June 6, 2021
What is a Covenant? Why is it so important to God? Why is it so important to your life?
- Scott Hahn’s Catholic Bible Dictionary notes that a covenant is more than a contract. A covenant is about a bond between persons and usually involves a sacred oath.
- Covenants often had a ritual that involved a common meal as a sign that the parties had become one family.
- The people of Israel discovered that God himself wanted to enter into a covenant with them. God desired a union with His people.
- The Lord called Moses to give him the conditions of the covenant. He was asking them to recognize the truth, that He is their God, and gives Moses the 10 commandments.
- At the Last Supper, Jesus expresses a new covenant. He speaks of His Body and Blood as the new everlasting covenant.
- The Eucharist is both a family meal and a meal of God’s family. God is calling His people into union, to sacred communion and to Holy Communion, a sacrifice of the New Covenant.
- The sacrifice of Jesus is made present in the Mass so that if we have faith in it, those graces will flow in us and through us into the world.
“The blood of the new and everlasting covenant.” We hear those words in every Mass, and all the readings today are speaking of the blood of the covenant. What was so important about a covenant that Jesus was willing to die in order to fulfill this covenant? What does this covenant mean for you, for your life?
We saw in the first reading, where after the word of the covenant was read, then they are sprinkled with the blood as a sign of this ritual self-curse, binding them to obey the covenant that they are making with God, a sacred oath and liturgical ritual. God is inviting this people to have God Himself, as their God, to recognize the truth, that He is their God. And He’s also asking them to be loving towards each other, to not kill, to not steal, to not lie, to not commit adultery, to honor their father, and mother. And almost immediately, and this is the great realism of Scripture, the people break the covenant, and are unfaithful.
In the Gospel reading today, we have the new covenant, when Jesus says, “This is My Blood of the covenant, the new and everlasting covenant.” Jesus is taking upon Himself, the curse that came from the people breaking their covenant, the curse of sin. He is giving His life because God desires union with His people. He is calling His people into union, sacred communion, to Holy Communion. This meal is a sacrifice, a sacrifice of the New Covenant. God knows that we’re sinners and He offers His sacrifice so that if we trust in Him, if we accept His sacrifice, if we believe in Him, the power of His sacrifice can wash us and free us from the curse brought on by our sins and permits us to enter into Holy Communion with our Lord. Jesus gives us this opportunity to renew the covenant, to renew the union for Blood of the new and everlasting covenant in Mass. So, this feast of Corpus Christi, and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, of the sacred mysteries, is calling us back to the essence of our faith.
“The blood of the new and everlasting covenant.” We hear those words in every Mass, and all the readings today are speaking of the blood of the covenant. But maybe that doesn’t mean that much to us, especially the word covenant. It’s not a word maybe we’re very familiar with. But what was so important about a covenant that Jesus was willing to die in order to fulfill this covenant? And what does this covenant mean for you, for your life? What does it have to do with your own life? So, let’s look a little bit at what is a covenant, because a covenant, actually the word is sometimes translated “testament.” It comes from the same word that is more exactly often a covenant. So, when we speak of the Old Testament, and the New Testament, it’s the same word, old covenant and new covenant. So, the covenants were not just something of the Israelites. The covenants are something which are common among all the peoples of biblical times. And so, Scott Hahn and his Catholic Bible Dictionary, which I’ll be following some of the points here, he notes that a covenant is more than a contract. Because a contract typically deals with things like property or house or car, whereas a covenant is about a bond between persons, so not things but persons. And there’s all sorts of just purely secular contracts. But a covenant usually had a sacred oath involved. So, it was the sign of the solemnity, the importance of a covenant to invoke a sacred oath, a sacred bond. So why would you have a covenant? What’s the reason for a covenant? When do you use a covenant? What does the covenant do? So, the amazing thing about a covenant is the covenant not normally, a family bonds are something that you’re born with, you’re related to the people by birth. But. what a covenant does is it creates a family bond between two persons who were not related by birth, two persons or two parties, two unrelated parties And so that we know that the great example of marriage and that’s one of the amazing thing about a marriage, is that two persons who are not family can by a covenant, by the marriage covenant, become family, belong to each other. And so, a covenant would involve two parties, whether it would be two persons or two families, two tribes, even to nations. And sometimes it was among equals and sometimes one would be a superior, one would be an inferior; like in a case of a kind of a covenant between a king and his