Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Homilies

The Old Covenant vs. The New Covenant
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.
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The Old Covenant vs. The New Covenant

Homily for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we read the fourth and final installment of our consideration of the Letter to the Hebrews, a letter that has exhorted us to consider what our ancestors have done through faith and, then, to imitate our ancestors by appreciating what we can do as people of faith. As an appeal for adherence to Christian teaching, the two covenants, that of Moses and that of Jesus Christ, are compared.

The passage begins by telling us what we have not done; namely, we have not drawn near to a blazing fire or gloomy darkness and storm. We have not heard a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that they no longer be addressed to them. This is a description of what the children of Israel experienced as they approached Mount Sinai and as they watched Moses climb to the top of the mountain where, in the midst of flashes of lightning and a driving wind and fire, he received the stone tablets on which God had written the covenant or contract which was to bind them to God.

This description is followed by a description of what Jesus has done for us. Rather than a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words that strike fear into our hearts, we have heard Jesus express God’s mercy and love for us through parables. We have also watched as Jesus has healed the sick, expelled demons, cured lepers, and raised the dead. He himself died on a cross and ascended into heaven after explaining to us that we too would follow him into the Kingdom of His Father. Rather than Mount Sinai, we have approached mount Zion, the city of the living God and heavenly Jerusalem. In that city Jesus sets on the throne surrounded by countless angels and the assembly of the firstborn. God, the just judge of all, has made the spirits of the firstborn perfect through the blood of Jesus, our mediator. This is a picture of what to expect in heaven. Though not explicitly stated, the picture implies a question. Who would settle for anything less?

The person who lives by faith need not fear the wrath of God. The new city of God is a sign of hope for those living under fear, whether fear of persecution and oppression, or fear of the inner forces and demons that torment us. While the children of Israel knew only a God of fear that struck awe in their hearts, we who have placed our faith in Jesus know that God who embodies perfect mercy, compassion, and love.

The fulfillment of our faith is, of course, love. The passage ends with a picture of love; namely, the blood of Jesus poured out for us. Before he went to the cross, Jesus asked his disciples to love one another as he loved them. Yes, we are called to lives characterized by the same kind of love that Jesus expressed for us. We are to pour out our lives for others.

The Gospel for today reminds us of the important ingredient that is called for from every believer. We are to be God’s humble children, people who realize who we are and what God can accomplish through us. The Christian meaning of humility was aptly defined by Saint Benedict in his Rule when he says: humility means overcoming forgetfulness. Humility means opposing the forgetfulness that would like to make us forget that we are creatures who can live only from his gift and who can exist and keep the world tolerable only by serving. (Pope Benedict XVI – “On Love”) The statement about humility is offered throughout the Gospels so often that it cannot be ignored. The one who humbles himself will be exalted. This “theology of reversal” is a road map for the Christian who is meant to reach out to the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. God uses our hands as agents of his power to heal and bless.

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