Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lectio Divina

Here is my reflection for my Lectio Divina study group on Jeremiah 31:31-34

While this passage from the Prophet Jeremiah may seem like just a simple description of the old and the new Covenant, there is much here we can find, upon deeper reflection, to prepare us for the upcoming Holy Week and the Passion of our Blessed Lord. And in this preparation we can even arrive at a newfound appreciation for the life of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, whose death we so fittingly remember at this time.

First it is important to note the language with which Jeremiah speaks of the Old Covenant between God and his chosen people. Jeremiah says that God “took them by the hand,” a phrase exclusive to his prophecy, to “bring them out of the land of Egypt” and that he “was their husband.” Of all the nations, it was Israel’s hand that God took so that she would be his spouse, the one he would favor and set apart from the rest.

But, alas, Israel was not faithful and by her sins broke the special bond between herself and God. But, as is always the case, God always keeps up his side of the covenant: he has not stopped loving Israel and never will. But since one party has broken the covenant, a new one must be made, this time with similar but different terms. “Its content did not change, but [the] people will know it in a different way.” The special bond that was shared, the special knowledge the Israelites had of God, was protected, before, by His law, written on tablets of stone and expressed as obligations and commands. But, in the new covenant, says the Lord: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” and, we might add, in their very being. In doing so, he made the bond between Himself and His people even stronger. If man were to break this law, he would not only be divorcing himself from God, but would be divorcing himself from his very identity. Only by repenting and returning to God would man be able to reclaim his identity and be most human and most himself.

This law of God, engraved on man’s heart, is what is referred to as natural law, or man’s participation in God’s Eternal Law. It is through faithful adherence to this natural law that man can live up to his side of the demands of the new Covenant. But, he is not left solely to his own devices in this discernment. At that most holy moment, when the terms of this covenant were finally established, God, through his only Son, Jesus Christ, formed the Catholic Church to rightly instruct man in the formation of his conscience and the following of natural law. But, what was this holy moment? When was Jeremiah’s prophecy fulfilled?

“When the hour came, Christ sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.’ See how our Lord desires to be in close union with his chosen people again? “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” And the Angelic Doctor adds that it is also “from the side of Christ sleeping on the Cross [that] the Sacraments flowed-namely, blood and water-on which the Church was established.”

So it is here that we meditate on the Passion of our Blessed Lord, the sharing of his Precious Blood at the Last Supper, its spilling through his torture, and its flowing from the cross, to establish a new covenant once and for all, to restore the bond man once enjoyed with his Creator, and to give life to the Church in order to protect that bond.

But, finally, here we also meditate on another Passion, of another Christ, another servant of the servants of God, called by many: Pope John Paul the Great. A new book, released a couple of weeks ago in Italy, describes his last moments:

Archbishop Dziwisz recalls the moment on Easter Sunday, 2005, when Pope John Paul II appeared at the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace, but found himself unable to speak… It was at that moment… that the Polish Pope realized he could no longer carry out his work. He prayed: "Your will be done,"… Realizing that he was approaching death, the Pope decided against a return to the Gemelli hospital… "He wanted to suffer at home, staying close to the tomb of Peter the apostle,"… During the last day of his life, April 2, Pope John Paul took his final leave of his associates… He prayed with them during the early part of the day, despite a raging fever and extreme fatigue brought on by a complete physical collapse. In the afternoon he uttered his last words: "Let me go to the house of the Father." Early in the evening, after a last glimpse of an image of the Virgin of Czestochowa at his bedside, he closed his eyes for the last time.

What more could we do to live a life worthy of the ultimate sacrifice of God’s only Son and the constant dedication of his holy vicar on earth, than to keep the new covenant always before us? By learning from the Church how to follow this covenant more and more, we can better appreciate our human dignity that Christ died to restore and raise up and that our Holy Father died to disclose to the world.

1 comment:

REINNIER.com said...

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