Summary: The final homily in the series: how God solves the REAL problem of society.
Thursday of the 18th Week in Course
A few years ago, the bishops of the U.S. issued a statement on relations with Jews that, without much thought, referred to the Mosaic covenant with the Jews as enduring forever, or some such language. My friend, E. Michael Jones, responded by reminding the bishops that the Church is the lawful successor to Israel, and that it is the covenant made through the sacrifice of Jesus, our Lord, that is eternal. The bishops ultimately changed the language. That was not a magisterial statement, but it could have caused a lot of confusion. Religious language is confusing enough even when it is careful.
The prophet Jeremiah, who spent his entire career fussing at the people of Israel for their abandonment of the marital covenant God made with them at Sinai, looked forward to the change fulfilled in Jesus and the Church. He wrote of the “new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” not like the covenant which God made with their fathers when He took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, the marital covenant which they broke.
Jesus refers to this sacrificial death and new covenant in today’s Gospel reading. Simon Peter is shown as the head of the apostolic college, speaking for all the apostles when he tells Jesus that they believe Him to be the Christ–the Messiah–and son of the living God. Then he turns around and blows it by refusing to understand that the Messiah must suffer. He was still thinking that the Messiah would be a political leader who would start a revolution and kill all the Romans.
Political revolt and bloodshed does nothing to solve the real problem. The real problem is not a political one, although political structures can get in the way of solving the problem. The real problem is not “out there” and fixable by some legislation or decree or jackboot police force. The real problem is “in here”–in the human heart–which makes us think and do self-centered things that are harmful to ourselves and others. Jesus came to rewrite the law. First He taught us that the law is simple–love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Then, by the operation of the Holy Spirit in baptism, He writes that law on our hearts. He gives us the grace to fulfill the Law. Only one person got that grace without being baptized–Jesus’s mother, Mary.
As we conclude the great encyclical on faith, our two Popes share with us a final thought on the Mother of God, one that mirrors Matthew’s testimony today: Because of her close bond with Jesus, Mary is strictly connected to what we believe. As Virgin and Mother, Mary offers us a clear sign of Christ’s divine sonship. The eternal origin of Christ is in the Father. He is the Son in a total and unique sense, and so he is born in time without the intervention of a man. As the Son, Jesus brings to the world a new beginning and a new light, the fullness of God’s faithful love bestowed on humanity. But Mary’s true motherhood also ensures for the Son of God an authentic human history, true flesh in which he would die on the cross and rise from the dead. Mary would accompany Jesus to the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), whence her motherhood would extend to each of his disciples (cf. Jn 19:26-27). She will also be present in the upper room after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, joining the apostles in imploring the gift of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). The movement of love between Father, Son and Spirit runs through our history, and Christ draws us to himself in order to save us (cf. Jn 12:32). At the center of our faith is the confession of Jesus, the Son of God, born of a woman, who brings us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to adoption as sons and daughters (cf. Gal 4:4).
And with Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, we can pray: Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that those who believe are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!