Trinity: coping with the fullness of divine action
A few of us, myself included, will no doubt at some point have tuned in to the ‘share and tell’ narrative brought to us courtesy of Dominic Cummings at the House of Commons on Wednesday. By this Trinity Sunday he had managed to produce his own triadic formula of shenanigans purportedly going on in Downing Street on March 12 last year with the day’s agenda marked by planning for Covid, the US wanting to bomb Iraq and the PM’s girlfriend throwing a serious wobbly over a press story about her dog! What a day that must have been. Just how do you cope with that all at once?
Today on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity we have another triadic formula, set to exercise our minds. This one however is big, really big and it is one which would exercise the minds of the best and the brightest during the early centuries of the church’s history. In fact it took a period of 300 years before the church could translate the command to baptise ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ to the formulaic Creed that we recite at Mass today. Seriously, that is either hedging your bets to an extreme or it’s a simple inability to get to grips with a very complex doctrinal issue. Maybe it is a bit of both but personally I tend not to go there. The mission to make disciples of the nations is to be accompanied and accomplished by baptism, elsewhere in the New Testament baptism is in Jesus’ name, but now the formula is very different. The formula describes the fullness of divine action to which the acceptance of baptism is the response. And just observe the huge, remarkable sweep of Jesus’ words : “all authority’, “all nations”, “all that I command” and “all days’. Such language is truly eschatological because it is truly transformational.
For Matthew, the resurrection is evidence that not only was God with Jesus who conquered death but also that in Jesus the abiding presence of God is with all those who are baptised in the name of the Trinity. So where is this Triune God to be found? I think it is ultimately found not in a credal, triadic formula but pure and simply in the hearts of baptised Christians. Because it is precisely there that we are asked to work out the consequences of our faith. And just how do we cope with that? That of course is the ever present challenge that we all face. But perhaps we can begin to cope with that by making room for the kind of people Jesus himself made room for in his own mission……..
The writer Denis McBride gives us this: ‘We can only try to make room in our heart for Jesus’ people and we can do that in the gospel truth that he will be at the heart of that enterprise. For the rest we can only pray the unofficial prayer of the ascension:
You chose us, Lord, you must recall;
We never claimed to know it all.
So long Jesus,
Here come the amateurs.