5th Sunday of Lent

The history of the Jewish people tells of their relationship with God – a relationship that ebbed and flowed, grew hot and cold, went from a passionate, loving bond to infidelity.  Every time Israel turned their backs to the Lord, He came back with a new sign of His love, a new covenant by which He reaffirmed His love for His people.  This Lent we have been hearing the stories of what led up to three of the covenants, the promises God made to His people.

In today’s first reading, we hear about yet another new covenant.  This one will be different, though.  God saw that a rainbow in the sky, or promising a nation whose members numbered more than the sands on the seashore, or giving the people His words written on stone were not enough. All these signs of the covenants God made with His people were not enough for them to internalize His message.  With this new covenant, God wanted to show His desire to have a greater personal relationship with His people.

 

          “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new       covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

           I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. 

          And I will be their God, and they shall be my people; for they shall all know me.”   Jeremiah 31:31-33

 When Jeremiah wrote these words, the Jews were captured by the Babylonians and exiled from Jerusalem. The words were meant to console them, to remind them that they were not abandoned by God, even though they had turned from Him.  God wanted to assure His people that He was with them always.  He wanted to restore their broken relationship caused by the Jews’ infidelity. This new covenant was about God forgiving us of our sins, offering us mercy, salvation, and life. He opens His arms again to us, wrapping us up in His love.

 “God will make a new covenant within them and write it on their hearts!” (Jer 31:33-34).  “Create in me a clean heart,” we reply with Psalm 51.  Are we willing to live the words we pray?  How do we internalize the words of the covenant?  How are we keeping God’s promises?

Next week is Holy Week, are we living the promise? Living the covenant?

Confessions are heard in the Church on Friday from 6 p.m.—7 p.m. prior to Stations of the Cross.

4th Sunday of Lent—Laetare Sunday

   The readings for the fourth week of Lent remind us of how much God is committed to His covenants, how much He loves us, and what He will do to demonstrate that love to us. What does it mean to say God loves us, though? To understand what the Bible means by God’s love we must bear in mind that whereas the Greek language, (the language of the Bible from about 300 BCE), has three different words for three different types of love, English has only one. In Greek we have (1) eros meaning romantic love (like the love between a man and a woman that leads to marriage), (2) philia meaning fellowship love (like the love for basketball which brings fans together), and (3) agape or sacrificial love (like the love that makes a mother risk her own life for her yet unborn child).

In romantic love we long to receive, in fellowship love we long to give and take, in sacrificial love we long to give. This agape love is the love we see in today’s first two readings. This week we are not reminded of a new covenant God entered with His people.  Instead, we see how he honored previous covenants, even when His people did not. Time and again, the Israelites turned from God. He continued to show His love, though, – sending His prophets to remind His people of their part of the covenants, the promises, God made with them, but to no avail.

  “The people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple…  “ 2 Chr 14.

“Early and often did the Lord send His messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people and His dwelling place…” 2 Chr 15.

But God loves us with agape or sacrificial love. That is one big difference between God and us: God gives and forgives, we get and forget. Giving is a sign of agape. This is the kind of love God has for us. He sent His prophets “early and often” to call His people back to His covenant love.  They refused and were sent into exile, then the Lord draws them out to return and rebuild (2 Chr 36).  “Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!” we respond with Psalm 137, along with the exiles in Babylon. 

 The scripture readings remind us that God has been trying for thousands of years to get our attention.  Through messengers, miracles, healings, and proclamations, God has been trying to convince us that the love that is offered us is eternal, sufficient and a gift.  Do our Lenten actions reflect that?  Do our attitudes reflect what God has been trying to convince us of?  Has God gotten our attention yet?

Today we are invited to say yes to God’s love. It is sometimes hard to believe that God loves each of us, but He does because God loves unconditionally; no ifs, ands, or buts. Once we realize this, then we can love God back and enter into a love relationship with God. Then we shall learn to share God’s love with those around us. Then we shall learn to give to God and to one another.  We will be living the covenant, living the promises God has made with His people.

 

Happy Birthday, Fr. Socorro!

 You are a blessing to all of us at St. Valentine Parish! May our Lord continue to bless you.

3rd Sunday of Lent

In today’s first reading from Exodus God offers His people another covenant. This one is much more personal – the words are His words, carved into stone by His hand, and spoken to each one of us.  The covenant with Noah gave us hope after chaos.  The covenant with Abraham showed us the extent of God’s love.  Through Abraham and Isaac we saw how the father so loved God that he was willing to give his only son – a foreshadowing of the role Jesus would play many generations later.  Now, with the Ten Commandments we hear in Exodus 19:5, “I will bestow mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments – my covenant.”

 Is this new covenant a new set of restrictions?  They are, in fact, a part of a larger collection of laws known as the Covenant Code (Exodus 21-23).  But, in reality the Ten Commandments are all about love. John Parsons of Hebrew for Christians has summarized them this way:

1. “I am your only deliverer, the One who loves and chooses you;

2. Love me exclusively;

3. Regard my love as sacred;

4. Rest in me;

5. Honor your life and its history.  Do no harm to others:

6. Forsake anger,

7. Abandon lust,

8. Renounce greed, and

9. Abhor lying.

10. Refuse envy.

 

Know that you belong to me and that you are accepted.  Love others as you are also loved.

 In the Mosaic covenant, God swore eternal devotion to his people and they swore their devotion in return

 Consider what Jesus said, in the new covenant, about the greatest commandments – “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40).  With this Mosaic covenant, God shows us His love and outlines how we can show Him ours.

 Have we thought about the Ten Commandments as a covenant of love?  Have we considered that they are, as we heard in today’s psalm, “the words of everlasting love?” The third week of Lent reminds us of yet, another covenant God made with His people.  This week, our meditation could center on looking at how we live our lives in the love expressed in the covenant made with Moses. 

Join us for Stations of the Cross at 7 pm in Church.

 

Confessions will be heard prior to Stations of the Cross from 6—7 pm in Church.