The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity-May 26, 2024

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity-May 26, 2024

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20


Theme: Our Active participation in the Perfect Union and Love of the Holy Trinity


Last Sunday, we commemorated the Solemnity of Pentecost, which marked the end of the Easter season. Today, with this Mass of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we resume the Ordinary Time we left off before we started the Lenten season. Although the word “Holy Trinity” is not explicitly in the Bible, we find its theological significance throughout the Scriptures, precisely through the Bible readings selected for this Mass. In the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Mother Church teaches that there is One God in Three Persons. They are distinct without division (the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit. The Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son.) They are also equal without confusion (the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.) Through the liturgy of this solemnity, our Holy Mother Church invites us to reflect on our active participation in the perfect union and love of the Holy Trinity. We are members of the Holy Trinity only when we observe God’s commandments (first reading), accept Jesus’ mission of making our brothers and sisters become Jesus’ disciples (Gospel), and accept to suffer with Jesus so that we may also be glorified with him (second reading).

 Our Gospel narrative, taken from the final chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, is a significant account. Preceded by the resurrection of Jesus (vv. 1-10) and the report of the guard of Jesus' tomb (vv. 16-20), our text concludes this chapter and the entire Gospel. It is set in the context of Jesus’ final meeting with his disciples before his ascension to heaven. This text, known as the “Great Commission” and “prophetic Parousia,” is a narrative account that can be divided into two parts. The first part describes the disciples' arrival at the place Jesus ordered them to meet him and their emotional reaction upon seeing him (vv. 16-17). The second part features Jesus delivering his message of commissioning his disciples (vv. 18-20).

Matthew commences this story by informing us that the eleven disciples encountered Jesus on the mountain of Galilee, as Jesus had instructed them (v.16) The number “eleven” (not twelve) recalls Judas Iscariot’s tragic defection. The mountain is mentioned here, but when the “angel of the Lord” (28:5-7) and the risen Jesus himself (28:9-10) ordered the women to tell Jesus’ disciples to meet him, they only spoke of Galilee, not the mountain. The meaning of the mountain here is more theological than geographical. It alludes to God’s revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:12-18). Note that Matthew likes to portray Jesus as a new Moses in big moments in his Gospel. Our Holy Mother Church wants to teach us that Jesus continues to order us to meet him on the “Mountain of our Galilee,” our local Church. The way the eleven disciples responded to Jesus’ order should be the same way we should accept Jesus’ invitation and come to Church every Sunday to meet him at the Eucharistic celebration. How do we respond to Jesus’ order? Do we find excuses or respond with joy as the eleven disciples did? Let us not decline Jesus’ invitation. He always waits for us in the liturgy of the Mass.

When the disciples saw Jesus, they worshiped him, but they doubted (v.17). The disciples deal with the appearance of the risen Lord. Did all eleven doubt, or just some of them? The New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) talks about “some” who doubted, not all of them, but the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) translates, “… they worshiped him, but they doubted.” What did they doubt: Jesus’ resurrection or worshiping Jesus? Some Bible scholars think their “doubt” was in worshiping Jesus, but others connect it with Jesus’ resurrection. In either case, their doubt is on the risen Jesus. What does the verb “doubt” mean here? The Greek verb used for “doubt” is δισταζω (distazo,) which means “to hesitate,” “to waver,” or “to be uncertain about something.” The “doubt” here is not a synonym for a complete lack of belief but a normal human emotion of hesitation. Note that the disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit; they dealt with Jesus’ appearance using their normal human feelings. Like other evangelists, Matthew depicts the disciples with conflicted human feelings in their experiences with Jesus’ appearance. For instance, the women in the story of Jesus’ resurrection also experienced these conflicted feelings when Jesus appeared to them. They were “fearful yet overjoyed.” (See 28:8). So, in our text, the disciples’ worship shows their faith and joy, but this faith and joy are mingled with “doubt.”

