Holy Trinity Sunday, 5-27-18
Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Psalm 33, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28: 16-20
We’ll start with a little background for our first reading. Josiah (Joe-zi-ah) became king of Israel about 600 years before Christ. He took the throne when he was only 8 years old, after a series of wicked kings who had turned their backs on God. But Josiah led the people back to worshiping God. The Temple in Jerusalem had been allowed to fall into disrepair, so he began renovations. During the work, a “book” (scrolls) of the laws of Moses was found. (2 Kings 22) That “book”, according to Tradition, was the Book of Deuteronomy, from which our first reading is taken.
Deuteronomy is a series of three speeches by Moses, and ends with the death of Moses. In essence, this book records Moses’ last words. The speeches not only repeat the Covenant that the Israelites had with God, but they interpret it in more contemporary terms. Our reading today is the end of the 1st speech. The question Moses puts to the people is this: “Do you realize how great God is?” He reminds the people that God created the entire world, including us – all human-kind. No one else had ever claimed that their God had spoken to them. No other god had claimed their nation for his own, had done wonders and miracles, and had protected that nation by military might, defeating a large nation like Egypt to bring the people out of slavery.
Moses also told the people that all this evidence demands that people must obey God’s commandments and keep God’s laws which will enable them to live a long and prosperous life. Our Psalm gives us the same message in a poetic way: “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made…the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him…to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.”
There was one problem with all this – the Israelites came to believe that they were the “Chosen People” and that God would always protect them and provide for them, however faithful or unfaithful they were to God. This was despite the clear instruction by Moses that when people are not faithful to God, they break the covenant, thereby removing themselves from God’s protection. It was Jesus who came to resolve this constant breaking of the covenant, when he said, “…this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”
Our 2nd reading speaks of the Spirit of God leading the sons and daughters of God. God’s spirit is not one of oppression or fear. Instead the image used is one of God “adopting” us. Each of us then enters the inner circle of family, enjoying the highest level of love and protection; we are raised as the siblings of Jesus. The Holy Spirit assures us with this beautiful image of close and enduring relationship with God.
Finally our Gospel is the last paragraph of the Gospel of Matthew, and gives us the final words of Jesus. Notice the similarity to our first reading, which records the final words of Moses. Following ancient tradition, the last recorded words of a famous person or a great leader summarize the goals of their lives, and leave important and final advice for their followers. Our Biblical authors use the same tradition.
So Matthew writes that Jesus’ last words were words of assurance: “I am with you always…” But some people may be amazed at the other thing Jesus emphasizes. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me”, he says. All right, that fits with our understanding of the Risen Christ. But what are we supposed to do with that information? Well, we are to make sure everyone knows it; we are to teach it; and we are to share all of Jesus’ teachings. “GO, therefore,” says Jesus, “And make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
It’s one thing if you view this as some kind of abstract statement of doctrine, something that someone else is responsible for. “Let someone else do it,” we think. We put a $20 check in the mail and let some overseas mission team help the Christians in Palestine or Pakistan or Puerto Rico.
It’s something very different if we understand that Jesus was speaking to us. In a 4-mile radius circle of where we are sitting right this moment are thousands of people, and I can assure you that there are lots people who have never heard the teachings of Jesus, nor been baptized, nor know that God loves them. I have every reason to believe that Jesus was speaking to us, personally, calling us to action, expecting us to look outward to our neighbors. This interpretation is supported by the parable of the Good Samaritan (who is my neighbor?) and the parable of the talents (if we fail to invest in God’s Kingdom, we stand to lose what little we have!). Pope Paul VI made it clear when he proclaimed, “Evangelization is in fact…the church’s deepest identity. The church exists in order to evangelize.” Pope Benedict told us we are… “Agents of the Holy Spirit helping people have a profound experience of Jesus’ love…a love that opens them to the Word of God and the sacraments.”
So Moses urgently begged us to view God as the Creator of our world and of life itself. In turn, we are to love God and willingly follow the path, the guidance, and the life style God has shown us. The result is a close and deep relationship with God. The Spirit brings enduring love to us that can never be broken or stolen from us. And Jesus is with us always, helping us make sure that all our neighbors join in this love and intimacy of family. It is a view of the universe which far exceeds all our prayers and longings – but it must start by our action, our reaching out, our sharing of the faith and the joy that God brings us.