Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Yesterday and today, the Psalmist reminds us that the Lord will remember His covenant forever. How could it be otherwise? We hear: “He has made known to his people the power of his works, giving them the inheritance of the nations” and “He, the Lord, is our God; throughout the earth his judgments prevail.” For the Lord to forget His covenant, His Word He would have to forget Himself! On the cross, the Word made flesh gave himself up so that our burden under the Law might be lifted. Thus Jesus says, “. . .blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Our participation in the New Covenant of Christ begins and ends with our obedience to the Word in faith—both listening to the Word and doing all that the Word commands. I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know when I say: this ain't no easy task. And it doesn't get any easier over time. When Israel failed again and again, the Lord accused her of forgetting the covenant. If there's one thing we can do to maintain the strength of our faith, it's to remember the covenant-promises. Paul reminds us, “. . .through faith [we] are all children of God in Christ Jesus.”
What does it mean to be a “child of God”? When the Lord made His covenant with Abraham, He promised to be God for Abraham and his descendents forever. He repeated this covenant-promise to Isaac, Jacob, and Moses and kept to it despite the many failures of Israel to uphold her end of the covenant. If you were born a child of Israel, you were a child of God under the covenant, and you were bound by the Law as a sign of the covenant. Following the Law demonstrated your commitment to the covenant that made you a child of God. You sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem. You followed the dietary law. You kept yourself pure and apart from pagan idols and offered your worship to the Lord alone. If you were male, you were circumcised. All this showed that you were a participant in God's covenant with Abraham. When you followed the Law, God's blessings fell on you and yours in abundance. When you strayed from the Law, it was His wrath that fell instead. Because of the Law, the covenant was limited to Israel. But God's covenant-promise to Abraham included the promise to make him the father of many nations. Therefore, the covenant was never meant to be Israel's alone forever. It took the death and resurrection of the Word made flesh to open Abraham's family to the Gentiles.
Paul reminds us, “. . .through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” So, what does it mean to be a “child of God in Christ”? None of us were born a child of Israel under Abraham's covenant with God. But we are all nonetheless children of God in Christ. We do not follow the Law to show our participation in the covenant; rather, we live in faith, trusting in God's promises, thus making us His children in Christ. All the work necessary for us to become children of God under the Law was accomplished for us by Christ. He fulfilled all of our obligations: he took on all of our sin debts; made all of our sacrifices; washed us clean and keeps us pure. Faith in him is the New Covenant and by faith we are participants in all he has done. All that is left for us to do is believe, trust, and never forget God's mercy. When being a child of God through Christ becomes difficult, remember: the Lord will remember His covenant forever. You need only remember it until you see Him face-to-face. You have heard the Word of God, observe it and live as a child of God, the One Who died so that you might live._____________
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