Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20
Today’s celebration of the Feast of the Holy Trinity commemorates the Three Divine Presences of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Blessed Trinity. The feast also tells us of the three attributes of God, the Father who is the creator, the Son who is the redeemer and the Spirit who is the sanctifier and yet one God who cares for us. The last few verses of the Gospel of Mathew describes a scene which is powerful and yet comforting. The eleven disciples had gone to the Mountain to which Jesus had directed them. Even at this time we visualise their struggle of faith and commitment. However it was a real privileged encounter for them. In this tension of worship and doubt, Jesus sends them out into the world and invites them to go and Baptise and also to forgive. In their time of struggle he fills them with confidence and trust. They are his disciples and a disciple is one who has built a relationship with Jesus and now manifests it in his life. He also gives them a promise that he will be with them all the time and the Spirit will accompany them while the Father cares for them. They are to work in the name of the Father, Son and the Spirit. Today the Holy Trinity invites us to reflection and deep commitment, to deepen our relationship with Jesus through the Father in the Holy Spirit.
The feast of the Trinity is a mystery. It is difficult for us to understand the three persons and yet say there is one God. Our faith tells us that these three persons are indeed distinct and yet together. And that God is closely associated with human kind that he sent his son and also he sent his own spirit. The first person is the Father and he is called Father because he is the source of life for the son. The second person is called the Son because he receives his life from the Father. Father and Son love each other with a love more complete and perfect than we can imagine. Their love is so perfect that it is a person, the Holy Spirit. The third person then is the personal love between Father and Son and is the bond of Union between the Father and the Son. Yet in our practice of faith there is no other words remembered than the names of Father Son and the Spirit. We do this in our sign of the Cross, make the sign of cross before we begin any work or conclude it; every one of prayers contain the name of the Trinity and this Trinity is needed for us to fully live our Christian life. In the doxology at the Eucharist we say, Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and hour is yours Almighty Father.
The first reading taken from the book of Deuteronomy tells us that we can know God not just intellectually but personally experiencing his actions in our lives. So Moses asks the people was there ever a god so majestic as their God? And yet how close that God is to his people! ” He asks them whether any group of people has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as they had heard, and yet have remained alive. He explains to them of the greatness of God who has taken upon himself the responsibility to care and protect the people by signs, wonders and power as they themselves have witnessed. So Moses tells them that they have to acknowledge today and take heart that their God is in Heaven and on earth and there is no one equal to him. This demands a response from them that they follow his commandments and follow his statutes.
The Gospel describes the moment of the Ascension as it is presented in the Gospel of Matthew. The risen Jesus gives his final mandate to his gathered disciples. He passes on to them the authority that he has received from the Father. In particular he commands them to call all nations to be the disciples as they have been: “Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. The fullness of that baptism, which goes far beyond the sacramental ritual, is to enter fully into the Kingdom. The Baptism that they are going to give will incorporate all Christians into the community of the Trinity. For the newly baptised, the Father becomes the origin and goal of all living; the Son, in Christ, becomes the model through whom that goal is reached; the Spirit becomes the energising source by which we go through the Son to the Father.
It is of that Spirit that Paul speaks to the Roman community as we heard in the second reading of today. All who are moved by the Spirit are children of God. And it is not the spirit of subservient slaves filled with fear. We have all received that filial relationship. It is the spirit of sons and daughters who can call out with a daring intimacy, “Abba!” “Father.” As children and not slaves, we are therefore heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Jesus Christ, sharing his sufferings as well as sharing his glory. Hence we are called upon to consider the nature of God in himself. Again, it is St Paul who tells us that, in the light of reason and even common sense, any person can come to an awareness of a creator God as the source and cause of all that is. There is no way, however, by which we could come to know the inner nature of God in the way it has been laid open to us in the pages of the Christian Testament and from the words of Jesus himself.
The Holy Trinity is an explanation of God’s inner nature and we as Christians can only make statements based on what revelation tells us. We can say categorically that there is only one God, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving. But the extent of God’s knowledge, power and love is far beyond anything we can possibly grasp. St Thomas Aquinas who said that every statement we make about God has to be contradicted immediately. “God is Truth” but not truth as we can grasp it. “God is Love” but not love as we have ever experienced or could experience it. As we say, God is ‘transcendent’ he surpasses anything that our limited minds can grasp. It looks that we have a God who is beyond our reach but Jesus has made it easy for us to bring this God close to us and to our human nature. On the basis of revelation that Jesus has given us we can say that in this one God there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each Person shares totally in the being of God and is God; yet each Person is distinct. The distinction is determined by their mutual relationships: Father to Son, Son to Father, and the mutual Love of Father-Son is itself the third Person, the Spirit. In God, there are three distinct roles: that of Father, of Son and of Holy Spirit. We may not be able to penetrate the inner reality of these roles but we can be helped in our understanding when we look at how each Person carries out his role: The Father is the Creator, the Conserver, the source of all life and being and the final end of all things. The Son is the Word, by whom and through whom the nature of God is communicated to us. The Son, became incarnate, that is, assumed a full human nature and lived among us. The Spirit is the presence of God in the whole world and especially in the Christian Church. It is through the Spirit that the Church is led and guided into all truth and is the very soul of the Church.
So today’s feast on the one hand leads us to reflect on the incomprehensible greatness of our God and at the same time helps us to be aware just how close that “Abba” , Father, the God is to us. A God so far above us that he remains forever in a “Cloud of Unknowing” and yet who is, as St Augustine said, closer to us than our very breathing.