Summary: Though Israel disobeyed and broke the covenant with God, God did not give up, and formed a new people in a New Covenant that fulfilled the Old in the crucified Christ
Monday of First Week in Advent 2008
The words of Jesus today stand alongside those of Isaiah: two prophets saying the same thing. In these latter days, the true Israel of God is the people who understand how to obey the authoritative word. In Jesus’s case, it was a pagan centurion who learned how to respect God from the respect his soldiers paid him. Isaiah tells us that the sign of the latter days is that all the nations would come to worship the God of Jacob. It is telling that Isaiah calls Isaac’s son Jacob, rather than Israel. The word “Israel” means “God-fighter,” one who contends with God. That was the experience of the relationship of God and His people for two thousand years, all the way to the days of Mary and Jesus. God would call His people to covenant loving obedience in faith, and they broke the covenant. Over and over again they rebelled. In our own lives we know the story well: over and over again you and I have heard God’s command, and turned away.
But, as the Holy Father tells us, God did not give up. The Old Covenant was not abrogated; it was fulfilled in Jesus’s obedience unto death. “In his crucified flesh, God’s freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact.” Christ’s crucifixion and death is the pinnacle of God’s own turning against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise humans up and save us. This is the most radical form of love. We are delivered from our turning against ourselves, our neighbor and our God when God turns against himself, in some sense turns himself inside out to pour out his love on us.
In the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus spoke of His blood being the “new and eternal covenant.” It was an echo of John the Baptist’s words on seeing Jesus come for baptism: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The priest invites us to approach, despite and even because of the venial sins that, like clogged sinuses in December, keep us from breathing the pure life of the Holy Spirit and singing God’s praise. The priest, in the new translation, tells us Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.. And we will respond with the words of the centurion: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. He frees us by this sacrament.