SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY (Cycle B)

Readings:
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: Children of the Triune God
Three feasts complete the Easter season: the Solemnity of Pentecost, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.  These are three feasts that should remind us of how deeply God loves us and that He has called us from before the foundation of the world to be His children (Eph 1:4-5).  The readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity are intended to illustrate for us how God's word and all His works from the beginning of Creation are intended to prepare us for (1) the revelation of the mystery of the One God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and (2) the blessings of God's divine grace in God the Son.  It is the grace of new life we inherit in the Sacrament of Baptism which is renewed each time we receive Christ in the Eucharist.

In the First Reading, Moses reminds the new generation of the children of Israel of Israel's divine election when their forefathers were called out of the nations of the earth to be God's holy covenant people.  In the revelation of God to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai (Ex 19-20), God did not reveal the mystery of His true nature.  That revelation came in the Incarnation of the Christ, and yet there are mysterious hints of God's Triune nature throughout the Old Testament.  In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes that just as God led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, He also freed us from slavery to sin and death.  He also defines our relationship with God by pointing out that we are not slaves but heirs of Christ and adopted sons and daughters of God the Father.  Just as God adopted Israel, we have also become adopted children in the family of God (Rom 9:4).  And in the Gospel Reading, Jesus reveals that the One God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and that it is God's desire to make the people of all nations His own (Is 66:18).  We are a blessed people who have been called out of the world to belong to God as the universal [catholic] Church of His holy covenant people.  It is as we sing in today's Responsorial Psalm: "Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own."

The First Reading Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 ~ Moses' Appeal for the Israelites to be Obedient to the Commandments
32 Moses said to the people: "Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before?  Was it ever heard of?  33 Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?  34 Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with his strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the LORD, you God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?  [..].  39 This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.  40 You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, you God, is giving you forever."
Commandments = mitsvot and statutes/decrees =' hukkim = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 470-71).

This is the conclusion of Moses' first homily to the new generation of Israelites about to embark on the conquest of the Promised Land.  Moses appeals for the children of the Exodus generation to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord based on the fact that Yahweh is the Only God and He has chosen to love Israel.  Moses tells them that past history demonstrates the truth of monotheism by asking four rhetorical questions (verses 32-34).  It is the belief in only one God and in the Law He personally spoke to His people that makes the religion of the Israelites unique in the entire world. 

The basis of Moses' argument is that Yahweh's mighty works in the Exodus and at Mt. Sinai are proof of His divinity; these are acts no pagan god can claim.  Pagan gods are only man-made objects of wood and stone (Dt 4:28).  Israel has seen the mighty works of God, and they are therefore able to claim that He is the One, True God who created the heavens, the earth, mankind, and all living creatures; it is the knowledge of an event that goes back as far as human memory (verse 32). In the 9th century BC, the prophet Isaiah will use a similar argument when Yahweh challenges the pagan gods of Gentile nations to do anything good or bad to prove they exist, and the prophet Jeremiah will deny that there are other gods when he challenges their existence (Is 41:21-25; Jer 2:11 and 16:20).

It was because of God's love for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that God chose to love Israel, separating her out from all the nations of the earth to be His possession (see Ex 19:5; Dt 4:37; CCC 218).  Moses asks the Israelites to commit from the heart that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.  Moses is asking the new generation to love God as He loves them and to demonstrated that love by acknowledging Him as the One True God and in their obedience to His Law: 40 You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, you God, is giving you forever."  In verse 40 Moses concludes with the same message with which he began the second part of this homily: for the Israelites, life itself depends on living in obedience to the commandments (Dt 4:1 and 40).  It is a statement that will be repeated seven times in Deuteronomy in 4:1, 40; 5:1; 6:4; 9:1; 20:3, 27:9.

It was through the children of Israel that God revealed to the nations of the world that He alone is Lord over all the earth and there is no other.  God did not reveal the mystery of His Triune nature to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai when He formed His corporate covenant, calling them out of the other nations of the world to be the one nation of His holy covenant people.  However, in this passage Moses presents a triple aspect to Israel's experience of Yahweh:

  1. God intimately revealed Himself "speaking from the midst of fire" (verse 33).
  2. God is presented as He who is both immanent "on earth below" and transcendent "in the heavens above" (verse 39).
  3. God created a unique communion with His covenant people who "fix in your hearts" belief that there is only One God and in maintaining the covenant relationship they "must keep His statutes" (verses 39- 40).

