Ref lection and The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: A New Covenant and a News Heart
Reflection. Dialogue with questions of the day does not necessarily mean only with the social, cultural, political non-Church life. The first dialogue of the readings must be with believers, since, as the Second Vatican Council (Document on Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 7) reminds us, Christ is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. A first message of the readings today is awareness of the new covenant, as a vision and a reality – a vision in Jeremiah and reality through Christ and the Holy Spirit. As Paul reminds us, the new covenant is a letter written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of the human heart. Paul and the church are made worthy to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:3,6). There must be constant humble response to this covenant by constant prayer to create a pure heart within us.
Another message with believers in this dialogue from today’s readings is that for Christ his crucifixion is a victory, his victory over all forces opposing his saving work, this “world”, the power of the devil and any other power. Jesus says all this to give confidence to his followers. He has given his victory to them. “I have said to you so that you may have peace. In the world you will have persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). The same message is for believers of all generations in time of attacks on their faith. Christ and the Holy Spirit are in their hearts and consciences to strengthen then. “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), meaning any force trying to draw you away from Christ and the church. A little later the same writer gives the encouraging words of the victory of faith over adverse forces (“the world”); “Who it is who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4).
The victory of which Christ speaks, won by him and given to believers, presumes that believers remain united with him, taking Jesus’ example of the grain of what, and dying to one’s passions and sinful ways.
Dialogue.. If we pass to dialogue with “the world”, with the society of our own day, sometimes unbelieving, we can bear the advice of 1 Peter 3:15-16 in mind: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence”. While believers hold the truths of today’s readings, they as believers are involved in social life at all levels, the cultural, the political and others as well. But in all this they believe in the prime demands of Christ, recalling his words: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). The same would hold true (and much more so) for country, political party or anything else. There cannot be question of country or political party first and one’s Christian religion (which means the demands of Christ) afterwards. If such assertions are made, it can clearly be pointed out that allegiance to Christ and his Church does not take from political or cultural commitments.
It may not be too often that a person is called on to decide between allegiance to Christ, one’s religion, Church or political party or country. There is, of course, no intrinsic incompatibility between allegiance to Christ, the Church and social commitments. The contrary is the case, as devotion to God and Church has inspired and continues to inspire, involvement in community development. History proves it, and it is clear that the present political and cultural situation has arisen over the years from the commitment of believers in Christ, in the Church, and in Christ’s saving and liberating message to the advancement of humanity. The “dying to oneself” of the Christian message holds good in its own way for the lives of all, and leads to individual lives which inspire public confidence. Without constant self-restraint we end up with a broken society, prey to our worst instincts