vassal. And so, since the covenant, it was important for the covenant, that each party know what they were getting into, and they were freely accepting that. So, the conditions had to be made clear because a covenant involved duty, rather involved privileges, and rights that a person was gaining, but with those privileges and rights, often also duties and responsibilities, so those had to be made clear. And the covenant was for the people then legally binding, so of a serious thing. And so how do you go about making a covenant? And so, the covenant will often be expressed in words. For instance, we see in in the first reading today, where Moses was reading from the Book of the Covenant, so we recalling the words of the covenant, But covenants also often expressed or involved rituals, symbolic rituals, which would express what the covenant was about. One example which is not in the Bible, but just as a typical example, that time this was from Assyria. There’s a record from a person in Assyria in which the covenant involved the ritual of taking a lamb and cutting off the lamb’s head. And so, then the oath of the covenant in that case, said that this lamb represents me, the person making a covenant. May God do the same thing to me, that is cut off my head if I am not faithful to the covenant. So, the covenants often involve a self-curse, an oath which involves a curse that the person was taking on, if they were not faithful to the covenant, whether that oath was calling upon a curse of death, or a curse of some other grave penalty if they were not faithful. And so, it’s a very serious act. We have an example of some of the sacrifices we see in the Bible. For instance, the sacrifice of animals, and a sprinkling of blood, have this role also, to be a ritual symbolic expression of the self-curse, may the same thing happen to me, if I am not faithful to the covenant. But that the rituals would also have expressed other parts of the covenant. And that’s why covenants often had a ritual, common meal, the parties would gather together to share a common meal as a sign that they were had become one family. And so, covenants were then this a way of uniting two parties, and becoming family becoming kin. So, what is striking for the people of Israel which just seemed like was unique among the religions was that in this case, their covenant was not just with another human, but they discovered that God Himself, wanted to enter into a covenant with them. God desired union with His people. And in fact, the Bible is a whole series of covenants. Some think that even with Adam, there was a covenant and certainly with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, which is in the first reading we had today, with David. And so today, we have this great covenant. In the first reading of Mount Sinai, we remember the Lord had brought his people out of Egypt, with all the oppressive signs of power, and then saved them by the great marvel at the Red Sea of destroying Pharaoh’s army. And then he had led them to Mount Sinai. And there the people were on Mount Sinai, there was this manifestation with this mysterious dark cloud, the earth, or earthquakes, causing everything to shake, there was this terrifying thunder and lightning, and people sensed God’s presence so much they were, they were afraid that they were about to die. And so, the Lord called Moses up to give him the conditions of the covenant. So, think what is happening here? God is inviting this people to have as their king, as their Lord, not some diabolical idol and power, but to have God Himself, the true God, as their God. And He has just demonstrated His power against the greatest force on earth against Egypt. And so, He’s shown them His power. And what is He asking of them? He’s not asking of them all the terrible things that idols ask, but He’s asking them to recognize the truth, that He is their God. And He’s also asking them to be loving towards each other, to not kill, to not steal, to not lie, to not commit adultery, to honor their father, and mother. So, what is given them is a very just law, not that not all that the tyrannical laws of the other nations, but great laws of love and justice. And so, who is getting the bargain in this covenant? God is getting a poor tribe, and this tribe is getting the God of heaven. So, it’s an amazing, amazing opportunity that they have been offered. God tells them, He gives them very clear, very clear indications of what this covenant will be, and at its core, we have the 10 commandments. And so, the people agreed. That’s what we have in the first reading, Moses read it and the people agree. And so, we have these different elements of the covenant. There’s a family bond, which is being created. That’s why the we have Moses in the elders invited to come up on the mountain, and share a common meal expressing that they’re becoming family, they and their people are becoming family with God. And so, and there’s also a legally binding oath, expressed by the word, and also by the sprinkling of blood. That’s what we saw in the first reading, where after the word is read the word of the covenant, then they are sprinkled with the blood as a sign of this ritual self curse, binding them to obey the covenant that they are making with God. And again, they are the great winners in this covenant, no other nation will have the blessing that will come from this covenant. And it’s done in a liturgical ritual, which involves sacrifices at an altar and a