for Sunday, June 7, 2009
The text of today's Gospel is the
most direct reference to the Holy Trinity in the Bible. It is
given on a mountain in Galilee where the Apostles have been are
instructed to go by Jesus. This mountain is not without
significance nor is its location.
There are many mountains in
the Bible and in every case what takes place on them is a special
revelation of God. You can think of many examples going from the
Ark on Mount Ararat, through the Sacrifice of Abraham on the
mountain of Moriah, to the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount
And in the New Testament there are
other mountains and hills: Jesus is Transfigured on Mount Tabor,
he gives his most important teaching in the Sermon on the Mount
and gives his life for us on the Hill of Calvary.
So what we are dealing with here is
a moment of great significance, an occasion of special revelation.
And it is no mistake that it takes place in Galilee as if to
remind the Apostles that, while many important events took place
in Jerusalem, Jesus conducted most of his public ministry in
Galilee. Indeed that was where it was inaugurated and now in this
great event where it comes to its final conclusion.
The Apostles are given three tasks:
1) to make disciples of all the nations 2) to Baptise them in the
name of the Holy Trinity and 3) to teach these new disciples to
observe the commands of Jesus.
To become a disciple is the natural
response to any extended encounter with Jesus. It is the task of
the Apostles to bring people into contact with him, to enable
those they meet to get to know the Lord.
This is our task too. When we meet
others it should be as if they are meeting Jesus. Now I know quite
well that we are none of us up to Jesus' standards. We are much
more tetchy, much more irritable and not really as kind as we
ought to be.
If you were to meet me on a Monday
morning then it would be as far from an encounter with Jesus as
you could possibly get! But, whether we are any good at it or not,
that ought to be our aim.
We don't need to go into long
complicated explanations as to who Jesus is; just as long as the
people we meet know that we are one of his disciples then that
should be enough. From our behaviour they will be easily able to
deduce quite a lot about Jesus.
We might feel rather inadequate and
be afraid to give the wrong impression and think that what we say
and do isn't in line with what Jesus would want. But this is to
underestimate the sophistication of other people; they are quite
easily able to assess whether a person is sincere or not and they
know immediately what your true intentions are.
That's the task of making
disciples; it's a big undertaking but get used to it because it
is our primary role as Christians. The other two objects of the
mission given by Jesus were to Baptise and to teach. Baptism is
the key to membership in the Church and teaching is one of the
most important activities in the Church. Its what we are doing
These both follow on from making
disciples, from introducing people to Jesus. And in a sense they
are much easier because, as I said, once people get to know Jesus
the natural response is to follow him, seek Baptism and wish to
know more about him.
You might be wondering if I'm
preaching the right sort of sermon for this Sunday dedicated to
the Holy Trinity. Well I think I am! We noted that this text given
for today was the clearest reference to the Trinity in the
scriptures and if you look it up you will find that the scholars
mostly say that this phrase must have been a Baptismal formula
that Matthew has inserted into the text.
Jesus didn't explicitly teach us
about the Trinity. The theology of the Trinity comes out of the
reflection of the early Church on the teaching of Jesus. They
thought over what he said and under the influence of the Holy
Spirit they began to understand the dynamics of the Trinity.
Jesus referred on many occasions to
his Father and the closeness of his relationship with him.
Moreover he taught us to speak to the Father in a very familiar
and direct way.
Jesus also promises to send us his
Spirit and refers even in this particular passage that he will be
with us always, until the end of time. We understand that it is
precisely through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is present to us.
What we have here are examples of
the other two tasks given to the Apostles namely Baptising and
teaching. By weaving into his text a Baptismal formula we realise
that Baptism was one of the most important activities of the early
And the very succinct formula that
they used is a direct result of their refection on the things that
Jesus had told them during his public ministry. This is the
teaching role of the Apostles; like any good teacher they had
first to reflect on what it actually is that they are to
communicate and explain to others.
This final passage of Matthew's
Gospel is sometimes regarded as a brief summary of the whole
Gospel. It certainly is a very succinct summary of the role of a
true disciple of Christ and gives us a plan for the rest of our
But it also contains a promise; a
promise that Christ will be with us till the end of time. This is
one of the great promises of God recorded in the Bible. He will
not abandon us, he will always be with us guiding us and guarding
us from the evil one through the power of his Holy Spirit. And in
time we will be taken up into him to share the life of love that
is the Trinity.
We might find the task of
discipleship daunting but with this promise, with this greatest of
all guarantees, we know that we will be able to fulfil the mandate
of Christ and so give expression to our deepest desire to be
faithful followers of the Lord Jesus in the world of today.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: