Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 7, 2009 (Cycle B) Scripture Readings First Dt 4:32-34, 39-40 Second Rom 8:14-17 Gospel Mt 28:16-20 Prepared

by: Fr. Lawrence J. Donohoo, O.P. 1. Subject Matter

First Reading: Since the deeds of no other god can compare with the Lord’s, they must concede existence to him alone, who is Lord of heaven and earth, of humankind, and of human actions. Second Reading: In an argument drawing on all Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, St. Paul repeats Jesus’ accent on the Father’s loving disposition and infers our heavenly inheritance from our adoption. Gospel: In the conclusion to St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus shares his divine power with his apostles in commanding them, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to evangelize, baptize, and teach.

2. Exegetical Notes

“The Unique Vocation of Israel (4:32-40). One of the rhetorical high points of the book . .For the sapiential tradition, in evidence here, it is axiomatic to seek guidance in the past and from the created order. . . .Using exodus language, the author links the unique vocation of Israel with the uniqueness of Yahweh.” (NJBC) “The Spirit not only gives new life but also establishes for human beings the relationship of an adopted son and heir. . . .This is the first appearance of the theme of sonship in Rom; by it Paul attempts to describe the new status of the Christian in relation to God. . . .The Spirit constitutes adoptive sonship, putting Christians in a special relationship to Christ, the unique Son, and to the Father.” (NJBC) “This brief ending [to Matthew’s Gospel] is so rich that it would be hard to say more or greater things in the same number of words. It has been called an anticipated parousia, a partial fulfillment f Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man. Its genre combines elements of an OT enthronement pattern with an apostolic commissioning.” (NJBC) “The farewell words of Jesus may be divided into three parts, which refer respectively to past, present, and future.” (NJBC)

“The disciples are to carry on Jesus’ teaching ministry, thus laying the foundation for Christian education, theology, and other intellectual work. The subject matter of their teaching is the great discourses of Matthew’s Gospel. . .The entire task is so daunting that the last verse must offer a promise of future support.” (NJBC)

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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237 The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God.” To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit. 253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.” The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.” In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.” 731 On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance. 732 On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the “last days,” the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated. 261 The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 249 From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 234 It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith.” The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.” 257 “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!” God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness”, conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” and “to be conformed to the image of his Son”, through “the spirit of sonship.” This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”, stemming immediately from Trinitarian love. It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church. 1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification: enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;

giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit; allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues. Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism. 1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

4. Patristic Commentary

St. Jerome: “After his Resurrection, Jesus is seen and worshipped in the mountain in Galilee; though some doubt, their doubting confirms our faith.” St. Jerome: “Power is given in heaven and in earth, that he who before reigned in heaven, should now reign on earth by the faith of the believers.” St. Jerome: “Observe the order of these injunctions. He bids the Apostles first to teach all nations, then to wash them with the sacrament of faith, and after faith and baptism then to teach them what things they ought to observe: ‘Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.’” St. John Chrysostom: “And because what he had laid upon them was great, therefore to exalt their spirits He adds, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” As much as to say, Don’t tell me how difficult these things are, seeing I am with you, Who can make all things easy. He often made a similar promise to the prophets in the Old Testament, to Jeremiah who pleaded his youth, to Moses, and to Ezekiel, when they would have shunned the office imposed upon them. And not only to them does he say that he will be, but with all who shall believe after them. For the apostles were not to continue till the end of the world, but he says this to the faithful as to one body.” St. Jerome: “He then who promises that he will be with his disciples to the end of the world, shows both that they shall live for ever and that he will never depart from those that believe.” St. Augustine: “O Lord our God, we believe in you, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Truth would not have said, ‘Go and baptize the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” unless you were a triad. Nor would you have commanded us to be baptized, Lord God, in the name of any who is not Lord God.” St. Augustine worked twenty years on his masterpiece, On the Trinity, the most sustained, developed, and influential Trinitarian treatise of the patristic period.. Conscious of the salvific work of all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, St. John of Matha received an inspiration at his first mass to found the religious order of the Trinitarians for the purpose of redeeming Christian slaves from their Muslim conquerors. However, in order to proceed prudently, he solicited the counsel of the holy hermit, St. Felix Valois, who insisted on treating him as an equal. Following in the footsteps of his own disciples, St. John later went to Africa on two voyages and successfully liberated hundreds of Christians.