sacred place and invoking the name of the Lord. So, this is not just again, it’s not just a legal secular matter, but it’s a sacred oath and liturgical ritual. And almost immediately, and this is the great realism of Scripture, the people break the covenant, are unfaithful. Moses was delayed for some time so the people turned to make an idol out of a golden calf. And this is just part of a whole series of infidelities. So, they are now bringing upon themselves, the self curse that they have just expressed. And so, God is wanting to bless His people Israel, and sometimes they’re faithful. And many times, they’re not faithful to the covenant. And so, they have this weight of infidelity, and of the curses that breaking this covenant had brought upon them. And then God sends prophets, and the prophets begin to speak of a new covenant, which will be different. giving them hope, that even if they have broken the Old Covenant, there will be a new covenant. The gospels don’t speak about a covenant. until this moment, and the gospel today, at the very end of His earthly life, at the Last Supper, Jesus is performing the Passover ritual, the ritual of the Old Covenant. But then He does something different. And that’s the passage we had today, and a gospel where He speaks of His Body and Blood, the Blood of the new covenant, the new and everlasting covenant. And so, at the Last Supper, He is expressing a new covenant. And so, this new covenant involves a common meal that He has celebrated with His disciples, which is expressing again, here we have God sharing this meal, with men, representing the desire that God has to make a covenant and to draw man into his family, like the elders and Moses on Mount Sinai. And also, there’s not just a covenant meal, Moses had said, this is the blood of the covenant. And Jesus says, “This is My Blood of the covenant, the new and everlasting covenant.” So, Jesus is taking upon Himself, the curse, the curse that came from the people breaking their covenant, and the curse that they drew upon themselves, the curse of sin, Jesus is taking upon Himself the curse which they could never, that they could never repair. Jesus is taking upon Himself, the curse, the curse of sin, the curse, which involves death, and so He is giving His life for His friends who are sinners. So, the Eucharist is both a family meal and meal of God’s family, and because God desires union with His people, God is calling His people into union and to sacred communion and to Holy Communion. But this meal, it’s not just a meal, it is also a sacrifice, a sacrifice of the New Covenant. And that’s something that has been almost completely lost. We’ve often come back to this point, and we focus on it in our encounter, that the two points, especially that the Blessed Sacrament is the true Body Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. But also, and this, I think, is even less known than that, is all in America to make almost no Catholics know this. And it’s so fundamental to our faith, that the Eucharist is the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus, on the cross, made present in a sacramental manner, but truly present. And that’s where its power comes from. The power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not just the lamb that the Hebrews had offered. But now the Lamb of God, who offers Himself. So, the Holy Eucharist that we’re celebrating right now, in such humble manner, with such a miserable priest, and it’s such a poor little chapel is not because of us, but because of the infinite mercy of God, is His sacrifice made present, and then the world which is, we know, what is so much evil, and so much wounds from that evil. There’s nothing that can heal those wounds, there’s nothing that can overcome that evil and terrible evil that we can’t even imagine, nothing except the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And that sacrifice is made present in this Mass, so that it’s not repeated, because it’s a unique sacrifice, but it’s made present in this Mass, so that if we have faith in it, and a measure of our faith, those graces can flow in us and through us into the world. Just as in a marriage and a marriage covenant in a marriage covenant is very demanding, there’s so much which is trying to pull the spouses apart. And so, it’s good that they have opportunities to renew their commitment to renew their covenant. And so also there’s so much which is always trying to pull us away from God. Satan is always trying to pull us from God, and our own weakness, our own sinfulness is often also present. And so, Jesus gives us this opportunity to renew the covenant, to renew the union, that the Lord desires to make with us. The Blood of the new and everlasting covenant. So, this feast of Corpus Christi and this celebration of the Holy Eucharist, of the sacred mysteries is calling us back to the essence of our faith, God desiring to unite us to Him. He knows that we’re sinners. He knows that we’ve often been weak and unfaithful. And so, He offers His sacrifice, He offers Himself to overcome, so that if we trust in Him, if we accept His sacrifice, if we believe in Him, the power of His sacrifice can wash us and free us from the curse brought on by our sins, and permit us to enter into Holy Communion with our Lord. And so, with our Blessed Mother, let us make a new act of faith in the blood of the new and eternal covenant, and accept this invitation to enter into Holy Communion with the Lord. Amen.