Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year B

By Father Paul Nord

Sunday Scripture

First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Response: Psalm 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22; Second Reading: Romans 8:14-17; Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the Israelites of all the mighty deeds that God has done for them. Moses asks them: “Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?” Moses continues by noting that God took the Israelites as “a nation for himself from the midst of another nation.” That is, God rescued them out of Egypt. Moses insists on the uniqueness of what God has done for the people of Israel.

Next, Moses proclaims “the LORD” (YHWH) is the only God — “there is no other.” This phrase is found in both Deuteronomy 4:35 and 4:39. I once saw this phrase written in Hebrew on a modern utility pole just outside the old walls of Jerusalem — “there is no other besides Him” (4:35). This phrase is an important Judeo-Christian statement of belief that there is only one God (monotheism). We Christians affirm this essential belief statement on Holy Trinity Sunday.

Moses’ message is clear — the one and only God of the universe has chosen you Israelites to be his own people — to protect you and to make a covenantal relationship with you. Therefore: “You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today.” Moses will proceed to recount God’s “statutes and commandments” in the following sections of Deuteronomy. Finally, Moses insists that keeping God’s commandments is necessary so “that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.” This is the context for Moses’ speech – the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land, so it is extremely important that they keep God’s commandments.

The book of Deuteronomy depicts Moses delivering a farewell speech to the Israelites immediately before they enter the land promised to them by God. They had been wandering in the desert for 40 years. God had deemed this necessary to purify the Israelites of their sinfulness before they could enter the Promised Land. Even Moses had sinned when he disobeyed God. In Numbers 20, God had commanded Moses to speak to the rock, from which God would provide water for his people. Instead, Moses had struck the rock twice. Because of Moses’ disobedience, God forbade him from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12).

Although Moses was unable to enter the Promised Land with the people, Moses wanted to ensure that they would be faithful to God’s law. Thus they would be worthy of the land God was giving them. Therefore Deuteronomy depicts Moses reminding the Israelites of the many precepts of the law in great detail. Moses does this by means of a long speech, which forms the large bulk of Deuteronomy.

Our second reading is from Romans 8 — in which Paul describes “life in the Spirit.” Paul is describing the consequences of Christ’s death and resurrection: he has enabled us to become sons and daughters of God — already now, in this life. We continue to live in this world of sin and death as we await Christ’s second coming. But we sons and daughters of God have been given the Holy Spirit. Paul here calls it “a Spirit of adoption” which causes us to recognize God as our father, and to call out to him. The spirit “bears witness” that “we are children of God.”

A natural consequence of being children of God is that we will receive an inheritance from God as his heirs. This inheritance is all which Christ Jesus has promised us — above all, life with God. We will receive all this “if only we suffer with him” (Romans 8:17). If we do, we will “also be glorified with him.” This is both a present and a future glorification. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says that we are already now being transformed into the (Lord’s) image from glory to glory. For the future, we hope to share in Christ’s Resurrection.

In our reading’s last verses, Paul literally says that the Spirit “co-witnesses” with our spirit that we are “co-heirs” with Christ. Further, Paul says, we must “co-suffer” with Christ if we hope to be “co-glorified” with him. Paul repeatedly uses the Greek prefix “syn-” which is equivalent to our “co-” prefix. Paul’s message is clear — now that we have become God’s children, our every action is united with the action of Jesus Christ and God’s Spirit. We co-operate with Christ in everything. We share this with all Christians who are baptized in Christ.

Today’s Gospel contains the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel. The preceding verses (28:1-10) recount the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb by Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” They encounter an angel who tells them that Jesus has been raised, and who tells them to go to Galilee where “you will see him” (28:7). After this, the women encounter Jesus himself (28:9-10) – who sends them to tell his disciples the same message — “go to Galilee.”

Today’s verses recount the obedience of the disciples in going to Galilee. They know the exact mountain “to which Jesus had ordered them.” As promised, Jesus appears to them on that mountain in Galilee. “When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.”

Jesus calms the doubts of his disciples with two statements: 1) “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” and 2) “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” They are reassured that Jesus’ all-powerful presence will remain with them.

Having reassured them, Jesus commands his disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus is entrusting his disciples with the continuation of his mission to reconcile God with humanity. To accomplish this, they must baptize and teach. They are told to baptize in the name of Father, Son and Spirit – the Holy Trinity that we honor in today’s solemnity. They are told to teach all nations “to observe all that I have commanded you.” That is, the disciples are to carry on Christ’s mission and teaching.

Benedictine Father Paul Nord is a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, and teaches at Saint Meinrad Seminary. His Sunday Scripture columns are © Father Paul Nord, O.S.B.