood of Jesus, is possible only precisely because the Holy Spirit, who is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is constantly inspiring, enlightening and guiding us in all our experiences of our faith.  If not for the Holy Spirit, whom God the Father and Jesus send to us, we would continue to live in the darkness of our sinful ways. 

In other words, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to celebrate Trinity Sunday is essentially a celebration of first, our deep gratitude to God for the divine and Unconditional Love that He has shown us, and continue to show us.  And this Unconditional Love of God means that as children of God, Trinity Sunday is also a celebration of great Joy, because God never gives up on us; He is infinitely patient and compassionate, regardless of how often and how much we may have failed Him. 

In God’s Unconditional Love for us, He as our Father, as described in the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” continues to have great HOPE in those of us who continue to reject His Love.  Like the son in the parable who left home to squander all his father’s wealth, God our Father likewise, dreams that we too would experience the deep conversion in our hearts, and become the saint that God had always dreamed that we may one day become. 

Can this happen to me?  Have I drifted too far from God or is my relationship with Him too superficial?  Can I become the saint that is formed after God’s heart? The answer is a resounding “Yes” because this is precisely what we have been reflecting on thus far about our Triune God.  In today’s Gospel Jesus Himself assures Nicodemus and us, “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost, but may have Eternal Life.”  Yes, my sisters and brothers, our God truly Loves us Unconditionally, Personally and Compassionately.  When we fall into our sinful and selfish ways, and go to Confession, do we not experience a Compassionate God who willingly forgives us?  The greatest of all proof is that Jesus, the Son of God willingly and lovingly suffered and died for our sake and Salvation.

Christopher News Note, a spiritual writer, in his book, “From Sinners to Saints” explains, “the history of our world is full of sinners who turned their lives around to become saints officially canonized by the Church — and people who, with the help of God’s grace, managed to climb out of the downward spiral toward which their lives and souls were heading.  Some of the examples are well known. There’s St. Paul, who was responsible for the murder of many early Christians before his dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus. And St. Augustine of Hippo led a life of arrogant pride and sexual immorality before offering his mind, heart and soul to God, thanks in part to the Letters of St. Paul and the prayers of his mother, St. Monica.” 

There are also many other dramatic stories that are little-known, but clearly testifies to the truth that with God’s grace and through His Compassionate Love, each of us experience how it is so very possible that we indeed, are able to grow into becoming a saint; in fact I know of many who are already living saints in our midst. 

However, my brothers and sisters in Christ, just in case some of you are still not yet inspired by the truth that God is indeed so gracious and lovingly Compassionate to us, regardless of how often and how much we have failed Him, I would like us to reflect further on this Truth about how our Holy Trinity is Real in our daily living. 

Take the case of the true story of St Callixtus.  Callixtus was a Christian slave whose master decided to open a kind of bank where his fellow Christians could keep their money. The master put Callixtus in charge of the bank. He couldn’t have made a worse choice.  Callixtus was so careless in his investment decisions that he lost virtually all the depositors’ money. The rest of the money found its way into Callixtus’ pocket.

Afraid of what his angry master might do to him, Callixtus ran away, but was caught, brought back to Rome and imprisoned. Following an incompetent attempt to recover some of the money he had lost, Callixtus caused a public riot, which got him sentenced to slave labour in the mines of Sardinia.  There he would have stayed until he died, if the Roman emperor had not, unexpectedly, issued a general amnesty for all Christian prisoners.

When Callixtus turned up in Rome again, Pope St. Victor I, took responsibility for him.  In the spirit of charity tempered by prudence, the Pope found Callixtus a little house far outside the city walls and gave him a stipend, which is a small sum of money for his basic needs.  Pope St Victor also took to visiting Callixtus. In a short time, the embezzler and brawler showed signs of genuine repentance—so much so that he was ordained a deacon, then a priest, and was given management of the Christian catacomb we know today as San Callisto.  In 217 the clergy of Rome elected Callixtus as the pope.  Five years later, Callixtus died for his faith, as a martyr.

As we conclude our reflection on God as the Holy Trinity, let us remind ourselves that Callixtus’ martyrdom and veneration as a saint is something no one who knew Callixtus before his conversion would expect to happen.  Likewise, we too know of many people who have lapsed in the practice of their faith, and have indeed turned from living a habitually sinful life to one that is Christ-like and saintly, like Callixtus, St Paul and St Augustine of Hippo who even became one of the Church’s greatest theologian of all times.  Indeed all of them and many more have gone on to become great saints in our Church.

  My brothers and sisters in Christ, a conversion experience is not magic; it is only the first step in a lifetime of striving to grow in virtue and conform one’s unruly, rebellious will to the Will of God.  This was precisely how Callixtus, St Paul, St Augustine grew to becoming great saints.  Callixtus in particular was converted because Pope St Victor showed much kindness, patience and respect for Callixtus; he did not judge him, but treated him with great respect and compassion. 

And this touched Callixtus deeply, and he was converted from being a “lost sheep” to a Good Shepherd; a Good Shepherd who then loved God so deeply, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, he grew in great wisdom and courage to eventually when tested in his tribulations of his faith, he willingly laid down his life, like his Master, Jesus Christ, who died for us, and became an instrument of God our Father’s Will, as in today’s Gospel, as Jesus says, “that all may not be lost, but may have Eternal Life.” 

(Ref: adapted from, www.Christophercloseup; the Embezzler who became a saint.)

 

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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