God is — and always will be — a faithful, merciful redeemer

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  • May 22, 2012

Trinity Sunday (Year B) June 3 (Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Psalm 33; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20)

We need to be constantly reminded of the ways in which we have been blessed. On the human level, we sometimes have short or selective memories regarding the kindnesses of others. It is helpful to periodically make an effort to remember the small but important acts of decency and kindness that have come our way. It is a good antidote to the negativity that threatens to hold us captive.

This is even more appropriate in our relationship with God. There is a human tendency to take blessings for granted and to harbour a bit of resentment at the ways in which we feel God has shortchanged us or let us down. What we call faith often does not handle life’s adversity very well.

The Jewish people have a wonderful prayer practice of reciting in praise and thanksgiving God’s many acts of compassion, mercy and deliverance. Any new request made of God is placed in the context of how faithful and merciful God has always been. Deuteronomy is a theology of covenant — a binding relationship with God. The author of Deuteronomy calls to mind the incredible, world-changing events that God had used to call, bless and finally liberate the people of Israel. God has proven to be faithful, merciful and a redeemer/liberator — and will continue to be so in the future for those who love God and obey His commands. With such a wonderful record, why wouldn’t any sane person willingly and joyfully obey God’s commands? Even though God also blesses those who are ungrateful and “undeserving” but this is often unrecognized and rejected. Deuteronomy was speaking of the sort of sharing and love that occurs within a committed relationship. It might be helpful and appropriate in our own prayer to enumerate the many mercies and blessings that we have received from God and to offer heartfelt thanks. Perhaps we will realize that we are not as alone or burdened as we thought. Gratitude is the beginning of healing.

In Paul’s view, the greatest blessing and gift that we can possibly receive from God is God’s own Spirit poured into our hearts. This Spirit awakens us to our divine origin and ultimate destiny as children of God. Our eyes are opened as well to the incredible generosity of God in sharing with us the riches of the divine kingdom. Being a child of God by adoption is a great honour but it also carries responsibilities, chief among them that of patterning our lives on the God in whom we are reborn. As part of that, we step away from fear and slavery of all forms, vowing to walk and live in the freedom that is God’s gift.

Even after the appearance of the risen Jesus some of the disciples still struggled with faith and doubt. The amazing events were just a bit too much to comprehend and accept. Jesus then gave them quite a mission: to make disciples of all nations and to pass on to them all that He had taught. The teaching to which he referred is most likely that of the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) is which He revealed the spiritual tools of the reign of God: non-violence, compassion, justice, righteousness, forgiveness and integrity of word, thought and deed. These were the principles by which Jesus lived and died, and they were to be the same for His followers. In effect, He ordered His disciples to teach the nations how to be loving, just, compassionate people.

The Trinitarian formula of baptism in the passage is probably a later addition since it expresses a Trinitarian formula still centuries down the road. In another sense, however, it is fitting. The life of the Trinity has been described by many theologians as a continual dynamic expression of reciprocal love. What better way, then, to commission the followers of Jesus than to command them to make disciples of all nations in a way that reflects self-giving and generous love. In the past this effort was often marred by imperial ambitions, power struggles, greed and intolerance — the fact that all nations are not disciples is scarcely God’s fault.

We cannot give what we do not have. In order for the Christian proclamation to be credible and effective Christian communities must become what they proclaim — selfless love.

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