Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews teaches us: “Christ is mediator of a new covenant. . .” The old covenant btw God and His servant, Abraham, was mediated—negotiated or worked-through—the Law. To be part of the old covenant meant following the Law: the purity codes, the dietary restrictions, the prescribed temple sacrifices made at the appointed times. This attention to religious detail assured that you were always conscious of our covenant relationship with God and it habituated you to living with a fundamental truth of human reality: as long as you were alive, you lived, moved, and had your being in God. The whole purpose of the old covenant was to keep you in right relationship with God—properly aligned with His will—so that you could prosper from His abundant blessings. The new covenant serves this same purpose. However, b/c the new covenant is mediated through Christ, all of our religious obligations under the old covenant have been fulfilled by Christ. In other words, he entered the temple of heaven and made of himself an eternal sacrifice, once for all.
Just yesterday we heard Jesus read to the men of his synagogue an 800 year old prophecy made by Isaiah and announce to them that this prophecy had been “fulfilled in their hearing.” That prophecy foretold the arrival of a Messiah, one blessed by God with His Holy Spirit, one who would bring to His people liberation from the death of sin. Christ says (in effect) to those with him in the synagogue: “I am the long-awaited Messiah.” From that moment on, Jesus spends his days preaching the Good News of God's mercy to sinners and preparing himself to be the last sacrificial offering made to the Father. He prepares himself to enter the temple of heaven by praying, fasting, healing the sick and injured; feeding the hungry; freeing souls from unclean spirits; and releasing captives from sin. He did all these things to demonstrate that he is the Christ, the Son of God, so that we might come to believe in him and share in his once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. To be part of the new covenant means following the law of love: following Christ to his cross and loving one another sacrificially, loving one another all the way to death for the sake of love.
Lest there be any misunderstanding about what it means to love sacrificially, let me spell it out. The love that Christ commands us to give is not the love that the world seems to hold so dear. Worldly love demands that we be indifferent to truth and goodness. That we ignore or sweeten falsehood and treat goodness as little more than opinion. What is truth? Who decides what's good or evil? It's all just depends on circumstance, or what your personal values happen to be. That's not love. We cannot love someone and lie to them. We cannot love someone while pretending that evil is good. Loving others as Christ loves us means leading them to truth and goodness, leading them into a right relationship with God. It means being willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to tell the truth, standing ready to proclaim the Good News, and living every minute of our lives as if Christ himself were standing right behind us. Love isn't about avoiding unpleasant conflicts, or “being nice.” Jesus entered the temple of heaven through his death on the cross and offered himself for us once-for-all. That's love. He gave his life so that we might live. That's love. As those who would live the new covenant, we are vowed to stand as Christs for others. Loving them all is our sacrifice.______________
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