March 18, 2018
Once the idea of a single, unique God had really taken hold of Israel’s religious imagination, they were able (as we saw last week) to understand that the other nations had, each of them, a unique relationship with the unique God. Election of one nation did not mean the reprobation of all the others; covenant with one nation did not mean that there would never be a covenant with another nation; the Law that was written on tablets of stone was not the only expression of God’s will for the world.
Besides, as long as Israel was less than clear about the universality of God and his plan, they were often tempted to ‘worship other Gods’ or to pursue national and international policies like those of the foreigners. That’s why there’s was a commandment about idolatry and why the prophets so violently inveighed against monarch after monarch. The commandment they broke and the prophets they tortured and slew (thus Jeremiah in today’s first lesson).
So thoroughly shattered was the Mosaic Covenant that God (says J) felt the need to make a new covenant, one that could not go away and could not be broken because it would be written in the very hearts of Israel … in the very spot whence their sins had arisen.
The Church, following the lead of her Master, has seen this new Covenant in the Incarnation of Jesus. Frail and fallible human nature becomes in him the very place where God is to be found in human history. There, God assures the frightened and weak that there is divine strength and hope; and to those who fail he promises his own presence as the healing and redeeming source of mercy to those who confess his presence to their sinfulness.
This acceptance of Jesus’ proclamation that his is the ‘blood of the new and everlasting covenant’ has created a new consciousness in his followers: the Covenant is not made with one race; it is a covenant with all who share the humanity of the Incarnate Son. The new Covenant is not only eternal, it is universal!
Other religions may not feel free to translate their sacred texts or break off from their culture-based forms and formalities. It may be that such concerns as security and prosperity may lead people and nations to suspicion and fear and hatred of all that is not physically local. But Christianity claims, boldly and bravely, that every
authentic human aspiration is to be found in the heart of Jesus and in the Gospel of the new Covenant. Likewise,
every human fear finds its counterweight, not in drugs or a foxhole, but in a expansive and embracive love like God’s own. And it even dares to state that every wrong and every hurt finds healing and every old enmity finds a new future in the mysterious business we call telling the truth and pardoning.
Every week, we come together to assert that Covenant trumps politics, universalism is more critical to human thriving than particularism, and that God is not only great, but he is greater than everything we have ever thought or known or can think or know. Thus, to quote Pope Francis, time is greater than space.
Really and truly and always and everywhere yours,