Our text today which comes at the very end of St
Matthew’s Gospel is the most direct reference to the Holy
Trinity in the Bible. It is given on a mountain in Galilee
where the Apostles had been instructed to go by Jesus.
This mountain is not without significance nor is its location.
There are a lot of mountains in the Bible and in every case what takes place on them is a special revelation of God. You can think of many examples going from the Ark landing on Mount Ararat, through the Sacrifice of Abraham on the mountain of Moriah, to the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
And in the New Testament there are quite a few other mountains and hills: Jesus is Transfigured on Mount Tabor, he gives his most important teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and ultimately gives his life for us on the Hill of Calvary.
So what we are dealing with here on this mountain in Galilee is a moment of great significance, an occasion of special revelation. And it is no mistake that it takes place in Galilee as if to remind the Apostles that, while many other important events took place in Jerusalem, Jesus conducted most of his public ministry in Galilee. Indeed that was where it was inaugurated and now in this great event it is where his ministry comes to its final conclusion.
On this mountain Jesus gives the Apostles three tasks: 1) to make disciples of all the nations 2) to Baptise them in the name of the Holy Trinity and 3) to teach these new disciples to observe the commands of Jesus.
To become a disciple is the natural response to any extended encounter with Jesus. It is the task of the Apostles to bring people into contact with him, to enable those they meet to get to know the Lord and so become disciples themselves.
This is our task too. When we meet others it should be as if they are meeting Jesus. Now I know quite well that we are none of us up to Jesus’ standards. We are much more tetchy, much more irritable, and not really as kind as we ought to be.
If you were to meet me on a Monday morning then it would be as far from an encounter with Jesus as you could possibly get! But, whether we are any good at being like Jesus or not, then that certainly ought to be our aim.
We don’t need to go into long complicated explanations as to who Jesus is; just as long as the people we meet know that we are one of his disciples then that should be enough. From our behavior they will be easily able to deduce quite a lot about the person and significance of Jesus.
We might feel rather inadequate and be afraid of giving the wrong impression and think that what we say and do often might not be in line with what Jesus would want. But this is to underestimate the sophistication of other people; they are quite easily able to assess whether a person is sincere or not and they know immediately what your true intentions are.
That’s the task of making disciples; it’s a big undertaking but get used to it because it is our primary role as Christians. The other two objects of the mission given by Jesus were to Baptise and to teach. Baptism is the key to membership in the Church and teaching is one of the most important activities of the Church. It’s what we are doing now.
These both follow on from making disciples, from introducing people to Jesus. And in a sense they are much easier because, as I said, once people get to know Jesus the natural response is to follow him, to seek Baptism and to wish to know more about him.
We have already noted that this text given for today is the clearest reference to the Trinity in the scriptures; Jesus explicitly tells his disciples to Baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. If you look up the commentaries you will find that the scholars mostly say that this phrase was surely the Baptismal formula in use by the early Church but it is not elaborated upon by Jesus. He doesn’t explain it, yet it is the very same Baptismal formula in use by the Church today.
Jesus doesn’t explicitly teach us about the Trinity at all. But from this very succinct formula that the early Christians used for Baptism and from their refection on all the things that Jesus had told them during his public ministry they were slowly able to arrive at a very clear theology of the Holy Trinity.
This is what we mean by the teaching role of the Apostles; like any good teacher they had first to reflect on what it actually is that they are meant to communicate and explain to others.
Jesus referred on many occasions to his Father and to the closeness of his relationship with him. Moreover he taught us to speak to the Father in a very familiar and direct way. That is one of the things that makes our praying of the Our Father so revolutionary.
Jesus also frequently promised to send us his Spirit and tells us, even in this particular passage, that he will be with us always even until the end of time. We understand therefore that it is precisely through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is able to be present to us today.
This final passage of Matthew’s Gospel is sometimes regarded as a brief summary of his whole Gospel. It certainly is a very succinct summary of the role of a true disciple of Christ and gives us a plan for the rest of our lives.
But it also contains a promise; a promise that Christ will be with us till the end of time. This is one of the great promises of God recorded in the Bible. He will not abandon us, he will always be with us guiding us and guarding us from the evil one through the power of his Holy Spirit. And in time we will be taken up into him to share the life of love that is the Trinity.
We might find the task of discipleship daunting but with this promise, with this greatest of all guarantees, we know that we will be able to fulfill the mandate of Christ and so give expression to our deepest desire to be faithful followers of the Lord Jesus in the world of today.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 31, 2015
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity:The Power of the Name
One day, not all that long after Pentecost Sunday when the apostles received the Holy Spirit, Peter and John were walking through the area of the Temple in Jerusalem. They had been preaching about Jesus, His message of hope, His gospel of love. They came to a gate in the Temple which was called the Beautiful Gate. The Temple in Jerusalem was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Not just the Jews, but people from throughout the world would journey to Jerusalem to see it. We can only imagine what that Beautiful Gate looked like. It must have been inlaid with precious stones, or perhaps it contained reliefs of the great moments of Jewish history, the deliverance from the Egyptians, the victories of Samson, Gideon and the others of the Book of Judges, the conquests of David, the wisdom of Solomon. And then there was the Beautiful Gate.