|The Solemnity of the Most Holy
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22
So as to be more available to the blessings and graces of these readings, imagine the group of disciples prostrated in worship, with their faces to the earth, before the figure of the risen Jesus. They are up on a high hill and Jesus appears to them, but they look up at him and then at each other to see if their companions are really into this event or not. They all are checking out each other's reactions and you sense they are not quite sure what this mysterious figure is. We are off to the side, but we hear Jesus give them their marching orders. The disciples are accustomed to their hearing Jesus telling them to go and do. Jesus looks over at us and allows that what he is telling the disciples to do, now includes us. We too have to go down the mountain and do this mission of "baptizing."
Last week's Gospel pictured Jesus' sending his Apostles out from their hiding to the places of their revealing. Today's readings are more explicit about taking hold of, or possessing the land and blessing it in the name of the One and Holy God. We pray to hold our own parts of the earth and earthliness within and around us. We pray to extend the person of Jesus who has baptized it all with his life, his death and his resurrection. We pray to enter this "Trinification" of the world ourselves. We ourselves have been welcomed into his blessing of all that is human and of the earth. We are how the Spirit of God is to renew the face of the earth. Our faces need some spiritual touching up and then we can face the earth as disciples.
Moses is speaking to the people of Israel in our First Reading. He is preparing to give his listeners the "law" and "customs" which, if lived and practiced, will assure their living long and fruitfully in the "land" God is about to give them. Moses reviews some history with them and in our reading, he invites them to ask questions of their ancestors. They are in fact, rhetorical questions whose answers are obvious to all. God has been very loving and protective of, and generous to, the people of the covenant. The God of their pasts is the God of their futures. The reverence and obedience of their pasts will be expressed in keeping these laws and teaching them to their posterity. The earth is to be a sign of God's blessings and their labors to bring forth its fruits and their obeying their traditions is their cultic and personal expressions of loving response.
We hear in the Gospel how Jesus appeared in the very last scene of Matthew's account, standing again on a "mountain." He stood on a "mountain" when giving his first Sermon including the "Beatitudes." It was his first instruction about personal conversion of heart, attitudes and actions. Now, Moseslike, who gave his teachings and laws also on a mountain, Jesus is relating his final instructions to his listeners. Instead of a particular piece of land which was given to Israel to cherish and cultivate, now the "land" is "all the nations." As the very small nation of Israel was to take possession of a new "land" now this small band of inspired believers is to go out and "make disciples" of all the nations." Jesus by living and preaching his word and name. These will be the fruits and harvest of the "earth."
I would rather attempt to write about the combustion engine or the magnetic effects of the North Pole than describe the Most Holy Trinity. I have studied it of course, a whole semester's worth, but I have studied engines and the North Pole too and they remain puzzlements as well. I could use an image such as two rivers of equal size flowing together and becoming apparently one. That's not it at all. They are not triplets either; three separate persons residing in union with each other, but within the womb of their mother - no that's terrible! Instead, I choose to reflect about what it means to "baptize" the "nations" and the "land." There are three major temptations which involve the Trinity and which result in preventing the making of disciples and the baptism of the earth.
"Creation" is nothing more than the result of "Big Bangs" or something outside the love of God. It is not really created, but cooled, formed, rounded off nicely by time and chance. The temptation then is that there is no Creator and therefore materiality has not been blest and hence it is not to be reverenced. It is not "covenantal," but accidental. The immediate implication of this is that you and I are also accidents and can treat ourselves and each other accordingly.
The second temptation against the Trinity is that maybe we were created by a loving God, but our not keeping the laws and customs, our not being obedient, our being too much of the earth, put us in an unredeemable attitude towards the Creator. We may try to be good and keep the laws and customs, but we fail then and so ultimately as well. We are "throw-awayable" and that is how we live; throwing away ourselves and others.
The third temptation is about, not our origin nor value, but there is nothing good we can do which leads us anywhere. There is no eternity; we make our bed on earth and sleep in it. The temptation is against personal mission and the virtue of hope.
Going out to make "disciples" and "baptizing" them has something to do with confronting these universal temptations. Jesus, as Redeemer" confronted and defeated the attractions to the earth as the "ultimate Reality." He confronted our inclinations to doubt personal preciousness. He invited all to invest in the present which is a path to everness. The Spirit keeps alive in us all our part in the Trinity; we belong by being created, recreated and animated so as to baptize this earth and all who are of it, by living out our holy place in the Trinity.
There, I said it, but instead, let me tell you of the North Pole; it is not a mystery, but a puzzlement. About the Trinity? - keep believing!
"Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own." Ps. 33
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