Trinity Sunday (Western Rite) 2004
I watch my children playing games and see them playing the same sorts of games I played when I was their age. Running around care-free, screaming with delight and shouting and – unavoidably at times – crying when they hurt themselves.
In their games they often mimick some of the things they see on television – not that we have a television, but they see it at other people's homes and we do play DVD's on the computer. A favourite is “Thunderbirds”. It is amazing to see my children doing the same sorts of things as I did thirty-five and more years ago.
I clearly remember wanting a model of “Thunderbird One” for my birthday and one year, 1966 if I recall correctly, I was given one as a present by my great-aunt - “Big Auntie” as she was somewhat taller than my great-great-aunt, “Little Auntie”. The model really did look so much like the real thing. I was really happy about this.
I played with it at my great-aunt's house that day and at some stage I think we had afternoon tea – or something - and I put the model down. A few minutes later I was heart broken. I had put my “Thunderbird One” down by the fire place. It wasn't really like “Thunderbird One”, it couldn't stand the heat. It had become a twisted mess of “Thunderbird One”, a congealed mass of warm plastic.
This time last week, as I was chatting to you- or maybe a little before, as I was chanting the Gospel – my great-aunt died, she had recently celebrated her 90th birthday. She was three years younger than “Little Auntie” was when she died nearly 24 years ago. “Big Auntie” was the last of her generation on my grand mother's side of family. We remembered her this past week in a requiem mass and she has been moved from the the list of those with us to those who have gone before us which I recite every time I perform the offertory at Mass.
She had suffered real hardship in her life. As a little girl she had been left on a doorstep her younger sister, my grandmother, with a broken arm. Abandoned by their mother whilst their father was fighting in the Great War. Things did not get much easier for her during her life and she suffered in many different ways. Not the least at the hands of Britain's National Health Service.
She fought, in her way, the good fight. The fight which her generation is most famous for is the war against Hitler's “Third Reich”. My generation – the transition between the post-war “Baby Boom” and the so-called “Generation X” - and those which follow, have much to be thankful for. But the memory of that war is fading. None in parliament in New Zealand saw service in that conflict.
Neither my father nor his father saw “front line” active service – but all those left at home fought the war – it was brought to them, their active service was keep the faith at home. Only on my mother's side of the family was front line war time service encountered.
On this day 60 years ago my mother's father was off the Normandy coast in a mine sweeper, sweeping away the mines to allow a safe passage for those many thousands who were to land on the beaches.
If it was not for the sacrifices of generations past we would not be here to-day. Our antecedants faced persecutions of many kinds and sacrficed themselves in myriads of ways in the hope of passing on a better world to their descendants.
But what was that faith and hope in which they believed? Was it of the hum-drum? Was it so that we could do what we liked? Was it because of some fantasy of a world where everything is “nice”? A utopian dream? Or was it of a world founded on a practical vision based on two fundamental precepts?
In the rubble of carpet-bombed Germany and the after-glow of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the framers of the post-war world had a vision where at least the second of the greatest commandments was to be acted out: “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.
But what a parody of this have we to-day?
Loving thy neighbour has been twisted in many cases to be 'Offend not thy neighbour as thyself”, or “Tolerate others as they are intolerant to you”. In some ways, the western world has become a far more hostile place for Christians than it has been since the time of Constantine and the dawn of the Christianity as the official religion of the Empire.
My grandfather and other relatvies of that generation did not fight for this form of freedom. The did not fight against the intolerance of the Nazis and expect to find the type of intolerance we now face to-day: the intolerance that is tolerant only of those who are flexible enough in their morality to have no fixed points of reference.
These days, as I think you know, we are asked to accept that there are no moral absolutes, nothing is “right” or “wrong”. We have of course the ridiculous situation that we have a legal system which does have measures of correctness – a system both inherited and passed by legislation in our parliament. Unfortunately, the judiciary has a number of senior judges who exhibit a degree of flexibility in thinking hitherto not seen in New Zealand. Many of those in parliament, though accepting that a majority of people in New Zealand would believe that there is right and wrong, would reject these as fixed: endorsing the view that over time society's morals will meander like a river, heading to the sea, but biding it's time on how it gets there.
The moral compass which we have been given by God is dismissed by many of society's opinion formers and thinkers. That there is a God is frequently rubbished - ignoring the Psalmist (Psalm 14:1-4):
“The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.
They are corrupt, and become abominable in their doings; there is none that doeth good, no not one.
The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that would understand, and seek after God.
But they are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become abominable; there is none that doeth good, no not one.”
As you can see, the times we live in are not unique! David wrote the psalms nearly three thousand years ago. What is different to-day is a gradually increasing acceptance of moral relativism and situational ethics.
Faith in good requires us to accept things simply. Not in a complicated way. People who try to complicate things often do so because they do not understand, or they cannot believe that somethings can be so simple, or they try to deceive others and foll themselves. Wise fools!
But none can understand God!
As we read in today's - Western rite - Epistle reading (Romans 11:33-36):
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out!
'For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?
Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?'
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
We do not know, we cannot know and we certainly cannot understand the mind of God. All that we are capable of knowing has been revealed to us. Not even the most intelligent human being is able to understand an inifitessimal amount about God. So no matter how complex we are, no matter how old we are, we are granted the ability to know and understand in our own unique way a little bit about God.
Whether we are sixty seconds old or sixty years old. God has given us a gift to understand just enough for us as individual created beings.
God entrusted to his prophets, himself as a human being and to his disciples to pass on to us in the 21st century, to be able to go out and in the words of to-day's – Western rite - Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20):
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age. Amen”