“The Lord is making this agreement with you: you are to be a people peculiarly His own, as He promised you; and provided you keep all His commandments…” —Deuteronomy 26:18
In the old covenant, God made us His people. Our responsibility in the covenant was “to walk in His ways and observe His statutes, commandments and decrees” (Dt 26:17). We were utterly incapable of the complete obedience called for in this covenant. So we broke the covenant.
Then God made a new covenant not just with the Jewish people but with all people. He covenanted not only to be our God but also our Father. We are not only His people but also His children. In this best and final covenant with God, our Father requires us not only to be obedient but even perfect (Mt 5:48). As children of God, we must act like God — even to the point of loving our enemies (see Mt 5:44). How could humanity, which failed in a lesser covenant, be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect?
God the Father sent His Son Jesus to bring about the new covenant through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We must believe in Jesus and be baptized into Him (see Rm 6:3). In this way, we receive a new nature. In this nature, we have the grace to become perfect. We do this by following the Holy Spirit in Whom we are also baptized. In the baptized life of the new covenant, the life in the Spirit, we live in the new dimension of grace, holiness, perfection, light, freedom, power, and miracles.
In this Lent, as the catechumens of the world prepare to be baptized, let us sacrificially and joyfully prepare to renew our baptismal covenant at Easter.
Prayer: Father, may I live fully the abundant, eternal life of the new covenant.
Promise: “Happy are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” —Ps 119:1
Praise: After having an abortion, Sarah felt heavily laden with guilt. Confessing her sin, she received forgivenss and healing.
“Go first to be reconciled.” —Matthew 5:24
In the Sermon on the Mount, the quintessence of the new covenant, Jesus expresses His divinity by superseding the old law in several ways. Jesus’ first such statement is: “You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers, ‘You shall not commit murder; every murderer shall be liable to judgment.’ What I say to you is: everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22). Anger, angry words, and angry thoughts are forbidden (Mt 5:22). Even if we are not angry with anyone but someone is angry with us, we must halt even our worship and “go first to be reconciled” immediately (Mt 5:23-24). Otherwise, we may be thrown into a prison of some sort, and we “will not be released until” we “have paid the last penny” (Mt 5:26).
Even if we are reconciled with everyone and everyone with us, we still must proclaim the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19-20) and work in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). Reconciliation is such a high priority for Jesus that He reconciled “everything in His person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20; see also Eph 2:16). We as disciples of Jesus must make reconciliation a very high priority. “We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5:20)
Prayer: Father, make my celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation a catalyst for a life of reconciliation.
Promise: “If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him.” —Ez 18:21-22
Praise: St. Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna where he served as bishop. When given the chance to have his life spared, he said: “For eighty-six years I have served Jesus Christ and He has never abandoned me. How could I curse my blessed King and Savior?”
From the Mirror of Love
Saint Aelred, abbot
[ 1110 – 1167 A.D. ]
In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one’s enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ. He who is more fair than all the sons of men offered his fair face to be spat upon by sinful men; he allowed those eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men; he bared his back to the scourges; he submitted that head which strikes terror in principalities and powers to the sharpness of the thorns; he gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, remaining always gentle, meek and full of peace.
Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity – Father, forgive them – and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?
Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgement; therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognise my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
If someone wishes to love himself he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wishes to resist the promptings of his sinful nature he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of the Lord. Further, if he wishes to savour the joy of brotherly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love.
But if he wishes to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Saviour.
“I for My part declare to you, you are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build My Church.” —Matthew 16:18
Jesus is the Carpenter (Mk 6:3). He probably built several chairs out of wood. Like any skilled carpenter, Jesus would have built His chairs to last. The chair would have a firm foundation to prevent toppling and give confidence to the one seated in the chair.
Jesus is also “Head of the Church” (Eph 1:22). As Founder and Head of the Church, Jesus built His Church upon Peter and his successors (Mt 16:18). The pope leads the Church because Jesus planned it that way.
Jesus, the Master Carpenter, has built another chair, the chair of St. Peter. This chair is built not from wood, but from the authority of the pope. It has a firm foundation and the one who sits on that chair will not topple because of the skill of Jesus, its Builder. In fact, even the powers of hell cannot prevail against the Church (Mt 16:18-19). This chair is built to last forever.
Someday, Jesus will be sitting in another chair, the Judgment Seat (see Mt 25:31). He will ask you to render an account of your life (Heb 4:13). When Jesus asks you how you respected and followed the authority of the one who sat in the chair of St. Peter, the chair He Himself built, how will you answer Him?
Prayer: Jesus, I’ve spent too much time reclining in an easy chair instead of serving You (1 Pt 4:2-3). I repent of any rebellion against Your authority and Your Church. I give You my love and my life.
Promise: “When the chief Shepherd appears you will win for yourselves the unfading crown of glory.” —1 Pt 5:4
Praise: “The Holy Spirit descended upon all who were listening to Peter’s message” (Acts 10:44).