Thursday, May 30, 2013

Third Person (Trinity Sunday, 2013-05-26)

This is my homily, Trinity Sunday  May 26 2013, Pentecost.   I am a Catholic chaplain at  Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck),   FDU Newman Catholic Association,  New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass 5:00 pm/7:00 pm celebrated during Fall and Spring semester  at  FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

** We will resume Sunday Mass on August 25, 2013 @ 5:00 pm  at the FDU Chapel, Teaneck. ***

[__01__]        Imagine that you or I were to overhear our name.  Or, imagine that you or I were to walk into a room at the moment our name is mentioned.

In some cases, we might be tempted to pause – to eavesdrop – to hear what is being said about about us, or assumed about us.

In such a case, someone would be speaking about you or me in the third person.

“Third person” also describes the perspective taken by an author of fiction or non-fiction.

For example, one of this summer’s big Hollywood movies is The Great Gatsby.

This is a story told in the third person by Nick Carraway, a neighbor and someone of more modest means than the very wealthy Jay Gatsby.

Nick describes his own small house and the Gatsby’s large house on the right side of his….–

My house was … only fifty yards from the Sound. The [house] on my right was … Gatsby’s mansion…. [with a swimming pool, more than forty acres of lawn, and a garden.]  My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small eyesore, and it had been overlooked [by real estate developers], so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires – all for eighty dollars a month. ”[1]

Such is the third-person viewpoint of Nick Carraway, the narrator.  This is a third-person viewpoint on Gatsby’s lawn, wealth, ambition,  and his parties.

Gatsby does not tell the story; Nick tells the story. And, in Fitzgerald’s novel – or the movie – this narration is an important technique.

After all, the identity – and history - of the title character - Gatsby - is mysterious.  In the third person, talking about Gatsby … the third-person narrator can reveal the information with subtlety and slowness.

[__02__]     This Sunday,   we observe Trinity Sunday, recalling that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity. And, the Holy Spirit reveals the truth of Christ and the Gospel.

In the Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper and to us, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of Truth will tell you.”  (John 16:___)

While concluding 3 years of teaching at the Last Supper, Jesus indicates the disciples are not quite ready to graduate or to be certified.

Their “credentials” will be acquired gradually over time.

Also, the Gospel will continue to unfold – more pages will be written – more chapters will be published – after the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

There will be some Third-Person intervention, some information provided by the Third Person of the Trinity.

[__03__]      The Holy Spirit will reveal, will motivate the Apostles to leave their locked hiding place, to go to Jerusalem and  beyond to tell the Good News

But, we might also ask – is the Holy Spirit simply a narrator ?  simply a source of information ?

[__04__]        In the example of  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, Nick Carraway – the narrator is important.    

Yet, we could imagine that there are other ways that the story could have been told or revealed. The narrator, in a fictional book, is an option, a technique.

The third-person narrator could, in theory, be eliminated. We might have a different series of events. But, we could still have the same ending.

[__05__]        The Good News of our faith is that the “third person” – the Holy Spirit – is essential.

[__06__]        Do we hear our name called by others, do we sometimes wonder what others are saying about us? Thinking about us?
Do we hear ourselves described in the third person, or characterized or judged by others in the third person?

Yes, and, this can make us – naturally – uncomfortable.

[__07__]   Are we not also concerned about what other people tell us to do, invite us to do?

Sometimes, we receive good advice, sometimes, we receive bad advice …in the first person.

[__08__]     The Holy Spirit is our gift, our guide, to the continuation of the Good News, the pages of the Gospel in our own lives.

In both fiction and non-fiction, the “third-person” narrator only tells us what others have done or not done.

But, in our faith, the Holy Spirit is the third person reminding us what God has done, has created and that Jesus suffered and died for our sins.

The Holy Spirit is also asking what you and I will do, with God’s help, in own actions, our own first-person story.    [__fin__]       

[1] F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1,  p. 5.  Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925

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