For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. But he finds fault with them and says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they did not stand by my covenant and I ignored them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his fellow citizen and kinsman, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from least to greatest. For I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sins no more.” When he speaks of a “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing.
So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came (before me) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
Hebrews presents us with an ideal. In the day to come the spiritual Israel, the Church will have a people who know the Lord and have His law written on their hearts. The people will be forgiven from sin and live in glory. Jesus is the gate into this ideal. He is the passageway from death to life. The life He gives is greater than any semblance of life we claim to have attained from the world. This life is more brilliant and full than what we can imagine apart from it. Choose life, choose Jesus,
Prayer of the Faithful, vol. I
Lord God, grant that we may never cease to long for the heavenly kingdom you have promised us,
and to aspire to the real treasures you have prepared for us.
Through your grace may we obtain these things,
and, with your elect, we shall give thanks to you who are good now and for ever.
Saint of the Day:
Abo of Tiflis (c. 756 – January 6, 786) was an Arab Christian martyr and the Patron Saint of the city of Tbilisi, Georgia.
Arab by origin, Abo initially grew up as a Muslim in Baghdad. In 786, he was denounced as a Christian to the Arab officials in Tbilisi, and arrested. The judge attempted to persuade Abo to return to the faith of his ancestors.[He confessed his faith at trial, was imprisoned, and executed on January 6, 786.
The Scriptures are clear in their proclamation of the necessity for unity among the followers of Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane as he is about to fulfill his ministry of High Priest of a new and eternal covenant, Jesus says, “…that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). It is interesting to observe here that Our Lord not only prays for our unity, but he adds, “that the world may believe that You sent Me”; as if to say, the Truth will not be embraced by the world, if his disciples do not find unity among themselves. Christian evangelization, which proclaims a God of love and forgiveness, will fall on deaf ears and closed hearts, if those who proclaim find no love and unity amongst themselves.
Genetically we all belong to the same human race. We may have different climate adaptations, different skin complexions, some are tall, some are short, curly hair, and straight hair, blondes, brunettes, and red heads; yet we are all children of the same creator, and we all stand before God, seeking self-understanding, love, forgiveness, and ultimately the grace of salvation, won for us by the God-Man, Jesus Christ. As Genesis 1:26-27 instructs us, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;’…So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.
In the Book of Revelation we are offered a glimpse of the eternity we will spend together in the Kingdom of Heaven; “After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” (Rev. 7:9) If we cannot embrace each other as brother and sister on earth, how can we in heaven; if we reject “the other” for being “different” or not from “our tribe” – do we not stand the risk of losing our invitation to the eternal banquet, that celebrates rather than denigrates our God given uniquenesses. We must always remember that, “All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the Cross. Jesus Christ died that all might be saved,…”(Abbot Tryphon, Racism has no place in the life of a Christian, 2016).
Possibly the most poignant examples given by Our Lord concerning prejudice, are the stories in Luke 10 and John 4, the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaritans were so rejected by the Jews of Judea, that most would take the long route around, crossing the Jordan River if they needed, to go north of Samaria, rather than even cross Samaritan land. For the Jews at the time of Jesus the Samaritans were rejected for being religious heretics and for having married and had children with pagans, when they had been under Assyrian rule. So they were banished on religious and ethnic grounds by their neighbors. Jesus turns the prevailing ideas of his day upside down in his words concerning the Samaritans. He shows us that religious purity is empty if it lacks compassion and concern for the other. He says to the Samaritan woman, “ But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
Just as Christianity sowed the seeds that eventually lead to the abolition of slavery among Christians (see Paul’s Letter to Philemon), so too it has prepared the ground for a fertile harvest of all men and women, of every race and tongue, and the scourge of discrimination, prejudice, and racism will be seen as repugnant and against the values of the Gospel as we now hold slavery to be. Someday Sunday will not be the most segregated day in our country, but the day we embrace each other as One In Christ.
Rev. David A. Fisher