Trinity Sunday – B

St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “The purpose and the fruit of our whole life is the knowledge of the Trinity in unity” (Commentary on the Sentences, 1, 2, 1). Knowing the Trinity is not an accumulation of information about the doctrine of the Trinity but a living encounter with each of the Three Persons, which leads us to eternal life with them.

A man offered me a ride. In the course of the ride, he casually asked me what the Trinity was all about. I knew that he had never had any religious education. What could I say? I told him to look at the New Testament and see how the evangelists and other writers understood Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Through Jesus’ disciples’ experiences of Jesus and the Spirit, we recognize a consistent pattern of three subjects acting in divine ways. The New Testament authors don’t explain why the Father does this or the Son does this or the Spirit does this but simply tells us the Father acts in this way, the Son acts in this way, the Spirit acts in this way. Each acts in divine ways.

Jesus instructs the disciples to make disciples of all nations: “Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The three names are joined together, indicating their equality. The Spirit would not have been included with the Father and Son if He were simply a power of God. Jesus assures the disciples of His continued presence, “I am with you always.”

When the New Testament refers to “God” as in the second reading today, from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Father is meant. Two powerful exceptions are when John states that “the Word was God” (Jn 1:1) and when the apostle Thomas exclaims at the sight of Jesus, “My Lord and My God” (Jn 20:28).

In the Gospels, Jesus always addresses God as “Father,” with the exception of His cry from the Cross, when He repeats the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God,” (Mk 15:34).

In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of Himself as “the Son.” Although Jesus teaches the people that God is their Father but He will speak of “My Father” because His relationship is unique. He also speaks to the people of “your Father,” implying a difference in the relationships. He teaches the disciples when they pray, to say, ‘Our Father.’

We participate in the Son’s relationship, as adopted children, to the Father through the Spirit. In the second reading for today from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 8:14-17, Paul speaks of our being “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom 8:14). Someone might assume that Paul means God’s spirit, as if we were to talk about the inner power of God. We sometimes say a person has a “spirit,” as Paul does in Romans 8:14. However, we do not speak as though our spirit is distinct from ourselves but is part of us such as our intelligence or emotions. We don’t usually attribute actions to our spirit or to our intelligence.

When God speaks of God’s Spirit, the Spirit belongs to God but has a certain distinction in its actions. Paul writes concerning those “…whosoever are led by the Spirit of God” (Rom 8:14). Thomas Aquinas comments that this passage refers to those “ruled as by a leader and director, which the Spirit does in us, inasmuch as he enlightens us inwardly about what we ought to do” (Commentary on the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, 635). Thomas recalls the words of the Psalm, “Let your good spirit lead me” (Ps 143:10).

Thomas explains that the Spirit leads us not just by showing us the way to but the Spirit moves our hearts to go that way: “Because one who is led does not act on his own, whereas the spiritual man is not only instructed by the Holy Spirit regarding what he ought to do, but his heart is moved by the Holy Spirit, it is necessary to get a better understanding of being led” (Commentary on Romans, 635).

Therefore “The spiritual man is inclined to do something not as though by a movement of his own will chiefly, but by the prompting of the Holy Spirit[U1] … (Commentary on Romans, 635). Thomas recalls that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Lk 4:1).

This does not mean that we do not have free choice, although the Spirit inclines us towards God’s will: “This does not mean that spiritual men do not act through will and free choice, because the Holy Spirit causes the very movement of the will and of free choice in them” (Commentary on Romans, 635). Judas was a close friend of Jesus who said no to grace. Thomas recalls the word of Philippians: God is at work in you both to will and to work” (Phil 2:13).

Scholars are sure that Jesus’ customary name for “Father” was the Aramaic form, Abba. The Gospels use the Greek word for “Father” patér. The only time that the New Testament records Jesus using the Aramaic name is when Jesus asks His Father to let the cup pass from him, “Abba, Father” (Mk 14:36).’They may have preserved Jesus’ actual words because of the sacredness of the moment.

Abba was the name that a child called his or her own father. There are no indications of anyone other than Jesus calling God by this name.

Paul uses Abba in this passage from Romans, as he does in the Letter to the Galatians (Gal 4:6). This is unusual because many of the Christians of Rome and Galatia were Gentiles and would not be familiar with Aramaic.  It may be that initially the earliest Christians imitated Jesus use of Abba. They recognized that Jesus was “the Son.” Paul asserts: “The Spirit Himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16).

This difference appears in this passage from Romans (Rom 8:15) Paul affirms that we call out Abba in “a spirit of adoption”. We are said to be “heirs with Christ,” implying that Christ is the heir by nature.

St. Thomas comments: “The chief good by which God is rich is Himself. For He is rich in Himself and not in virtue of something else… hence the children of God obtain God as their inheritance (Commentary on Romans, 647).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

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