In the Bible big things happen on the mountain. God handed down to Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai amid a fiery earthquake and a trumpet blast from the angel. The prophet Elijah heard the voice of God and it strengthened him to pursue his vocation as “the prophet of the earth.”
And on the summit of Mount Eremos, on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus preached his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” His disciples gathered to listen to him deliver his core teaching on Christian discipleship.
Love God. Love self. Love others. This is the basis of the Law and the Prophets, the sacred writings that formed the soul of the nation of Israel and prepared the world for the Roman Catholic Church, which, in keeping with Christ’s commandment, holds as its mission evangelization.
Christ issued this directive to the Apostles in his great commission in the final chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew before he ascended into heaven.
“Go, therefore, and disciple all nations, 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” (Mt 28:19-20).
FATHER, SON, SPIRIT
In the Roman Catholic Church the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is the first of four solemnities during Ordinary Time. Corpus Christi, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Christ the King follow Trinity Sunday.
In Catholicism a solemnity is the highest rank of liturgical celebration, greater than the six holy days of obligation.
The Holy Trinity is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three divine persons sharing one nature united in the Supreme Godhead.
The Persons of the Trinity are coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial, meaning they are indivisible even as they reveal themselves to us in different forms. All three are to be worshipped as one God.
How do we understand the Trinity? Reflect on our baptism. Through Baptism the Trinity enters our souls forever. This is not an exclusively Christocentric idea.
Evidence of the establishment of the Trinity in the Scriptures begins in the first three verses of the Book of Genesis, in the First Story of Creation.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a great wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (1-3)
God is the Divine Creator. Through his Spirit he claims mastery over the elements of the earth that he formed. He speaks into the darkness and creates the light, pronouncing, “Let there be Light.”
Jesus Christ the only Son of the Father is the Light of the world (Jn 8:12).
Following his Resurrection Jesus summoned the eleven Apostles to the mountain, where he had taught them about discipleship during his Galilean ministry.
“The Eleven” as written by Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist recalls the tragic defection of Judas Iscariot who fulfilled the role assigned to him by God in Salvation History (Mt 27:3-10).
On the mountain the Apostles learn that they are to convert all nations to the teachings of the Messiah. Not by fundamentalism, not by the sword, and not by legerdemain and subterfuge. Rather Jesus’s message is simple: “Love one another as I have loved you,” (Jn 13:34-35).
The disciples were as familiar with Jesus’s teachings as they were the site at which he revealed himself. Jesus led the Apostles Peter, James, and John to the summit of Mount Tabor where he was transfigured before them, flanked by Moses and Elijah ,mountain men in their own right,the representatives of the Law and the Prophets respectively (Mt 17:1ff).
The Transfiguration offered the Apostles a glimpse of the glory of Jesus’s resurrection, a mystery of the faith that they scarcely understood. Who can truly understand it?
At times the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in their gospels depict the disciples as being fearful, doubtful and obtuse, hard of heart and slow to understand.
“The worshipped but they doubted” (Mt 28:17) despite having witnessed many miracles wrought by Jesus before their very eyes.
One night they saw Jesus walking on the water while they were in a boat being tossed about by a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mk 6:45-53; Mt 14:22-32). They didn’t believe that it was the Lord: they thought it was a ghost.
Then Peter did a courageous thing: he stepped from the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus only to grow fearful and sink.
Peter forgot that Jesus, like his Father, held mastery over the elements of nature. (What did Peter expect? His name means “rock”!) “Lord, save me!” Peter cried. “O you of little faith,” Jesus replied. “Why did you doubt?
‘THE ANCIENT ONE’
Christ is full of power, clothed with the authority of heaven. In depicting the resurrected Jesus Matthew draws upon characterizations of God from the Book of the Prophet Daniel.
According to Daniel, a young Jew and a visionary who lived during the Babylonian captivity (6th century BC), God is sovereign and can vanquish the enemies of Israel, any army or despot that threatens the existence of his chosen people.
Jesus is “ ‘One like a Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds in glory with the angels’ ” (Dn 7:13). The Most Holy Trinity is the Ancient One, without beginning, middle, or end.
Jesus charges the disciples with the mission of evangelization, confident that God reigns supreme and protects those who proclaim his name.
The message of salvation in God through Christ and carried out by the Holy Spirit is emphasized in the conclusion of the gospels.
Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mk 16:14-16).
THE GREAT COMMISSION
The universal mission from God through his Son is not a suggestion or a favor to keep; it is a commandment as imperative to the Christian as adherence to the Ten Commandments are to the Jew.
There is unity between Mosaic Law and the Gospel, which fulfills the ancient covenant that God struck with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). Christian charity and discipleship as instructed by Jesus on the mountain is a call to share in the work of salvation, the conversion of the world.
Trinitarian Baptism empowers the believer to live the truth in love and to assist in the renewal of the face of the earth (Ps 104:30).
The promise of the Spirit provides the authority and the purpose to carry out the Great Commission until Christ comes again, another great mystery of our faith (cf Rv 22:20).
Evangelization changes the world every day even as the Son of Man remains the same “yesterday, today, and tomorrow” (Heb 13:8). Each person of the Holy Trinity is living and eternal, omnipresent and omniscient: God knows all, sees all, loves all (see Gn 1:1-32).
That is why Jesus tells the Apostles, “Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).