‘Baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’
Trinity Sunday Year B
In the commission Jesus gives to his disciples he refers to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity – the revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
16 The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. 17 When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. 18 Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’
Other readings: Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 Psalm 32 (33) Romans 8:14-17
The Gospel of Matthew ends with this passage. This is the commission which the Risen Jesus gives to his disciples. In it there is reference to baptism ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the fruit of a long process of learning and understanding as the revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is received by human minds and put into human words. In Old Testament times, as our reading from the Book of Deuteronomy indicates, the people were aware that God was close to them, protected them and gave them the law. Unlike the gods of the nations, the God of Moses became involved with the people and was concerned for them.
The books of the Old Testament also witness to a growing awareness of the Spirit of God. This Spirit gave strength to people and inspired the prophets to speak the word, a word sometimes of judgement, but often of encouragement and consolation.
Jesus, the Son of God, is the fulness of revelation. He is the Word of God for us. By his death and resurrection he shows that God is with us to free us from sin and death. Jesus speaks of his bond with the Father, and is keenly aware of the power of the Spirit. It did not take long for Christians to acknowledge that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and in time we see the emergence of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, of three ‘persons’ in one God.
One week after the end of the Easter season, in which we gave thanks for the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, and the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, this feast of the Holy Trinity invites us to contemplate the mystery of God to the extent that our minds are able. Paul in the Letter to the Romans reminds us that the Spirit of God makes us God’s children, destined to share in the life of God, as Christ does. Through the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts we become aware of the love and strength of the living God available to us both now and in the life to come.
What does it mean to me that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
Do I dismiss the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as a conundrum which is difficult to grasp?
Pray for a deeper awareness of the love of God demonstrated in the Trinity.
Pray for those who consider the mystery of God to be a delusion.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy