Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the feast of our God … as we Christians know him. At the beginning of St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus Christ was introduced to us as: “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) With the coming of the Christ into our world, we began to speak of the Incarnation, of God becoming human and living among us in the person of Jesus. (John 1:14) In today’s Gospel this Jesus/Immanuel/God-with us says to us, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Today’s feast is inextricably tied up with the person of Jesus Christ, not with Jesus back there then, but with Christ here with us even now. When the rich young man ran up to Jesus, knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:17 18) In saying that ‘In Jesus, a human like us, God is with us,’ we are really reaffirming what the story of Creation back in the Book of Genesis kept proclaiming over and over of all of Creation, ourselves included: that it is good … with God in its midst. (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31. C.f.: 3:8) Here in today’s Gospel, we are told, ‘When they saw Jesus they worshiped him, but some doubted.’ (Matthew 28:17) This was said of his Disciples when they encountered the Risen Jesus, that same God whom we might encounter should we seek him to worship him. (C.f.: Matthew 2:2) Why did they doubt? The world as we find it can seem far from good: many do not have the wherewithal to live; then, added to this, violence in all its forms, together with climate change, is increasingly make life impossible; and amongst ourselves, we face an epidemic of loneliness, isolation, distrust and anxiety. All this, together with all the rest of the world’s ills, is enough to see us all have doubts, raise questions, and see us waver in our commitment to (even withdraw from) the God-who-is-with-us. Yet this is the context in which we receive his promise: “I am with you always.”

This world, our world … in all its travail, says to us all the day long: “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3, 10) On my faith journey, when I put this question to him, the only answer I ever got back was: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) For me, this meant that my search for God had to take place in the Monastery (c.f.: Rule of St Benedict 58:7), where two or three gather in his name — though I did recognise that for most, where two gather in his name is mostly within Christian Marriage. And on my quest I have found and come to ‘see’ the very human face of God. We, according the Creation story, are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27) We need to seek God, to see his face (Psalm 27:8-9), that we may know what we are to be: I have to be like that — much as Jesus knew himself as Son, because he knew God as Father, the author of all he is in what he does. (C.f.: John 14:9; 5:19ff) Our quest can only take place within the gathering; it is only there that we can find ourselves at home with God and know him as Immanuel, God-with us. (C.f.: John 8:35) As we speak, I am mindful of all the masculine terms we apply to God, and note with St Paul that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Within the gathering we might all do different things having different gifts and talents, but essentially there is no division, for we are all one … as our God is one. (Romans 12:4ff; Rule of St Benedict 2:20) That which seeks to dominate or divide and separate is not of God and we will not him there. (C.f.: Matthew 20:25-26)

This Jesus drew near to us in our messy, painful and broken-hearted world, and did what he could to heal and liberate, to bring about justice, kindness and peace, to make a world where life to the full is possible. (C.f.: Exodus 3:9-14:31) In this he showed us just how much God loves the world. (John 3:16; 14:13; Romans 5:8) We are called to be like him, to be like God-with-us, to be as God-with-us for one another. (C.f.: John 13:16, 20) We are called to do as he did: by being with the vulnerable in their suffering, and so being vulnerable to their suffering — in his solidarity with sinners, Jesus found himself condemned and put to death as a sinner; this is likely to be our lot, too. (John 15:18ff) In our broken world, we obscure his presence by our passivity, our complicity, our silence; we cannot be like that. This Jesus says to us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) We are to love one another … as we are and where we are — we cannot just love, we must love someone; the gathering with others is necessary; there is no do it alone by yourself salvation. In today’s Gospel this Jesus commands us to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’ (Matthew 28:19) We do this and show ourselves to be his disciples in our loving them (John 13:35) — in our seeking to heal, to offer forgiveness, to embrace the unwanted and the neglected, by opposing injustice, violence, war, hypocrisy and greed, by doing what we can to promote peace, in our trying to create a world where life is possible, a world that is good. (C.f.: Matthew 5:1ff; John 14:12)

And in this way we will enable others to glimpse the God-who-is-with-us, the God-in our-midst, the God who loves us so much. This is a big ask. (C.f.: Rule of St Benedict 68:1 5) What makes it possible is Christ’s gift to us of his Spirit, that bond of love between him and his Father that makes all things possible. (Matthew 9:23. C.f.: Genesis 1:2) This he could give through his returning to the God who is his Father, and which he sent on us at Pentecost, … that same Spirit that came on him and saw him called ‘Beloved Son.’ (John 16:7; 20:22-23; 21:20; Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Acts 2:4; Mark 1:11) Its coming on us will see us caught up in the very life of our God; we, too, can aspire to be called God’s much loved son/daughter. Ours, then, is a call to believe that ‘nothing is impossible for God,’ to believe in his promise to be with us forever, and to do what we can to make it real and not to lose heart by loving those whom he loved first. (Luke 1:37, 45; John 14:21, 23; 21:15; 1 John 4:19) In lots of ways, today’s feast is a feast that celebrates ourselves and what we are called to be, as it is a feast that celebrates our God-with-us. (C.f.: Deuteronomy 4:7)

By Dom Steele Hartmann OCSO