Jesus and the Father are One
Beginning with the Easter Vigil and at every celebration of baptism, the Church has a liturgical tradition of asking us to renew our baptismal promises. We pray in the form of a call and response. The priest asks, “Do you renounce Satan?” The congregation then responds, “I do.” A number of other questions follow and toward the end, we are asked if we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who is seated at the right hand of the Father.
There is something very powerful in breaking down this profession of faith into individual questions and asking us to make a simple declaration of belief. It makes us think about what we are saying. For most of the rest of the year, we simply recite the Creed and profess our belief that Jesus Christ is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.” But whether we ask in question-and-answer format or state it directly, what we proclaim is fundamental to our identity as Christians.
In a similar way, in the Gospel reading yesterday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Jesus makes a declaration of something fundamental to his identity. Drawing from the image of sheep and shepherd, Jesus declares, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:27-30).
This bold claim – that Jesus the Son and God the Father are One – which scandalized his listeners at the time is so important for us to believe and understand. After the Lord brought his people out of bondage and the worship of idols in Egypt, they were enjoined to remember always, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Jesus can say that he and God are one without violating the Commandment precisely because he is himself God.
A central truth of our Christian faith is that God is three persons in one God. We profess our faith in God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In effect, the renewal of our baptismal promises is an acknowledgement of the Trinitarian nature of our faith.
The revelation of the Trinity is found in Jesus words. He reveals to us that he is God’s Son. Jesus teaches us that God is not only the Creator of the universe but also the Father of the eternally begotten Son, who became one with us as Jesus Christ. Echoing John’s Gospel, Matthew reports Jesus praising his Father, “No one knows the Son, except the Father, and no one knows the Father except through the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).
By Jesus presence, by his promise of the Holy Spirit and his teaching, Jesus is making known to us the mystery of the Trinity. In many ways, the Gospels proclaim what is essential to the Trinitarian mystery: that there is but one God; that Jesus is the true Son of God, one with the Father.
We recall our baptism in a special way during the Easter season because it is a reminder that it was in those waters that we were renewed and sealed in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in such a way that one God in three persons actually came to dwell within us. For this reason we need to remind ourselves that the Church’s teaching on sharing in the life of the Blessed Trinity is not an abstract exercise in theology. It is a life-giving proclamation that we live in God and God in us to the extent that we lead a life animated in God’s grace.