Though we don’t understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity completely, this way of experiencing God is part of the fabric of our faith. So as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity this weekend, it is important that we realize that this Triadic Formula is something that has developed throughout our history; it is God’s revelation of God’s relationship with us.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters worshipped God as “One.” They were monotheists. Though the Hebrew Scriptures sometimes refer to other gods, they are always careful to explain that the God of Israel was the only real God. However, they did have a rudimentary Triadic Formula in their image of God. They worshipped God as “in heaven” or transcendent, as “on earth” or immanent, and as going out of God’s self to reveal and redeem. We can see in this formula the beginnings of the Christian notion of the Trinity; namely, the Father in heaven, Jesus the Son who lived on earth, and the Spirit who is the teacher and guide sent by both the Father and Jesus.
The Book of Deuteronomy provides us with the first reading for Sunday’s liturgy. Moses uses the opportunity before the Israelites cross over the Jordan River to “review” the lessons that the Israelites have learned throughout the forty year journey in the desert. He instructs them to remember, for by remembering they will learn how to deal with the new situations they will encounter in the Promised Land. By referencing what God has done for them in the past, they will realize that God will help them to overcome any difficulties they may experience in the future. God has loved them into creation, has chosen them from among the nations as God’s own, and has provided a place for them by defeating their enemies.
St. Matthew’s Gospel is used on this Sunday to introduce the Triadic Formula for baptism. Using clear references from the Book of Daniel, we hear Jesus declare that dominion is his. Just as the Hebrew Bible ends with the edict of Cyrus, King of Persia, Matthew ends his Gospel with an edict from our King to go forth and preach to all nations. This edict is in stark contrast to the instructions that Jesus gave the Apostles in chapter ten of this Gospel. After the Resurrection the freedom that has been won through the Paschal Mystery is to be extended to people of all nations who accept Jesus as the Lord and who share with him in his sufferings.
It is St. Paul who makes this mission even clearer by telling the community of Roman Christians that they are God’s children through a spirit of adoption. Adoption was unknown among the Jews. Because their family structure was far more extended than the now traditional nuclear family, children who lost their parents through death simply continued to live with their aunts and uncles and cousins. This was the strength of the Hebrew Family which consisted of a patriarch whose sons and their wives and children shared the same household. However, adoption was a phenomenon known in the Greek and Roman world. Paul uses this image to instruct the Gentiles in the Good News of the Gospel. Not only are they children of God, but they are also co-heirs. Children inherit. So while they may not have been members of the Chosen People before Jesus, through him they have earned a place at the table.
As we celebrate this weekend’s Solemnity, we do so aware of the fact that we have encountered the God who resides in heaven because he became one of us and lived on earth. Even though he is not physically present with us today, we have been given the Spirit of Jesus to help us in the mission or commission that has been given us.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator