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Creation, Sacrifice and Joy.

Since today is Trinity Sunday I wish to bring forward three stories to honor the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  I begin with God the Father.

 

On October 8, 2004 the Nobel Peace prize was awarded to Wangari Maathai of Kenya.  And what a surprise that was!  Wangari was an environmentalist.  She worked for the government of Kenya as a minister for the department of the environment, natural resources and wildlife.  What does the environment have to do with peacemaking?  Why should she get the Nobel Prize for Peace?  I will give you their explanation in a moment.  First, a little history.

 

In the past 100 years, Kenya has suffered greatly from the effects of deforestation.  The people are desperate because they need the trees for the fruit which they produce and they need trees for firewood.  40 years ago, Wangari said, “God has provided a solution and the solution is in the people.  It is possible for everyone to plant trees.  The well-educated can plant trees.  The uneducated can plant trees.  The children can plant trees.  Everyone can plant trees.”  And that is what they did.  Her insight became a movement and today it is called the Green Belt Movement.

 

Wangari told her people, “If we each do what we can we will rebuild the forest.”  And that is what they are still doing today.  Now back to the question.  What does rebuilding the forest have to do with peacemaking and the Nobel Prize for Peace?  The Nobel people put it this way: When people have food and firewood, there is less chance that they will go to war to meet their basic needs.

 

The Feast of the Holy Trinity calls upon us to honor God the Father and God the Father is our loving creator.  The Book of Genesis tells us that our loving creator made all things and then said to each thing, “You are good.”  Wangari took that message to heart.  She said that trees (and all plants) come from our loving Creator.  They are meant for our use.  Trees are good because God said that trees are good.  The practice of deforestation just assumes that trees are neutral and do not have to be replaced.  Wangari saw what was happening in her country and decided to honor our loving creator by rebuilding the forest. She did that in her country and we are called to honor our loving creator by doing things in our own country to protect and preserve what God has created.

 

Psalm 24 says that all of creation belongs to God and we honor God by showing respect and reverence for God’s creation.  In today’s First Reading Moses says that God is our creator and we will have many blessings if we keep his commandments.

 

And now for a story that will help us to connect with the second person of the Holy Trinity.

 

Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a priest in Poland during the Second World War.  He was hated by the Nazis because he helped many Jews to escape and run to freedom.  Maximilian was eventually arrested and sent to Auschwitz.  One day a prisoner who had a young family was condemned to death.  Maximilian traded places with him and died in his place.  He gave up his life for that young father on August 14, 1941.  He was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1982 because he took to heart the words of Jesus in John, Chapter 15: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  Jesus is the Second Person in the Holy Trinity and He laid down His life for us and all of humanity… namely, all of his friends.

 

Maximilian Kolbe was a modern day person who helps us to connect with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  But there are others who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  I am thinking of those who died in service to our country.  During this holiday weekend I am asking you to talk to each other and actually name those who died in service to our country.  

 

I am naming my classmates from Crosier Seminary: Dan Murphy and Larry Sikorski.  They were not generic groups of people.  They were real people.  Real individuals.  They were important people and we need to name them.  When we think about their sacrifice we get closer to understanding the sacrifice of Christ.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

 

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity and here is my story.

 

On April 15, 2013, twenty six thousand runners participated in the Boston Marathon.  Two terrorist bombs exploded near the finish line and three persons were killed and 260 persons were injured.  Heather Abbott of Newport, RI  was struck by shrapnel from the second of the two bombs and the shrapnel severely injured her left foot.  During her recovery the doctors amputated her left leg below the knee.  Just four months following the bombing, she was living independently and she returned to her job as a Human Resources Manager.  In addition she gives motivational speeches and she is the founder of the Heather Abbott Foundation, which provides prosthetic devices to limb loss victims.  She is sharing her story with audiences across the country and inspiring others with her contagious optimism and her upbeat attitude about what life has dealt her.

 

In her speeches she says, “Someone told me that misery is optional and I decided that misery is not for me.  I decided not to go there.  I have decided to live with joy instead.  I have joy in my heart and I will nourish it as best I can.”  Her positive attitude has made it possible for her to recover and to recover very well from the injuries that she received on that very dark day in the history of the Boston Marathon.

 

The word joy connects me to the Holy Spirit.  The fruits of the Holy Spirit are spelled out in Galatians, Chapter 5.  In catechism class we memorized the fruits of the Holy Spirit and one of those fruits is called joy.  Not joy in the sense of pleasure; but joy in the inner peace that we feel when we are doing God’s will.

 

I will conclude with my three words for the Holy Trinity: creation, sacrifice and joy.  The Father gives us creation, the Son made the sacrifice that takes away our sins  and the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of joy.  And joy is a gift that no one can take from us.

 

Creation…Sacrifice…and Joy.

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