In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen! How many times a day do you make the sign of the cross? Each time, you are professing the Trinity, one God in three persons. By ending with Amen, you are professing your belief, since the word translates into “I believe” and is associated with the Hebrew word for truth.
This Sunday begins the return to Ordinary time, which we paused right before Lent. The name comes from the word ordinal, or counted, such as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. But before we return to the weekly lessons from the Bible, we first celebrate two more special Sundays. Today we honor and celebrate the Holy Trinity, one God in three, followed next Sunday with the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ.
The first reading is from the book of Deuteronomy, the last of the first 5 books of the Bible called the Pentateuch, attributed to Moses and also referred to as “The Law.” The book of Deuteronomy, Greek for “second law”, consists of Moses speaking to the children of the Jewish slaves of Egypt. Their parents, the slaves who were freed, had all died in the 40 years of the desert wanderings. Moses is now like an old grandfather on his deathbed passing on his wisdom, instructing them on all that God commanded him as they prepare to enter the promised land. He reminds them that there is only one God, that He created everything, and that He singled out the Jews for Himself. Moses retells all the great things that God did for this people, who are to be a blessing to the whole world. Therefore, they must live up to this role and keep all the commandments in return and pass the lessons down to their children, in order to continue to receive God’s blessings and do well in this new land.
Psalm 33 reflects on praise for God our creator. Three times the word kindness is used, translated from the Hebrew word Hesed, which is love in the context of covenant, a lifetime bond. The church fathers referred to this psalm as a veiled reference to the Trinity (see CCC 292, 703), as God the Creator, as Jesus in the word of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit in the breath of God that gives all life. For those who have fear of offending God and put their hope in Him, the psalmist is asking for protection from the troubles of the world.
In the second reading St. Paul says if we live in the Spirit we will become sons and daughters of God and heirs with Jesus. How do you live in the Holy Spirit? You only need to ask Him to enter your life. Ask for a pouring of His gifts on you: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and a fear of the Lord. How do you measure the Spirit working in you? It’s how well you possess the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, generosity, gentleness, modesty, self control, and chastity. These are surely the attributes of Jesus.
St. Paul tells us to call the Father “Abba” just like Jesus did, which translates more like Daddy. He says if we are to be heirs with Christ, then we need to connect our sufferings in this life with the sufferings of Christ. As He endured His sufferings and now lives in glory, so too will we live in glory if we join our sufferings with Him.
The Church refers to the gospel for today as the Great Commission. The apostles left Jerusalem for Galilee because the angel who appeared to the women at the empty tomb told them to tell the apostles to go there to meet Jesus (Matt 28:7). They did meet Jesus there, and also by the shore while fishing, when Jesus gave Peter the command to feed His sheep, to lead His Church (John 21:1-23). Jesus spent 40 days with them in His final instructions, but now, up on the mountain, He tells them all power on heaven and earth have been given to Him, which there can be no doubt He means He is God. Jesus gave them a threefold command, to go throughout the world to all nations and people, to baptize them and to teach them everything He taught them. This was contrary to the expectations of Jewish people for the Messiah, they expected the world to come to Jerusalem instead. This is still true of the Jewish people, they don’t evangelize, they still expect people to come to them to join their faith. But the apostles certainly did understand the commission of Jesus, because Christianity is known throughout nearly the entire planet, and about one third of the world population is Christian. On the very day of Pentecost, ten days after Jesus’ command, after receiving the Holy Spirit Peter and the apostles were already telling all the people gathered that they needed to be baptized (Acts 2:38), and about 3000 were.
But the words of today’s gospel were spoken right before Jesus ascended into heaven. It certainly seems as though He left them alone, never to return (except to convert and instruct St. Paul), and yet He said He would always be with them to the end of time. And that leads us to the Trinity. Jesus said He had to return to the Father in order to send the Holy Spirit to them. The Holy Spirit did come on Pentecost and is still in the world, entering our souls at the moment of our baptism, and remains with us; St. Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is also present within us when we receive Him in Holy Communion. God is the Father and God is the Son and God is the Holy Spirit, so Jesus is with us always as He said He would be.