What should we learn here? As human beings, sometimes we, too, experience these conflicted feelings. We pray to God, but at the same time, we doubt. Our doubt can be on whether God really listens to our prayers. It can also be on whether we should continue worshiping God, serving him, and being good Christians, especially when we are in the dark moments of our lives. This part of the Gospel teaches us that our doubt should not mean the total lack of faith. Even amid the dark moments of our lives, we must believe that our risen Lord is truly present when we call upon him. Our human emotion of doubt or fear should not prevent us from coming to the Church, serving our Lord, and worshiping him. Let us always believe in Jesus no matter what we go through.

Jesus commissions his disciples, utilizing the full authority God bestowed upon him. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (V. 18). This power is universal (in heaven and on earth), and God is the giver. Since Jesus’ power is universal, he also gives his disciples a universal mission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”  The disciples will do two things to make people of all nations become Jesus’ disciples: “(…) baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the [Holy] Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Vv. 19-20a, NABRE). The first thing is to baptize them in the name of the Triune God. Jesus has entrusted this mission to the Church. As the open door to all the sacraments, baptism is the foundation of Christian life. Through baptism, we became Jesus’ missionaries who are called to go forth to our families, neighborhoods, and everywhere we live to make others become Jesus’ disciples.

In addition to baptizing the people, Jesus asks his disciples and all of us to teach the people to observe all that he has commanded us. There are three important lessons to know here. First, Jesus asks his disciples and all of us to teach the people to observe what he has commanded us. This presupposes that we must know precisely what Jesus taught and commanded us before we teach them to others. We cannot teach what we do not know. How and where to learn Jesus’ teachings? Jesus teaches us in the Eucharistic celebrations. At each Mass we attend, we first listen to him speak to us through the Scripture readings before we receive him in Holy Communion. The liturgy of the Mass is the best moment we learn what Jesus commands us to teach to others. In addition to the Mass, we should also become familiar with Bible reading because Jesus speaks to us when we read, study, meditate, share, and pray with the Word of God. For this, I encourage you to participate in the Liturgical Weekly Bible Study I teach virtually and in-person every Friday at 6:00 p.m. Central time (Zoom Meeting ID: 836 4516 5259 and the password: Bible.) This Bible Study helps the participants understand deeply the Gospel of each Sunday before they attend Sunday Masses.

Second, Jesus asks his disciples and all of us to teach the people to observe not what we want or what the people want to hear but what he has commanded us. The Church has a mission to teach God’s Word, regardless of whether the people like it or not. Jesus asks us not to change his teaching to please the people but to change the people (“Make disciples all nations.”) to please him. We are called to preach the truth and condemn evil no matter who commits it and the circumstances in which it is committed. Wrong is wrong, and the truth is truth.  

Third, Jesus asks us not to teach the people what he has commanded us but to teach them to “observe” what he has commanded us. The focus here is on the verb “observe’. There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. The first focuses merely on knowledge of God but with no intention of transforming our lives. This is like a person who studied a course in hydrodynamics but he/she did not learn how to swim. The second, to know God, alludes to conversion. It is like someone who learns how to swim. Many Christians have sadly neglected this essential aspect. They learned “about Christianity” with good intentions but did not learn “how to live the Christian life.” Many have learned about prayer but not how to pray. Many have been told that they should go to Mass but not how to attend Mass actively, intentionally, and prayerfully. In this part of the Gospel, Jesus asks us to teach the people, not the theories but the practice of his teachings. By swimming, a person learns and becomes a swimmer. By observing Jesus’ teaching, we learn and become Jesus’ disciples. 

  Our Gospel story ends with Jesus reassuring his disciples and us that he is with us always until the end of the age. We find his permanent presence among us through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. Also, Jesus’ name, “Emmanuel,” means “God with us,” which means through Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, we see God, the First Person of the Holy Trinity. In conclusion, the Holy Trinity is one God in Three Persons (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), equal without confusion and distinct without division.

May this liturgy enable us to imitate the perfect unity and love of the Holy Trinity in our mission to make all nations Jesus’ disciples. Amen.   

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD


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