Holy Trinity Homily May 27 2018 St Austin Austin TX
First of all, a reflection, and then a homily.
Today I was hoping to celebrate the dedication and blessing of our new bathrooms and all the work we did to make safe and to beautify our church exterior. I am sure you were too. And like you, I am disappointed that it is not yet happening. Bummer!
But it WILL happen. To do it properly, we are waiting till Sunday, September 2nd, on Labor Day weekend, to hold the dedication. The light fixture on top of the tower is now lit, and the bathrooms and the nursery may be open before then. But, God willing, we will have a wonderful celebration on Sunday, September 2, 2018. So stay tuned.
In a way, this false start is fitting and proper for our parish named after St Augustine of Canterbury, or as we know him, St. Austin. You will recall that he was a sixth century monk in Rome. He grew up in the area, was happy there, and thought he would spend the rest of his life in the monastery in Rome.
However, Pope Gregory, known as the Great, happened to see some English slaves being sold in the Roman slave market and was taken with a strong desire to evangelize and convert these pagan English. Of course, as the Pope though, he personally was not able to go off to the wilds of Britain to do this. So, Pope Gregory instructed - that is, ordered - the monk Augustin to go off and convert the English. We don’t know what Augustin thought of the idea, but when the Pope orders it, especially a Pope as forceful as Gregory the Great, you have to do it.
Augustine and several monks dutifully set out. As they crossed Gaul, present day France, they heard terrible, dispiriting, blood-curdling stories about the wild, barbaric, savage, English, and their horrible weather, so different than warm, sunny Italy. Before they reached the English Channel, they got cold feet and turned around, returning to Rome.
But once there they had to report to Pope Gregory. He wasn’t amused, and he sent Augustine back with more monks. This time St. Austin made it to England, re-founded the Church there along Roman lines, and is now considered the Apostle of the English.
I also like to consider him the patron saint of Second Chances, since his first effort to evangelize the English was a bust. But he more than made up for it on his second attempt.
Likewise, our first attempt to dedicate our renovations and additions has failed. But like St Austin we will give it a second try, and be even more successful than we first hoped. So, plan to join us for a big celebration on Sept. 2.
Now for a homily on this Holy Trinity Sunday.
I really like this Gospel that we have today, and would like to unpack it a bit. The Gospel opens: “The eleven disciples went to Galilee,” These are the 12 Apostles, minus Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then hung himself.
And they went “to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.” Which mountain? Presumably the Apostles remembered to what mountain Jesus had ordered them. And so St. Matthew should have known. But St. Matthew does not tell us because I think he doesn’t want this to be about a particular instance, and a one-time event, but rather his story is a kind of template for an experience that has been and is repeated throughout Christian history.
Many times Christians have been summoned to a mountain by Jesus, there to have a special, peak experience. That could be an experience in prayer, or while reading the Scriptures, or being overwhelmed by beauty of nature or of art, or at the marriage to the person you love, or the birth of a child, or even in church.
St. Matthew tells us: "When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” The Apostles doubted? Yes, because their experience is not all that different than our experience. We believe. We may even believe fervently. But if we are honest, there is also, at the same time, doubt lurking in there. Certitude is hard to come by. St Matthew is also talking about our experience.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
This is the “Great Commission”. It is given not only to the Apostles, but to all Christians, including you and me. These are our marching orders: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,…”
We must evangelize. That is really the ultimate purpose we have spent so much money and sat through so many meetings and gone through so much trouble with our renovation project.
True we were concerned about safety, and true we really need more bathrooms, and true we wanted a building that we could be proud of. But the reason we wanted to do this - not in a minimal way or as inexpensively as possible - but to truly make our exterior attractive, something that would grab attention, is ultimately because of this command of Jesus to evangelize.
If we do not use the renovation project as a tool to make our presence known, and to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and make disciples of all nations, then our renovation efforts really will have failed.
So the renovation project is really just a first step. As St. Augustine of Canterbury had to keep working at it to spread the Gospel, so do we. Jesus has given us our mission. Let us do it. AMEN