The theme for this Sunday is “God is with Us.” Way back about 742 B.C. the prophet Isaiah foretold of a virgin who would be with child, and the child’s name would be Emmanuel, which means God is with us (Isaiah 7:14). At the beginning of the Gospels of Matthew (Matt 1:20-24) and Luke (1:31) the archangel Gabriel announces to the virgin Mary that she will bear a child and His name will be Jesus, which means “God Saves”, and Matthew recalls the prophesy of His name Emmanuel fulfilled. His name was not given by human choice but by the command of God through the angel. The other names given to the Son of God by the prophet, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Prince, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6) are comprised in this one name Jesus. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, in today’s reading, what does Jesus say? “Behold, I am with you always.” Emmanuel.
We are made in God’s image. So when God planned to appear on the earth, He didn’t appear as an angel or other being, He took on the life of a man. He was like us in all things but sin. Like us He had a free will, but a person totally filled with the Holy Spirit would never will to sin. That would include Mary, who was born without original sin, and her heavenly spouse at the conception of Jesus is the Holy Spirit. Since Jesus is God, He is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” But He was also fully human, and this shows so clearly in the agony in the garden. He desperately wanted to avoid crucifixion, even sweating blood, as He pleaded with the Father to avoid it. He obviously had the free will to say no because He prayed “not My will but Your will be done.” This is an amazing story of the Son of God the man and God the Father. His perfection in the Spirit led Him to accept what was the Father’s plan for Him, and to fulfill scripture. And when He left the garden, scripture tells us He showed such courage in dealing with the crowd that came to arrest Him. Where did He get that strength? Imagine if you will the Father showed Him a vision of billions of crucifixes that would be made with His image throughout time if He does the will of the Father? Did He reveal how people would wear it around their necks, hang it on their walls, in every Catholic church, up on mountains, in cemeteries, on every rosary, that there will be crucifixes to remember His sacrifice to the end of the age, when He returns?
Though it’s impossible for humans to comprehend one God in the Trinity, the scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church can guide us. When Moses spoke to God and asked God’s name, God said “I Am Who Am”. Not “I was”, the past, and not “I will be”, the future, just I AM. He always exists, He always did exist, and always will exist, living outside of time and space. He is an uncreated being who created everything. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit makes veiled appearances, and He is also the one who inspired the sacred scripture writers. In the Acts of the Apostles he is very present. When Jesus speaks in the gospels, nearly all of His words can be connected to words of the Old Testament, He lived that book. Jesus knew He was God and He always existed, when He said to the Jews (John 8:58): “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” But Jesus was God living in time: just like us, He started out as a baby, then a child, then a grown man in the same amount of time that it took us. And He lived in time for 33 years. He said He would never leave us, and so He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us always, thus His name Emmanuel.
Theme in Our Life
Your first action in the life of the Church began with your baptism, when, as water was poured over you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit were called upon to pour over your soul and mark you for heaven.
Our brains are visually oriented, yet no one can see God. So to help visualize the Trinity imagine a triangle, with the Father at the top, and on the bottom the Son on the left and the Holy Spirit on the right. God the Father always has a primary hierarchy, then the Son proceeds from the Father and the Holy Spirit from the Son. All our prayers to the Trinity are ordered this way. Though there is an hierarchy, they are all equal. They all have different roles, but no role is more important, just different. In the gospel of John chapter 5 verses 19-47 Jesus explains His relationship with the Father.
Now take that triangle image and draw a circle around it. The circle has no beginning or end, it’s just One God. One of the finest Bible writings on the Trinity is in the letter to the Ephesians, chapters 1 through 4. With your thoughts on the Trinity, read these words of St. Paul. Notice how his words just keep flowing from the Father to the Son to the Holy Spirit in a spiral of expressions, like that visual circle of the persons of God just turning through them, so that by the end you feel like it’s just God. God is not plural, He is just one God.
The Nicene creed, repeated at Mass, contains deeply Trinitarian words of one God in three persons. We proclaim our faith: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth...”; and “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages...”; and “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified...”
The Trinity is very present in the Mass. In the Eucharistic prayer II that is frequently used, the priest addresses God the Father and calls on the Holy Spirit to humbly request that the bread and wine become Jesus: “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and †Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then there is this common prayer of praise that is a great way to begin and end your day: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen!”
Preparing for Sunday
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word, consider the following:
1. Be attentive to how many times in your daily prayers we refer to the Trinity.
2. Invite the Holy Spirit to abide in you, and ask and pray for an outpouring of His gifts.
3. Read the first four chapters of Ephesians, pondering St. Paul’s words on the Trinity.
And now, in praise of God in the Trinity:
“Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”, from verse 4:
Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee;
Though in essence only One.
Undivided God we claim Thee;
And adoring bend the knee,
While we own the mystery.