Periods of transition are always challenging because they put us on the frontier of the unknown. We can say that we are living in a time of transition now as things begin to open up more fully as the pandemic seems to be waning. It is natural in the face of the unknown to have doubts, to be apprehensive, and to be afraid that things could go wrong. But fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, and fear of causing harm to others or ourselves, when allowed to dominate our thinking, leads not to saving life but to stagnation and the withering away of our life. If we stay locked down, sure we might avoid getting a virus, but we also preclude the possibility of growth and the fulfillment of our lives. What we are realizing now is that lockdowns have caused more harm than good - have led to a greater loss of life than the lives they have saved. As we saw last week, the apostles were able to overcome their self-imposed lockdown and their fear by recognizing the presence of Christ among them and by receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. They experienced God’s love for them - his mercy for them, and received the promise of the Holy Spirit so that they could be instruments of Christ’s mercy in the world. Christ would be present in them - at work in them. Our readings today for Trinity Sunday show us how to overcome the doubt that holds us back. In the reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, we find the Israelites at a point of transition. They are near the end of the wanderings in the desert but have not yet crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. They have gotten weary and have begun to lose hope because things are not progressing as quickly as they had expected. Moses exhorts them to trust in the Lord, to continue to follow the Lord, and to stay faithful to the Covenant. Moses appeals to their history, the fact that God has chosen them and that God has saved them. Moses points to specific things - to specific events. If we don’t make a judgment about the facts that appear before our very eyes and see the meaning in them, it is as if they never happened. Unless we recognize the facts and their meaning - that God loves us and is present with us, that truth will not be “fixed in our hearts”. Without that recognition and judgment, the teaching about God’s providence remains abstract and we will be afraid to move forward. It remains head knowledge and not something we know in our heart. Faith remains a theological concept and not a lived reality - not something that can change and move us.
In the Gospel, we find the eleven disciples also in a period of transition. They have seen Jesus risen from the dead, but have not yet embarked on their mission. “When they saw Jesus, they worshiped, but they doubted” (28:17). The only other place this verb “to doubt” is used in the New Testament is when Peter is walking on the water toward Jesus and begins to sink. Jesus catches him and says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:31). Jesus uses this expression, “O you of little faith”, when the faith of the disciples is not as deep as it should be. We hear him say this after telling the disciples, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink , or about your body… Look at the birds… are you not more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” God will provide. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:33). In our doubt and fear, just as with the disciples here in Galilee and in the Upper Room, Jesus draws near to us and sends us forth, assuring us not to worry, that we will not be alone, and that he is with us. The success of the mission does not depend on our power, abilities, and skills but on the fact that we have been chosen and that Jesus is with us. Jesus says, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations… And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Unless our eyes are open to his presence, unless we seek him, we won’t grow in faith. Faith requires a journey, a going forth, a going on mission, because Christ’s presence is revealed “on the way”. Jesus is “the way”. The more we follow with open eyes, the more evidence we see that God is with us and taking care of us. If we stay locked in or locked down, we become a slave to our circumstances.
In our baptism, we have been chosen by God and have been sent forth, like the disciples, to continue Christ’s mission. St. Paul reminds us as he reminds the Romans, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” We discover our sonship - that we are beloved sons and daughters of God, if we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. We discover the promise, i.e., receive the inheritance, and share in Christ’s glory, “if only we suffer with him”, i.e., take the risk to embrace the cross - to go out on mission into the world. We are not supposed to do it on our own. Jesus keeps his promise to be with us always in the celebration of the Mass when he comes near to us through the power of Holy Spirit and is made present to us in the Eucharist. We receive him and are sent forth. Every Mass ends with a dismissal - a sending forth on mission - that begins with the word “Go”. “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Or simply, “Go in peace.”
In the next few weeks, the newly ordained priests and deacons will arrive at their new assignments. All the priests and deacons being reassigned also are in a period of transition, having to face the unknown. I remember what it was like before my ordination. When one looks at the mission in the abstract, one is easily filled with doubt and worry. To overcome the doubt, one has to look at the facts of what God has done already in one’s life - how he has gotten you to this point in a surprising way. I have to remind myself that I did not choose him but he has chosen me. And most importantly to trust in the Holy Spirit and the grace that he will bring. There is a real grace - a change that happens with ordination and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But I only discover his presence when I go where the Lord has called me to go. The central mystery of our faith is that God is a Trinity - three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, living in a communion of life and love, and we have been chosen to share in this life. The Father sends the Son on mission. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to continue the mission to reconcile all nations to God and to one another through the lives of the disciples. And that mission of peace and unity happens only if we go. If the lockdowns have taught us anything, it is that we have a deep need for union and communion - to live in a communion of life and love - that our destiny is with God and that we are made to share in the Trinitarian life. May we make a judgment about what our heart is telling us and not be afraid to get out and go.