The readings on today’s great feast of the Most Holy Trinity hold many treasures for us. We hear Jesus giving us the Great Commission; we recognize the life and mystery of the Trinity expressed in his words; we experience joy in knowing that we are adopted sons and daughters of God; and we learn that being so favored by the Lord makes us also responsible to him for the sake of others. As we ponder these readings, we are reminded that it is the work of all God’s children – of all of us – to “make disciples of all nations,” so that the unity of the human family can better reflect the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
A starting point for our reflection comes from Moses’ words to the Israelites. He reminds us of the extraordinary goodness of God and of the great love and fidelity God shows for his chosen people. We must fix in our hearts “that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” The Israelites did not know the mystery of the Trinity, but they knew, as we should know, that they had a special place in the mind and heart of God.
The divine plan was only fully revealed much later, with the coming of Jesus, the Son of God. Matthew’s Gospel takes us to a mountaintop in Galilee where the risen Lord Jesus appears to his remaining eleven disciples. The place that had been the launching point for his mission to Israel (cf. Mt 5:1ff) is now the launching point for his mission – through them – to the whole world. The disciples are overjoyed to see him, but they are also confused and in doubt. We can identify with the turmoil that goes through their minds. Like them, we want to believe, we do believe, but we also have many hesitations and unanswered questions. We know that we are not in control, and we simply cannot comprehend everything about how God’s will is unfolding. But Jesus gives us an unquestionable reassurance of his authority and power as he tells the disciples, “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me.” And, based on this divine authority which he receives from the Father, not based on any qualifications on our part, he gives the disciples a clear missionary mandate: “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.”
In this, his Great Commission, Jesus sends forth not only the eleven but each and every one of us who has been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. He declares the whole world, with all its diversity, a mission field in which we are called to work for the salvation of all people. Our very name, “Catholic,” means “universal.” Jesus adds, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” His presence with us, in us, in the Church, in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in our ordained ministers, in our families, is always, it is guaranteed. As we go forth, he goes with us, and we bring him everywhere we go.
“Making disciples” is more than winning converts or getting people baptized. The first person whom we must “make a disciple” is ourselves. One must be a disciple before one can make a disciple; we cannot give what we do not have. Because God has already chosen us, and because of the gift of Baptism, we already are disciples. But becoming a disciple is also a life-long process, part of which involves witnessing to others about Jesus. The more we give him to others, the more we grow in him ourselves. As we strive to “observe all that I have commanded you,” we serve as living examples to others. There are as many ways to evangelize as there are people to do it, but every way begins with our own conversion of heart, our own commitment to Jesus, and our own following of the Christian life.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading that the Christian life is possible because we are “led by the Spirit of God” as children of God, having received the “Spirit of adoption.” The Holy Spirit who filled our hearts at our Baptism is the divine power source who enables us to call God our Father, “Abba!”, and who energizes us to lead others to Christ as well. How did the Apostles make the extraordinary journeys they made, suffer the terrible consequences they suffered, and continue to joyfully proclaim the Gospel? All by the fuel of the Holy Spirit! It is the same for us. Who of us could or would want to take the risks involved in evangelizing not only people we do not know but also the people we do know? It would be impossible for us to obey the Great Commission without the supernatural force that is the Holy Spirit, who “himself bears witness with our spirit.” We can serve and our service can bear fruit – despite the chaos in the world, despite our own weaknesses and doubts and lack of understanding – because of the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
The readings today are like sections of a richly sewn tapestry. If we were to turn the tapestry over, we would see underneath the supernatural design of the Holy Trinity, holding it all together. In the love of the Father for his children, in the incarnation of his Son calling us to holiness and evangelization, in the power of the Holy Spirit enlivening us as we go forward, God is bringing about his great plan of salvation, for each one of us, and for all of us together as one holy people.
Like the Israelites, do I recognize that I have a special place in the mind and heart of God? Do I believe in the authority of Christ in all situations? Am I willing to rely upon the Spirit of God as I serve others?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 14, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.