This Sunday and next Sunday, are designated as solemnities, special days that call our attention to the central mysteries of our faith. Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. This feast invites us to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed himself to us in the Trinity, one God in three Persons.
Every extraordinary experience sparks from the ordinary. Take a moment and reflect on the moments that have made you who you are today. Some of them may be spectacular, earth-shattering, heartbreaking, and more. But when we really take the time to reflect on what made us who we are right now, today, this moment, we will come up with the names of people who have filled our lives. Little things they did or said to us, that they may not even remember today, but that stayed with us and changed us. In reflection, we will realize it was the mundane, weekly habits and rituals that ordered our lives, thus shaping us into the people we are today. This truth is a hint to us that God – our awesome, all-knowing, omnipotent God – is right there with us, taking what might be the most ordinary of moments and breathing that little extra into it, so that over time it becomes something extraordinary.
The power of this Gospel is the way in which we readers, thousands of years later, are turned into witnesses. We become witnesses to not just fact-based, hard-nosed, “real news,” but to God’s reality on earth. We become witnesses, not to an ideology, but to the Movement of God. With the telling of a simple story, we are suddenly standing alongside Nicodemus, bound by our physical bodies and limited perspective, about to have our minds blown by a completely new way of seeing and being in the world.
The Gospel for this Solemnity is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. The final commission, as this part of Matthew’s Gospel is sometimes called, is given on the mountaintop. Throughout Scripture, many of the most important events happen on a mountaintop, and Matthew used this motif often. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop, and Jesus taught the crowds from the mountaintop in the Sermon on the Mount. In today’s Gospel, the eleven disciples go the mountaintop in Galilee, as Jesus had instructed them through Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They see Jesus, and they worship and doubt at the same time. Jesus approaches them and commissions them to baptize and teach. It is a task for which Jesus had previously prepared his disciples; recall that Jesus had already sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal. Yet earlier, the Twelve were sent only to the House of Israel; in this final commission, the eleven are told to go to all nations. The mission of Jesus is now to be taken to all people, and the task is to baptize and to teach.
Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize in the name of the Trinity; this is one of the clearest attestations for Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity found in Scripture. Other New Testament references to Baptism describe it as being celebrated in the name of Jesus. As we read this Gospel on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we are reminded that this central mystery of faith is meant to be lived.
Despite ourselves, we are made witnesses. We are not witnesses of our own understanding, but of God’s action, movement, in the world, for the world. As baptized Christians, we share in the life of the blessed Trinity and seek to invite others to share in God’s love.