Trinity Sunday (Year B)
(Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20)
Dear People of God, our readings today spread out for us a most wonderful panoply of Trinitarian glory and goodness, for our deep peace, supreme hope, and undying gratitude. It all begins with Israel as recorded in our first reading:
Ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation … with strong hand and outstretched arm which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
One hears of scholars today who, confident in their own great wisdom and with much approval from other like-minded, politically-correct, potential world reformers, want to deny the fact, and deny Israel the glory, of God originally choosing one people to be His own Chosen People. Uniqueness would seem, for such scholars, necessarily to mean exclusivity, superiority, nationalism and racism, and, as such, to be condemned as the cause of much, far too much, of mankind’s struggles and strife throughout history.
However, we know that God chooses only those destined by Him to be servants of His own good plans and purposes, as of mankind’s better-being and ultimate salvation. Israel was indeed chosen by God and remained uniquely honoured as His Chosen People for thousands of years until bringing forth glorious fruit for the establishment of Jesus’ Church as the new and ultimate People of God by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. God does make choices – sometimes, indeed, with an outstretched arm -- and that means for us, as believers and disciples of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, that we too have, each of us individually, been chosen, deliberately, by God (“no one can come to Me unless My Father draws him”) for His glory, our salvation, and the salvation of mankind. Moreover, our world, our universe is not, as so many would like to believe, the result of chance -- untraceable and infinitesimal -- coalescing out of the chaos of unimaginable powers and countless conflicting processes over many millions of years before ultimately heading for inevitable self-destruction into the void of oblivion … No! Our world has been deliberately chosen, willed, and created by the God Who shows His hand by willing to choose and then by speaking with love – originally from the midst of the fire, then by His continuing words of the Law and the Prophets given to Israel for her formation and guidance; until now, ultimately and definitively, in and through Jesus His Word made flesh and proclaimed in His Church – because He loves His creation, and His will to share His love with those He has made in His own image and likeness for an eternity of blessed fulfilment is abiding and true in His beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour.
Such is the beginning of a series of blessings ever more wonderful and unimaginably beautiful. Let us move on to our second reading from St. Paul.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
In those words St. Paul refers to a transcendent blessing won for us by Jesus Our Lord and Saviour: for, by dying in our flesh He destroyed our death, and by rising glorified in the Spirit, He restored our Life. That is, by His transformation of His human horror of dying on the Cross into an act of sublime obedience and supreme love for His Father and His plans for us, He shattered the tyrannical hold of death over our human experience of life. Having risen from the dead glorified in His human flesh, He bestows, in fulfilment of the Father’s promise, His Spirit upon His Church to drive out our sin and set us free; and thereby He gives us the hope of sharing – in Him, as living members of His Body, in His victory over sin and, with Him, as adopted children of God -- in the divine life of eternal beatitude which is His, with the Spirit, before the face of His heavenly Father.
Such forgiveness of sins is a most wonderful blessing indeed. After all, what good is money, power, or pleasure, if, in all that you hope or do, you are weighed down by the awareness of your sins and of the inexorably approaching time when you will have to give an account of your life and pay for the wrong you have done. Poverty, suffering, even loneliness, can be borne by one who has peace of soul; on the other hand, no matter how far and wide, however diligently, we may search, there is no refuge to be found that can still the nagging qualms and soothe the haunting anxieties of a guilty conscience:
What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For, the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:26f.)
Of course there are some who like to think that they can distract themselves from the awareness of right and wrong characteristic of humanity, and learn to forget God and, in Him, all traces of any sensitivity to sin or awareness of personal responsibility. Of them the psalmist says:
Sin lurks deep in the hearts of the wicked, forever urging them on to evil deeds. They have no fear of God to hold them back. Instead, in their conceit, they think they can hide their evil deeds and not get caught. Everything they say is crooked and deceitful; they are no longer wise and good. They lie awake at night to hatch their evil plots instead of planning how to keep away from wrong. (TLB. Psalm 36:1-4)
However, though they may, to some extent, hide their sins from themselves, and though their eyes may refuse to recognize and their minds to admit the truth about themselves, nevertheless, God is the One Who sees all and knows all, and He hates wickedness; above all, He hates the wickedness of those who claim to be innocent of wrong-doing, holy – that is, divine -- without Him:
With You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. Oh, continue Your loving-kindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart. The workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise. (Psalm 36:9-10,12)
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
For all who, on the other hand, live humbly in Jesus by the Spirit for the Father, the gift of forgiveness of sins and freedom from their enslavement brings into our lives a truly sublime experience of peace and hope.
The next blessing Jesus offers us is inconceivable because St. Paul tells us that:
We are children of God and, if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may be glorified with Him.
St. Paul is therefore able to speak of the “glory of the children of God”. For the present time, indeed, the fullness of that consuming glory is, as I said, something we cannot possibly conceive, for it is heavenly and transcends all earthly categories or human imagining. However, we can begin the experience of something of that heavenly glory here on earth, because it is given us – even here and now -- to enter into communion with the Father, in the Son, by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the explicit prayer of Jesus (John 17:5, 24):
Father, I desire that they also, whom You gave Me, may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me.
That means that we are able to have a share in the Son’s loving relationship with His Father by the Holy Spirit: in Jesus, we too can commune with the Father, speak personally with Him as His children and experience His Fatherly love and care for us, as the Spirit of Jesus -- gently working in our spirit and guiding us along His ways – forms us ever more and more in Jesus’ likeness. In that way, in Jesus and with Him, we can come to know that we are not left to ourselves and that, whatever our weakness, whatever our need, we will never be left alone:
Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. (John 16:32)
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23)
(Father) I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
And so, dear People of God, there is every right reason for our whole-hearted celebration of the Most Holy Trinity today: for, thanks to Jesus, we know by faith, and can appreciate in our spiritual experience, something of the love of the Father: that love from all ages, which upholds our world and embraces us; that intimate and abiding love which is ever at hand to comfort, guide, and protect us; that inviting love, to which we can give whole-hearted response in the wisdom of Jesus’ word and the power of Jesus’ Spirit.
For such incomparable blessings we are undyingly grateful to Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, because it is He alone Who both reveals the Father and bequeaths to us His Most Holy Spirit:
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:6)
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)
And Jesus does all this for us through His faithful Spouse, Mother Church, which continues to do as He originally commanded her:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of 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.
Therefore, dear People of God, our gratitude to the Father, to His Son -- our Lord and Saviour -- and to the Holy Spirit, necessarily holds also Mother Church in its embrace. And although Mother Church is not yet become the ‘spotless Bride of Christ’ of which we hear in the letter to the Ephesians (5:25-27):
a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and without blemish;
nevertheless, gleaming through the stains of our weakness and wilfulness, her love for Her Lord and Spouse is unfailing; and, being blessed by His Father as the chosen instrument of our salvation and channel of His grace, we recognize her as our Mother and see in her the likeness of Mary, the Mother of Jesus to whose tender care and prayers Jesus committed us by His dying wish and command.
When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then, to His disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27)