by Father Mike Stubbs
Typically, we Catholics begin prayer by making the sign of the cross.
In a similar way, when we enter the church building, we usually pause at the holy water font to dip our hand in it to make the sign of the cross.
That action reinforces and reminds us of our baptism. It draws on the words spoken at the moment of our baptism: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We hear those words addressed by Jesus to the apostles in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mt 28:16-20. He is commissioning them to continue his work on earth, as he leaves them to ascend into heaven.
That work will involve spreading the good news of salvation and teaching those who accept that message on how to live it out. And it will involve the sacrament of baptism to seal the deal, so to speak.
In commissioning the apostles, Jesus supplies them with the formula that they are to use in administering that sacrament, the words that we echo in making the sign of the cross. But those words do so much more than simply fulfill the requirement for the sacrament to take effect.
The words also describe what happens to us in the sacrament of baptism. We are immersed in God, into the fullness of God’s reality — that is to say, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That is the mystery we celebrate this weekend on Trinity Sunday. Just as baptism lies at the core of our being as Christians, the mystery of the Holy Trinity lies at the core of our faith.
It is so close to us, so much a part of us, that we might easily overlook it. This solemnity draws our attention to it.
That is why we invoke the Holy Trinity when we begin prayer. That is why the word structure of the prayers in our liturgy reflects our belief in the Holy Trinity. In the liturgy, prayer is directed to the Father, through the Son, with the Holy Spirit.
All three divine persons are involved. Each person has a part to play, not the same as the others.
When we make the sign of the cross, our words echo the words of our baptism and remind us of that sacrament.
At the same time, those words underline the importance of the Holy Trinity in our lives of faith.