Are we open to the mercy and love of God?
Time and time again, in the Old Testament, God makes covenants with God’s people, only to witness them broken as humankind fails to be faithful to the relationship to which God has called them. But when God tells the prophet Jeremiah, The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, there is an unusual twist: God promises to write his law not on stone tablets, but within the people, upon their hearts. In Psalm 51, the Miserere, David, having sinned, asks God for a clean heart, one on which God can write God’s law of love once again, a heart touched by God’s mercy, a heart restored to intimacy with God. The covenant described to Jeremiah requires just such radical openness on the part of the people, for God seeks a relationship of intimacy, of sharing, the complete dedication of one’s whole person to the mercy and love of God. Are we open to that mercy and love?
We understand the promise of covenant in Jeremiah to be that fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus knows not to love this life, as John’s Gospel notes, although, fully human, he knows his suffering in death will be great. And yet he cannot ask God to save him from this hour, because it was for this purpose that he came – to suffer, to fall to the ground and die, so that his life might produce much fruit. God sent his Son, fully human, to take humanity to death with him, so humanity could rise with him: I will draw everyone to myself, Jesus says. For our part, a choice is necessary, the choice of radical openness, of willing obedience, like that of Jesus on the cross described in the Book of Hebrews: Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered. Are we open to the suffering of Jesus, that we might also be open to his mercy and love?
Our hearts call us to what is eternal; God calls us to be grounded in love, mercy, and compassion. We can only do so if we, too, choose radical openness to the will of God. Father, glorify your name, Jesus prays. If only we could pray in just that way, willing to die to this life, that we might embrace all that God is leading us to: salvation through his mercy and love.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
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