A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Posts tagged ‘Holy Trinity-Family’

“Three” can be a lucky number

It is interesting to note that the number 3 quite frequently  turns out to be a number that somehow represents fulfillment.  For instance, many authors tell a story embracing three parts–a beginning (introducing the characters), a middle (containing the plot and its development) and an end (containing the solution of the plot).

The Gospel for the feast of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), appears to give us a clue as to how we can experience a sense of fulfillment once we are aware of the Trinity’s presence in our lives.

I know this sounds a little complicated (maybe it is) , but I think that we can make sense of it by reflecting on three (would you believe it?) key themes in the day’s gospel.  (Matt. 28:16-20)  These themes are: (A)-the mountain; (B)-the commissioning of the disciples, and (C)-the notion of “God with us.”

First of all, the mountain.  In the Bible, the mountain is often portrayed as the meeting place between heaven and earth.  When something special was about to take place, it happened on a mountain.  For instance there is Mt. Sinai where a mutual covenant between God and his people occurred.  It was mutual because both  God and the people committed themselves to each other.  “Now, therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all peoples.”  (Ex. 19:5)

Then, of course, there is the Sermon on the Mount.  “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain….” (Matt. 5:1)  and began to teach.  Jesus’ purpose was very clear.  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17)  His fulfillment of the law was to point out that it was as sinful to think about something evil as it was of doing it.  “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.”  (Matt. 28:16)

Secondly, the commissioning of the disciples.  Jesus was able to commission his disciples into continuing his work of justice, compassion, forgiveness, healing, and doing good for others because he had the authority to do so.  “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.'” (Matt. 28:18) Thus he was able to say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

Thirdly, the notion of “God with us.”  In the Old Testament, we have the theme of God with his people.  They could do nothing without the belief that God would be present.  For example, the Ark of the Covenant was God’s presence among them.as was the Jerusalem Temple.  But above all, there was the idea of Immanuel  which in Hebrew means “God with us.”

The belief in Immanuel carried over into the Incarnation where God became human in the person of Jesus Christ.  The season of Advent and Christmas brings this out.

Matthew’s gospel ends with the verse in which Jesus says to his disciples “…And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matt. 28:20)  The promise of Jesus to be with his disciples always continues the theme of Immanuel for today and beyond.

What have we learned from these reflections?  Actually, several things, taking into account the three gospel themes.  First theme: the mountain, being the meeting place between God and his people.  Where/what is my mountain?  How and where do I meet God?  Prayer?  Sacraments? In another person?

Second theme: the commissioning of the disciples.  My commissioning takes place at my Baptism wherein I assume the responsibility to be of service to my neighbor.  Beginning of discipleship.

Third theme: the continued presence of Jesus among us.  Carrying forth the Immanuel spirit means that I don’t have to be alone to face the challenges presented by folks who are hostile to Jesus’ message.

Mountain (encountering God), being commissioned (awareness of Baptism), and carrying on the Immanuel spirit (Jesus forever with us) are three things that can make us effective disciples.  So, every time that I make the sign of the cross with holy water, not only am I reminded of the Trinity involved in the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also of my Baptism.  Such a moment suggests fulfillment and as such 3 becomes a lucky number.

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All for one, one for all

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!

 

 

 

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