Responsorial Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22 ~ Praise for God our Creator and Provider
The response is: "Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own."
4 Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works area trustworthy.  5 He loves justice and right; of kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
Response:
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made; by the breath [ruah] of his mouth all their host.  [..]  9 For he spoke, and it was made; he commanded, and it stood forth.
Response:
18 See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, 19 to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.
Response:
20 Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield.  [..].  22 May your kindness [hesed], O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.
Response:

Hesed is a Hebrew word referring specifically to love in the context of covenant, as in a marital covenant between a man and a woman or in the context of a covenant between God and an individual or God and a people who have the unity of a relationship with Him.  Ruah is a Hebrew word that can be translated as either "wind" or "breath" or "spirit".

The psalmist expresses his joy in the Lord through a hymn of praise.  He confesses that Yahweh has revealed Himself always to be upright and faithful (verses 4-5).  In verse 6 the psalmist recalls God's work of Creation in Genesis chapter 1 in cooperation with "Word" and "Breath" as in Genesis 1:1-3a, In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind [ruah] swept over the waters.  Then God said, "Let there be light ...."—God spoke His "Word" and Creation began to take form.

The psalmist knows that Yahweh watches over all those who fear offending Him (verse 18), helping and protecting those who put their hope in Him (verse 20).  In verse 22 the Hebrew word "hesed" means "covenant love" expressed in God's faithfulness and mercy.  It is God's "hesed" that binds Him in a love relationship with those in covenant with Him.

The Church Fathers, including Sts. Athanasius, Augustine, and Gregory, saw the hidden revelation of the Most Holy Trinity in this psalms that is addressed to God the Creator Father but with "Word" and the "Breath" (verses 6 and 9) as references to the other two of the Persons of the Trinity who are God the Son and the God the Holy Spirit.  The Trinitarian meaning of this psalm is based on the Church's deposit of faith and it is for this reason that the Church uses this psalm on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity:  "The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit (cf. Ps 33:6); 104:30; Gen 1:2-3), inseparably one with that of the Father.  This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church's rule of faith: 'There exists but one God... he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order.  He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word, and by his Wisdom', 'by the Son and the Spirit' who, so to speak, are 'his hands' (St. Irenaeus, Adv. Hareres, 2, 30, 9; 4, 20).  Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity" (CCC 292; also see CCC 703).

The Second Reading Romans 8:14-17 ~ Children of God
Brothers and sisters: 14 Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!"  16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him

St. Paul uses the example of the difference between a slave and a son as related to the master of a household.  We are related to God, the Master of the household of the Church, not as a slave to his master but as adopted children who are part of God's family through our sacramental baptism into the life of Christ.  In the passage Paul invokes the Trinity in a liturgical formula instead of a theological formula:

  1. we cry "Abba, Father !" (verse 15)
  2. the Spirit himself bears witness (verse 16)
  3. we are joint heirs with Christ (verse 17a) 

"Abba, Father" is how Jesus cried out to God the Father in His prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:36), and more than just as internal guide, the Holy Spirit is the principle of divine life in Christ (see Rom 5:5; Gal 5:30; 2 Pt 1:4).  Then Paul makes the shocking statement that we are joint heirs with Christ if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (verse 17b).  Paul's point is that Christ suffered before He was glorified and therefore, as His heirs, when we offer up our suffering with His suffering in His Passion, we have the promise that we will also be raised to glory in His name (also see Rom 5:2-5; 2 Cor 1:5, 7; 4:17; Phil 3:10-11; Col 1:24; 1 Pt 1:11; 5:1; Rev 2:17 and CCC 1996).

The Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20 ~ Jesus sends forth the Apostles of the Trinity
16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.  18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

In Matthew 28:7 when the women disciples discovered the empty tomb, the angel of God told them to go to the disciples and tell them that Jesus had risen from the dead and, "... now he is going ahead of you to the Galilee; that is where you will see him."  Later they met Him in the Galilee by the sea (Jn 21:1-23) where Jesus continued His instructions to them that were to receive for a period of forty days as He appeared and disappeared to His faithful.  It is at the meeting at the Sea of Galilee that He gave Peter and the disciples their "marching orders" in establishing His Kingdom of the Church and revealed the nature of the Triune God.

Matthew 28:19-20 is called "The Great Commission."  The mission Jesus gave is universal for the emissaries of the One who has universal power over all the earth.  From the time of Jesus' Resurrection, the mission of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit became the mission of the Church, as Jesus told the Apostles in John 20:19b ~ As the Father has sent me, so I send you (see CCC 730).

