01 June 2012

'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .' Trinity Sunday

HolyTrinity, Jusepe de Ribera, painted 1635-36 

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Matthew 28:16-20 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of 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; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." 


From the evening of 23 May until the morning of 1 June I was giving a retreat to a group of Canossian Sisters, also known as Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor. They included four novices and seven professed Sisters, including one from Malaysia.Their foundress, St Magdalene of Canossa bequeathed to the Sisters the mission of 'making Jesus known and loved above all'. This comes from a stance of standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary.

During my talks each morning I shared many stories of individuals who had made Jesus known to me, usually with no awareness that they were doing so. Some were persons I knew. Some are now dead. Some I met only once in passing, never learning their names. Most were poor. I know that my stories triggered off similar memories among the Sisters of people who had made Jesus known to them as the Sisters in turn had made him known to those they were serving.

I saw all of this in the context of the Communion of Saints, the angels and saints in heaven, the members of the Church on earth, the souls in purgatory. The story of creation tells us that we are made in the image of God. But what the author of that first account of creation didn't know is that God is a Community of Three Persons. Made in God's image, we are made to be in community with others.

Jusepe de Ribera's painting of the Holy Trinity above, like a number of other paintings, shows the dead Christ. The expression on the face of the Father shows suffering. It is very similar to the face of the father in Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son, painted about thirty years later. I don't know if Rembrandt was familiar with de Ribera's painting.

The Blessed Trinity call us into the circle of their life through suffering. We know the suffering of Jesus. Some of the great artists show to us something of the suffering of the Father.

One of the stories I told involved two persons I met only once, a mother and her daughter aged about 13. When they approached me first outside a retreat house in Cebu City on the morning of Holy Thursday 1990. I made an excuse that I was only visiting. When I went inside I later saw the two of them sitting on the steps. The daughter had her head on her mother's shoulder. Clearly, they were tired and hungry. When I was leaving I gave them emough to buy breakfast. The young girl looked at me with the most beautiful smile I've ever seen and said to me, Salamat sa Ginoo! 'Thanks to the Lord!' She wasn't thanking me but inviting me to thank the Lord with her and her mother for his goodness. Through her hunger and tiredness she had come to know something of God's bountiful love.

That young girl has been calling me into the life of the Holy Trinity for more than 22 years now. I've no idea what became of her. I came to the Philippines in 1971 to do my part in making disciples of all nations and have baptised many in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But that young girl, and many others like her, have been constantly teaching me to observe all that I have commanded you and assuring me in the name of Jesus, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

Introit (Entrance Antiphon of Mass)

Benedíctus sit Deus Pater,
unigenitúsque Dei Fílius,
Sanctus quoque Spíritus,
quia fecit nobíscum misericórdiam suam.

Blest be God the Father, 
and the Only Begotten Son of God, 
and also the Holy Spirit,
for he has shown us his merciful love.

Mozart’s setting of the Latin text at the age of 12 sung by the  Meninos Cantores de Campinas, many of them around the same age as Mozart when he wrote the music. Campinas is in São Paolo State, Brazil.

Benedictus sit Deus

High Altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Campinas, Brazil

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