Homily of 27 May 2018
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20
My brothers and sisters, the Trinity is not the feast on which many people want to preach. When our feast day homilies were preached in the Chapter Room and any monk could do the preaching and choose which ones he wanted, the Trinity was almost never voluntarily chosen. It was as if to say: Please, any feast but the Trinity!
Why the hesitancy? Do we feel we have to say something about the inner life of God – and who would dare to do that? Are we humbled before the majesty of our God and believe this is a mystery too great for us? Of course it is.
Yet, what is the homilist asked to do? It seems to me that it is to comment on the Scriptures of the day and apply them to our present life. When we are dealing with the Word of God we are, of course, dealing with mystery and presence, but it is something we do each day. No one can take this task on himself or herself, but when it is given, we can have confidence in the Spirit to be there for us. So, let us make an attempt.
A question. When is the first time that the Trinity — God as Three Persons, God as Father, Son and Spirit — is mentioned in the Scriptures? It is at the Baptism of Jesus, when the Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus as he enters the water of the Jordan and the Father’s voice is heard, “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” Indeed, this is one of the very first incidents recounted in the Gospel narratives. And what did we hear today? At the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, we are told to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism and the Trinity: at the very beginning of the Gospel and at the very end of the Gospel. Baptism and the Trinity: the two of them wedded together. Let us pursue this thought a bit more.
Throughout his teaching, Jesus insists that God is his Father, that his whole being finds expression in the relation of Son to Father. The Father speaks his entire being in his Word, his Son; the Son calls back to him, Abba, Father. Even when Jesus cries out these same words in his great agony in the garden, Abba, Father, if this cup can pass from me, this simple cry expresses everything that Jesus is. The Father and I are one, Jesus says on another occasion, united by the common love, the Spirit, who binds them together. And wonder of wonders, Jesus teaches that we are called to live this same relationship of son/daughter to the Father. Saint Paul made this clear in our Second Reading. “You have received the Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father’.” Now where does this relationship take effect? In our baptism.
Thus, we see once again how Baptism and the Trinity are wedded together. It was at Jesus’ baptism that the Trinity was revealed. It is at our baptism, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, that we, in the Son, have become sons and daughters of the Father, the Spirit descending on us and making us a new creation. The Father looks upon us coming up out of the waters and pronounces: This is my beloved son; this is my beloved daughter, on whom my favor rests. This is something we can constantly reflect on and to which we can return again and again. The Father looks on us and proclaims: This is my beloved son; this is my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased, on whom my favor rests.
But baptism is not an isolated rite. The Gospel says: 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. There is a life to live and in accepting baptism, in accepting the Father’s words upon us, we commit ourselves to live in a way conformable to its exigencies. This is why our readings started with a passage from Deuteronomy expressing the necessity of keeping the statutes and commandments of the Lord. If we do that, if we live the life of love and renunciation which the Bible puts before us, then the promise of Jesus will be realized in us: Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.
Baptism and the Trinity: two mysteries inextricably united together. To penetrate the Trinity, let us continually try to penetrate the meaning of our baptism. As we do this, as we live the experience and the call of our new creation, we will know the Spirit’s presence within us, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father, and who prays within us with cries too deep to understand, as Saint Paul has also taught us.
Our own monastic life is shot through with this same baptismal reality. That is why monastic profession is often simply called a second baptism. This is not said in the sense that monastic profession adds to the grace and gift of baptism. No, that is simply not true theologically. It is said because monastic profession is simply a way of living the grace of baptism more fully. The reality of our monastic profession is not that we are choosing an elitist or esoteric life, but that by our profession we are recommitting ourselves to live out the reality of our baptism. To be convinced of this we need only look at how the goal of monastic life is often expressed. It is said to be a life of continual prayer, a life of abiding in the presence of God in everything we say and do. Is not this the grace of baptism as well: to live a life that allows the full mystery of the Trinity to become manifest in us?
Soon we will reaffirm our faith in the Trinity and renew our baptismal commitment through the sprinkling rite which will conclude it. A little bit later we will approach the altar to receive the gift of Christ’s body and blood whereby we are led into the unity of Father, Son and Spirit. Let us implore our God for the grace to live this baptismal life to the full, so that in us, Father, Son and Spirit may be glorified and become ever more present and active in our world.