“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” With these words the Apostles were commissioned to baptize members of all nations into the discipleship of Christ.
Some believe that the words we have here are taken from an early baptismal formula that had the force of communicating that a person baptized in the name of the Trinity belonged to God and came under the protection of the Trinity. The Apostles received this commission in the posture of worship. The words may be taken literally to say that they prostrated themselves in worship. They would have fallen to the ground in reverent awe and received the words that Jesus spoke with all authority in heaven and on earth. (Mt 28:16-20)
The commission included the dedication to the Trinity and also the work of teaching all people to obey everything that Jesus had passed on to them. Because such a stupendous task must have overwhelmed the men designated for the work, Jesus promised to be with his Church always, even to the end of the age. We remember that John’s Gospel speaks of the Advocate, or Helper, whom Jesus would ask the Father to give them to be with them forever. (Jn 14:15-17) This is the Spirit of truth who abides in the Church and who is in us always.
Our second reading works around a similar theme, and Paul tells us that those who are led by the Spirit are children of God. The word children may be interpreted as faithful servants of the Lord. But to continue with the metaphor of children, the Apostle points out that we are adopted by the Father to share in the inheritance of Christ our brother. As we suffer with him so shall we also be glorified with him to share as joint heirs in the kingdom of God. (Rom 8:14-17)
Abba is the word used here for Father. It is an Aramaic term that connotes the close familial relationship between a father and his children. Here it heightens the intimate relationship that God has established with his people in the life he has called them to live with him. Even today Abba can be heard in the streets of Israel being used by children in addressing their fathers. Thus the relationship is not one of fear or slavery, but it is one of love and respect in the household of the faith.
In speaking of the marvelous works of God for his people, we can reflect with the Deuteronomist’s question, “Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has its like ever been heard of?” One of the unique aspects of Israel’s religion was God’s choosing this people for his very own nation. With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm he gathered them to himself. (Dt 4:32-34)
With the Psalmist we hope in the Lord and pray that his steadfast love be upon us. Our souls hope for the Lord. (Ps 33)
Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.