The National Catholic Review
Most Holy Trinity (B), June 18, 2000
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15)

During the time of theological ferment following the Second Vatican Council, I overheard a conversation between two older Jesuits. One was upset over reports of new thinking on the Trinity. After some time, the other said, "Well, can you still pray to the Trinity?" The response was: "No way. I have always been a Jesus man, myself." The Trinity presents a series of paradoxes. It is the central mystery of Christian faith, yet its power in Christian life gets lost amid a tangle of theological distinctions and philosophical speculation. It reveals the God who is the ground and center of our lives, yet it often seems distant from daily Christian life and is one of the most difficult mysteries to preach on.

Today's readings present rich material for prayer and preaching. Moses, who had experienced the mystery of God at the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-6), states the foundation of all Trinitarian thinking--there is one God, who is both transcendent and deeply involved in the life of the people. The final words of Matthew's Gospel commission the disciples to make disciples by baptizing people in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of die Holy Spirit. "In the name of" suggests participation in the very life of God, and Paul makes the extraordinary statement that those who are led by God's Spirit become sons and daughters of God and joint heirs with Christ. The oft-cited phrase of Cyril of Alexandria comes to mind: "We become by grace what God is by nature."

As the late Catherine LaCugna, whose early death deprived die church of a major theological voice, stressed in her landmark work, God For Us. The Trinity in Christian Life (1991), the Trinity reveals that the transcendent God who is beyond words and definitions is disclosed in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus and continues as Spirit to empower and guide the church. Matthew's disciples are instructed not only to baptize but to "teach them [the nations] to observe all that I have commanded you." The Trinity is about a God for us, who lived as a blessing for the poor and mourners, confronted the power of evil, entered with compassion into the world of human suffering, broke down the barriers between human sin and divine holiness and reconciled enemies The pattern of Jesus' fife manifests the triune God who is "with us" until the end of the age.

John R. Donahue, S.J., is professor of New Testament studies at the Jesuit School of Theology and Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif.

Readings: Dt. 4:32-34; 39-40; Ps. 33; Rom. 8:14-17; Mt. 28:16-20
  • Read prayerfully the Pauline readings for the two feasts, reflecting on how our adoption into the very life of God brings forth fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  • Pray about ways in which the Spirit is leading the church today to break down barriers that separate people and nations.
  • Making the Sign of the Cross, pray often to God who is Father bringing forth life in love and freedom, Son living and dying for others, and Spirit, teaching and empowering a church to be God's very presence in the world.

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