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

6. Quotations of Pope Benedict XVI

“‘If you see charity, you see the Trinity,’ wrote Saint Augustine. In the foregoing reflections, we have been able to focus our attention on the Pierced one (cf. Jn 19:37, Zech 12:10), recognizing the plan of

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the Father who, moved by love (cf. Jn 3:16), sent his only-begotten Son into the world to redeem man.” “By dying on the Cross—as St. John tells us—Jesus ‘gave up his Spirit’ (Jn 19:30), anticipating the gift of the Holy Spirit that he would make after his Resurrection (cf. Jn 20:22). This was to fulfill the promise of ‘rivers of living water’ that would flow out of the hearts of believers through the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Jn 7:38-39). The Spirit in fact is that interior power which harmonizes their hearts with Christ’s heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them when he bent down to wash the feet of the disciples (cf. Jn 13:1-13) and above all when he gave his life for us (cf. Jn 13:1, 15:13).” “The Spirit is also the energy which transforms the heart of the ecclesial community, so that it becomes a witness before the world to the love of the Father, who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son.” “God is not solitude, but perfect communion. For this reason the human person, the image of God, realizes himself or herself in love, which is a sincere gift of self.” “Each of the three Persons of the Trinity points to the other two. In this circle of love flowing and intermingling, there is the highest degree of unity and constancy and this in turn gives unity and constancy to everything that exists. . .What sustains us is the movement of the heart and spirit that leaves itself and is on the way to the other.”

7. Other Considerations

“Notice that they are to baptize in the name—not the names—of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This command signals the undivided oneness of God in his being and power. Each Person of the Blessed Trinity is God whole and entire. As the disciples baptize in God’s name, they confer a divine might that saves the believer from false self-exaltation on the one hand, and self-depreciation on the other. At the same time, it preserves us from the tendency toward prejudice, bias, and discrimination as it draws us into the equitable oneness of God himself. The life of the Trinity is the life baptism imparts.” (Cameron) “Jesus’ revelation of the Trinity shows us that God is one but not solitary. The three divine Persons remain really distinct one from another. And as living images of the divine Trinity, God delights in our distinctiveness as persons. Baptism lifts us out of isolating individualism and re-creates us according to the divine Persons.” (Cameron) Along with the Cross, the Blessed Trinity is the doctrine that is still way ahead of us—not yet integrated adequately in our spiritual life or even the spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral life of the Church. As with the Cross, it is the mystery with which we still have substantially to do. If the natural, pagan way to think about the divine things is to conceive of god or a pantheon of gods caught up in the world order even as they transcend it, the shattering intervention in world history of the Old Testament revelation of the One God, infinitely personal and personable, the supreme knower and lover, transcendent yet immanent, Creator of heaven and earth, remains the norm of world consciousness. This is the God who has become natural to the human intellect, because the companion revelation of creation from nothing (also deeply present in Western consciousness despite all the vain denials) gives him just the right distance from his world: completely other to it, completely present to it. Then comes the Trinity. And now we have to start all over–almost. We have to see God almost in a completely different way. To begin with, we must accept the fact that the default mode of our thinking about God--the unitarian God, the one-personed God of the Old Testament--is not only false, but impossible.

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Strictly speaking, the Most Blessed Trinity is the One Thing Necessary: all else need not exist at all. The mystery of the Trinity embodies the two great truths of personal life: to be means to be oneself and to belong to others. Why was the most important doctrine of our faith only sufficiently elaborated after the close of the New Testament? Christ came first, not to announce himself, but his Father’s salvation: the reign of God. But gradually the limelight was trained on Him: the Word himself was spoken about, the Announcer became the Announced. And this Announced could not be understood in isolation. Especially in the Spirit-guided ecclesial reflections of the Last Discourses (John 14-17), Jesus links his identity with the Father and the Spirit. There he also makes it clear that the Holy Spirit will guide the disciples in all truth, particularly the truth about who God is. The Church and we have the rest of our lives to concern ourselves with this highest of mysteries. This she has done, and this we should do. Beginning with her inquiry into Christ, which led to a treatment of his life with the Father and the Son, the Church over two millennia has dwelt ever more intimately on this mystery of Trinity. This is eminently reasonable since our destiny is intimate communion with God, a communion which takes time--and eternity--to enter into. Further, the Church over time has become increasingly “other-oriented,” that is, able to approach God as he is himself—as Trinity: God-in-himself rather than simply God-for-us. This mirrors an approach of spiritual and moral maturity that invites us to consider other persons in themselves and not simply who they are for us. But paradoxically, the more we allow God to be who he is himself, the more we allow him to become our Lord. Our task and our privilege is to become personally “trinitarian,” which means above all becoming personal. For even though the Three Persons share, or rather are, a common will and intellect, they are intimately personal. No human or angelic person is so personal as they are to each other and to us. Being personal means being oneself, being fully individual, but for an intelligent and willing creature, this is not only a given, it is a task to develop our personhood, or what amounts to much the same thing, our personality. By becoming better knowers and lovers and agents, we become truly personal by becoming increasingly relational. We develop ourselves in tandem with others, and we also develop ourselves by helping others to develop themselves. Learning to love ourselves through learning to love others, we imitate more intimately the very Trinity in whose image we are created.

Recommended Resources Augustine, St. The Trinity. Edited by Edmund Hill. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1991. Benedict XVI. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Edited by Peter John Cameron. Yonkers: Magnificat, 2006. ____________. Deus Caritas Est. Brown, Raymond A., Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1990. Cameron, Peter John. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach - Cycle B. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels. Works of the Fathers. Vol. 4, London, 1843. Reprinted by The St. Austin Press, 1997.

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