Sunday Sermon for May 30, 2021, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year B
Readings: Deut 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom 8:14-17; Mt 28:16-20
In the Gospel reading today our Lord teaches us clearly the truth that there is one God and He is three Persons. Our Lord told His Apostles to baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Up to that point, the only baptism known to anyone was the baptism of St. John the Baptist. This was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In essence, it was a preparation for the baptism our Lord revealed.
I say this because the repentance from sin prepared the souls of those who received it to be able to accept our Lord as the Messiah and to accept His teaching. Since it is not possible to think clearly when we are in the state of mortal sin, it was necessary for the people to be spiritually prepared for the Gospel our Lord presented to them.
The challenge of the Gospel was not an easy one for the Apostles (as we see in the Gospel), or for anyone who was raised in the Jewish faith. For centuries the people struggled with the teaching that there is only one God and that they were to worship Him alone. Suddenly, our Lord tells the people that there is, indeed, only one God, but He is three Persons. It was, and still is, difficult for people to grasp this without falling into the trap of thinking there are three gods. The normal way we would think is that one is one and three is three; how can three be one? So, the truth of the Trinity is not only a challenge to those who were devout Jews, it can be challenging even to our normal way of thinking.
The Trinity is an absolute mystery. That means it surpasses our ability to understand it in this life, and it will surpass our ability to understand it even in the next life. If we make it to Heaven and we are not only looking at God, but we are united to God, we will still not grasp this mystery completely. So, it should not come as a surprise that we cannot fully understand it now. What is necessary is that we believe there is only one God and that He is three Persons. Thankfully, we are not asked to understand the mystery, only to believe in it.
It is not foolish to believe. After all, faith requires belief in some things one does not fully grasp. If we had a reasonably complete understanding of something, it would not require any faith. We believe there is only one God because that is what God has revealed. We also believe there are three Persons in God because that is what God has revealed. This may seem a bit difficult, but we really need to look at it for a different angle.
In the first reading, Moses asks the people of Israel if it had ever before been heard of that people heard the voice of the Lord, that God chose a people for Himself from midst of another nation, and tested them by signs, wonders, and war? He is pointing out to the Israelites that while God did not make it easy on them, it was a great privilege to be the people of God. Such a privilege required their faith tested. It is easy to give lip service to God but fall away if things become difficult. Faith is strengthened and proven in the midst of trials and testings.
Imagine if Moses was alive after our Lord founded His Church. He would ask if was ever heard that God would become human, suffer and die because He loves us so much, and make us His own children through baptism into His own Son. This makes the privilege given to the Jewish people look very small by comparison. If their privileged position had to be tested, what would be said of ours? The Jewish people were asked to believe in one God, as are we. The were asked to believe He chose them, as are we. They were asked to believe they were His people; we are asked to believe we are His children. They were asked to forsake all the false gods and worship only the one true God; we are asked to worship the one true God in the fullness of His self-revelation as being three Persons.
You can see from what was just said how we are set apart from the Jewish people by our belief in the Trinity and that we have become God’s own children and heirs with Christ, as St. Paul teaches. If God is not a Trinity, then Jesus is not God and we are not God’s children. Believe, accept your dignity, and rejoice!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.