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Covenantal Love

Covenantal Love

March 22, 2021

Chapter Talk – Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 21, 2021, cycle-B

Listen to God speaking to the prophet Jeremiah: “This is the new covenant I will make: Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts” (Jer 32: 31,33).  What is a covenant?  It is a relationship between God and the believing community.  It is both personal and communal.  God writes on the heart his Law…the Law of love…this is the new covenant.  This covenant is the eternal word that transcends time and culture…what was written perdures….it is eternal, God given, God sustained.  No evil…nothing has power over what God has written upon the heart, nothing can break this covenant…what is written is the transforming power of God’s love…which contains forgiveness and mercy.  To tease out further nuances in this seminal text from Jeremiah we hear God further saying: ‘There will be no need for your neighbor to teach you…no, everyone will be taught by me’, deep within the heart.  Then, ‘everyone will know me’, deep within the heart.  And finally: “I will forgive their iniquity” (Jer 32: 31-34), deep within the heart.  There is no love that does not include forgiveness.  All this is the amazing breadth and depth of God’s new covenant.

This reading from Jeremiah forms the backdrop for the gospel of St. John: ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains a single grain.  But if it dies it bears much fruit…Whoever clings to his or her life will lose it” (Jn 12: 24-25).  The scripture scholar, Fr. John Donahue, says that the “term ‘new covenant’ appears only here in the Old Testament”, and then we hear it again where “at the Last Supper Jesus will describe his self-offering as a new covenant” (Hearing the Word of God, Year B, p.52).  Let me repeat this point:  Jesus’ self-offering is the new covenant.  To further emphasize this notion, in the New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, Fr. Donald Senior writes: “The Greek term for covenant” has this meaning: “‘a last testament or will’.  That etymology points to the NT interpretation of covenant, which sees the death (and resurrection) of Jesus as covenant” (p.238).  As Jesus raises the bread and wine at the Last Supper, we witness Jesus living fully the new covenant, this new and enduring relationship of Love with his Abba.

What is this saying to us?  It seems to me that we now have a full image and description of the ‘new covenant’ in and through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  In Jesus we behold the living covenant of love with its power to transform evil and all that would hinder the sacredness of life, God’s life. For us, as followers of Jesus, the new covenant, written upon all of our hearts, is fully realized through the offering of our lives, moment within moment.  And, we all have the possibility to be taught, an experiential learning beginning in the depths of the heart.  This knowing happens and is made manifest through each self-offering.  Through each dying to the partial, selfish self, we learn about the God of love and mercy.  We become more like God’s Son, who is the embodiment of God’s unconditional love and mercy. 

With the ‘grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying’, with Jesus raising the bread and the wine we have before us the reality of the new covenant.  This now has become our bond with God and with the larger believing community.  This covenant is a living reality…it is not something of the past…we are in relationship with God through this covenant that has been stamped upon our hearts…

Pope Francis has written: “Jesus uses a simple and suggestive image, that of the “‘grain of wheat’ that, once fallen into the earth, dies in order to bear fruit (cf. v. 24). In this image we find another aspect of the Cross of Christ: that of fruitfulness. The death of Jesus, in fact, is an inexhaustible source of new life, because it carries within itself the regenerative strength of God’s love” (Angelus, March 22, 2015).  Life expands through dying …it is a paradox for sure, but it is the only way to true freedom and to living this covenantal relationship of love with God. We learn to love, we learn to truly serve, we learn to live fully through accepting the suffering that comes our way and growing through it.  And we cannot do this on our own ‘power’.  It is our covenantal relationship with God that will sustain us, give us the needed grace, and bring us the fulfillment we all seek in our lives.

 Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess 
















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