The command to baptize with the theological Trinitarian formula: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit" defines the communion between God and the baptized (see Jn 3:3-5 and CCC 1257, 1272-3).  Rebirth through water and the spirit in Christian baptism is the means Jesus has given for entrance into the community of the New Covenant.  In the Sacrament of Baptism, the baptized person is configured to the risen Savior and incorporated into the Body of Christ that is His Church.  The formula Jesus gives for the Sacrament of Baptism defines the Trinity and designates baptism as the union of the one baptized with the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The union of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the central mystery of Christian faith.  Indeed, the faith of all who call themselves Christians rests on belief in the re-birth that forms the union of the believer with the life of the Most Holy Trinity (CCC 232-34, 237).

20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
Do not miss that baptism is linked to teaching the newly baptized to observe "all that I have commanded you" in verse 20.  Simply acknowledging Christ is not enough and the old Law no longer defines righteousness; it is the Gospel of salvation preached in the New Law of love of God and love of neighbor that defines the path of salvation for Christians. 

Jesus' promise And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age a fulfillment of Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14.  Isaiah's prophecy of the virgin who will bear a son who shall be called "Emmanuel", which means "God with us," is now fulfilled in Jesus' promise to His faithful.  It is also the promise of His real but invisible presence in the Eucharist from the time of His Ascension until His return at the end of the Age of Man (also see CCC 1374-77).

Jesus will teach the Church for forty days prior to His Ascension to the Father (Acts 1:3), appearing and disappearing at will.  During the time between His Resurrection and Ascension, He continually visited with His Apostles and disciples:

In His death and resurrection, Jesus has ushered in a new and everlasting covenant that fulfills and surpasses all previous covenants (see the chart "Yahweh's Eight Covenants."

Old Covenants Fulfilled in Christ
1. The covenant with Adam Jesus is the "new Adam" who has atoned for the sin of the first Adam, conquering sin and death and bringing forth His Bride, the Church, from His pierced side as Eve was born from the side of Adam (Rom 5:14-21; 1 Cor 15:20-45; CCC 359, 411, 504, 766).
2. The covenant with Noah Jesus' gift of the Sacrament of baptism has restored man, through water and the Spirit to renewed life (Jn 3:3, 5; 1 Pt 3:21, CCC 628, 1094).
3. The three-fold Abrahamic covenant:
  1. a kingdom
  2. numerous descendants
  3. a world-wide blessing.
Jesus has fulfilled the three promises made to Abraham (CCC 59, 706, 762-66):
  1. He has established a kingdom in the Church—the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (Mt 4:17; Acts 1:3).
  2. He has filled His kingdom with men and woman of every age who have accepted His gift of eternal salvation and who are the spiritual children of Abraham (Rom 9:6-8; Gal 3:29).
  3. As Abraham's descendant, Jesus has brought a world-wide blessing through His universal covenant that is open to men and women of all nations (Gal 3:8).
4. The Covenant at Sinai Jesus has fulfilled all the blood rituals and purification rituals of the old Law in His one perfect sacrifice on the altar of the Cross, having made atonement for the sins of man and offering continual purification through the Eucharist and the other Sacraments of His Church (Heb 9:15-28; CCC 577-582).  In His self-sacrifice and fulfillment of the Sinai Covenant, Jesus has freed God's people from the curse of failing to keep the old Law (Dt 28:15; Rom 3:21-26; Gal 3:13-14).
5. The Aaronic Covenant of a ministerial priesthood Jesus has established the New Covenant priesthood: A universal priesthood of all believers and a ministerial priesthood that is no longer based on heredity but on the call of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19-20; CCC 1141-43).
6. The Perpetual Priesthood of Phinehas Jesus Christ is the eternal High Priest of the New and Everlasting Covenant (Heb 4:14-15; 8:1-3; CCC 1137).
7. The Davidic Covenant God's promise to David that his throne would endure forever is fulfilled in Christ who is the heir of David and the King of the Universal Kingdom (Lk 1:32-33; Heb 1:1-4; CCC 786, 2105).
Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012

The New Covenant in Christ Jesus is now the 8th final and eternal covenant between God and His people, and its climax will take place in Jesus' Second Advent at the end of time. 

For more information on the mystery of the Trinity see the document: "Monotheism and the Mystery of the Triune God."

Catechism References:
Psalm 33:6 (CCC 292, 703)
Romans 8:14-17 (CCC 1996)
Matthew 28:16-20 (CCC 857, 1444); 28:16-17 (CCC 644); 28:18-20 (CCC 1120); 28:19-20 (CCC 2, 767, 849, 1223, 1257, 1276, 189, 232, 543, 691, 730, 831, 1122, 2156); 28:20 (CCC 80, 788, 860, 2743)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015