Of all the blessings we have received over the years, I think that one of the most important is the gift of “family.” Fortunate those who were born into a loving and caring family–as I was.
When I was younger and had gone through some troublesome times, Mom and Dad were always there to help out in whatever way they could. In fact, much of our value system was a product of their example and teaching.
The readings from Trinity Sunday (Deut. 4:32-40; Rom. 8:14-17; Matt. 28:16-20) strongly suggest that all of us, because of our Baptism, do belong to a loving and caring family, namely, the Holy Trinity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What do I mean by that?
First, the Father. The verse before the first reading (Deut. 4:32-40) points out the significance of the reading itself. “For Yahweh your God is a compassionate God. He will not fail you, nor will he destroy you. He will not forget the covenant he made with your fathers.” (Deut. 4:31) Two key words surface: “compassion” and “covenant.”
The word compassionate comes from the Latin which means, “to suffer with.” Much as our parents did when we got into trouble. The word covenant really means a mutual relationship. This covenant refers to the Sinai covenant which was bi-lateral. God and Israel committed themselves to each other. Our parents had their rules as well which we were meant to keep.
What this means is that the Father will suffer with us and do the best to help us out. But if we have failed to keep our part of the bargain, then the responsibility is principally ours. God acts like a compassionate, understanding, and responsible father. (See Hos. 11:1-4 as an example)
Second, the Son. The Gospel reading comes from the end of Matthew. (Matt. 28: 16-20) Jesus and some of his disciples go to the mountain [remember that the mountain is the meeting place between heaven and earth. So something special will happen.] The special thing that happens is that there is a commissioning and a promise.
In this post-resurrectional experience, Jesus commissions those disciples to carry out his ministry as soon as he ascends into heaven. The disciples are to continue Jesus’ministry through the medium of Baptism so that the people can understand the message. Jesus also makes a promise. This promise is that of a permanent presence until the end of time.
It seems that this “permanent presence” is a continuation of the Immanuel theme we saw during Advent. “Immanuel” in Hebrew means “God with us.” God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. Now Jesus promises to “be with” his people forever.
One possible meaning of this is that Jesus has commissioned us also, through our Baptism, in order to carry out his ministry of service to others. He has promised to be with us, principally through the Eucharist.
Third, the Holy Spirit. In the second reading, from the letter of Paul to the Romans (Rom. 8:14-17), we read, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry ‘Abba! Father‘ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ….”
We receive the Holy Spirit in a special way through our Baptism. Paul makes it clear that we thus become adopted children and can call God “Abba” (which in Aramaic means “father”). During the Lord’s prayer at Mass we begin by saying, “Our Father….” (rightfully so) thus emphasizing our membership in the family of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Because of the Father we learn of compassion and our special relationship. Because of the Son we learn of our commitment to carry forth his message and that he will be with us providing support during our daily struggles. Because of the Holy Spirit we learn of our adoption as children of God and the right to call him “father.” What a loving and caring family this could be!