Lent is a time when our attention focusses on God’s promise and covenant. We should imagine that a Sacred Covenant aims to engender, something richer than transactional exchanges. Temporal exchanges remain small and vulnerable to competitive abuse. What of lasting value can come when one party, benefits at the other’s expense? Sacred Covenant invite relational intimacy bringing all signatories well beyond contractual obligations. From the Garden of Eden, to Noah, Abraham, and Moses we see evidence that God reaches out with covenant-making exercises to disclose God’s Self. Agreements with Noah underwent ratification through nature’s rainbow, whereas the Abrahamic treaty is enacted through the physical and personal mark of circumcision. Moses received tablets written in stone, representing both an invoice and receipt. A copy God retains and a copy for humanity.
In order to engage in Sacred Covenant, People of faith must first cry out, “Give us hearts of flesh Oh Lord” where your Holy Law might dwell. First Testament covenants were progressions taken in preparation towards the ultimate and supreme Flesh Treaty. And, Jerimiah speaks to us today about this entirely new covenant, not merely an addendum to existing ones. This new covenant undergoes ratification with blood that flows from the precious wounds of God’s very Son.
A covenant becomes a pledge, into which freely consenting, yet autonomous, partners are bound. There is no coercion, threats or deceit permitted. With no expiry date, these treaties are pristine and eternal. An arrangement, to be sure, for only the pure of heart! Then imagine that the Almighty Sovereign God of the Universe desires to be in partnership, as Jerimiah tells us, with such a fickle partner. Humanity’s record upholding our end of sacred agreements is less than stellar. Who would reach out repeatedly, to us after so much rejection? It seems irrational, but thankfully God does exactly this and the initiative has only one real explanation. Love and Mercy. Any encounter with Love and Mercy will prompt humankind to behave similarly with one another. God’s unrelenting pursuit of Sacred Covenant, in light of, repeated episodes of human infidelity, provide even more evidence of this Creator’s humility.
You see, Sacred covenant emerge, not out of any necessity to contract, but rather as an expression between Lovers and their Beloved. Accepting those terms, allows God’s Love to spill over into our world. We should have no worries that God will faithfully uphold the Trinity’s end of any Divine pledge, although humankind’s resolve is admittedly often a tad weaker. We need the Season of Lent, Word of God, and Sacraments of Mother Church to keep us faithful. Just as in Holy Marriage, husband and wife, attend to each other’s eternal salvation. It is incumbent upon humankind to emulate this model, while attending to each’s well-being.
With deeply faithful love inscribed upon pure hearts, the need to negotiate or bargain dissipates. Terms are necessary only where a deficiency of trust exists. Sacred Covenant, however, is straightforward and built on principles of Love and Mercy sent by the Father, delivered by Jesus, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit. If we all “truly know and act in the Lord”, there is no one to injure or take revenge against. It is a bit like vaccinations. If everyone becomes of a pure heart, there is no one propagating anything but goodness. Infidelity to Sacred Covenant represents an even greater threat to our overall health, than Covid. And this is why we must pray, “Create a clean heart in me Oh Lord.” Spiritual hygiene! It is so that Love can dwell within us and guide our movements.
Philip is one of Jesus’ followers from Bethsaida on the northern shore, of the Sea of Galilee. He’s probably been neighbors with our beloved Peter and brother Andrew. We can imagine Philip is bilingual and understands Greek. Gentiles are looking for Jesus, but first, they go through the Apostles. Today, Jesus is troubled and needing a metaphor. He says, “Only in given way to death, does a single seed produce life!”
The Son of Man is bringing humankind, to its pivotal hour and it is Gentiles who hear this. The Trinity’s Seed humbly experiences even death. Jesus’ suffering and death thus set the stage for the Living God’s greatest glorification. It is in this context, and with that troubled soul that Our Lord says, “If a person loves their life, it will be lost and if they hate their life in this world, they will gain eternal life.” This extreme language stems from the extreme and imminent hour Jesus infers.
The Son does not apply to void the covenant with his father and neither can believers. Instead, Our Lord collects and continues to march us deeper into The Holy Trinity’s Loving embrace. All life truly belongs within that greater context. Yes, ours is a God who while great and mighty, seeks to be near and close. Choosing freely to experience the entire human condition, except sin! Brothers and Sisters, today let us listen to the Angel’s voice speak to us again in this Eucharist. It will sound a bit like Fr Jonathan, drawing us deeper into sacramental covenant and nearer to our Most Pure and Holy God.