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Written upon the Heart

Written upon the Heart

March 17, 2024

“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…This is the covenant that I will make…I will place my law within them and write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:31,33).  According to the scripture scholar Fr. John Donahue this is the only time in the Old Testament that the phrase ‘new covenant’ is used (Hearing the Word of God, Year B, p.52).  Imagine the shift here: a NEW covenant.  What makes this covenant ‘new’?  Is it because the ‘law’ is no longer external to human lives, that this ‘law is’ now written upon the heart?  What is the implication of this shift?  God’s law of love is now placed interiorly, upon the heart, moving the heart from inside to then embody in our lived lives this new covenant of love.

In his commentary on this passage from Jeremiah, Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar writes: “To them (the people of the old covenant) the love required by the covenant seemed like a command, like a law, and people always long to break laws to show they are always more powerful than the laws. But when the law of love now penetrates their hearts and they learn to understand from the inside that God is love because he loved people even to the point of taking their guilt upon himself, then the covenant has inwardly become another covenant. Each person understands from within, no one needs to instruct another….for ‘All, from the least to the greatest, shall know me’” (Light of the Word, p.181).  ‘They learn to understand from the inside that God is love….’  This is not an intellectual learning…it is a learning addressed to our interior life…to our heart and as St. Bernard says understanding will follow as the heart is addressed, as the heart receives the law or word written upon our hearts.   The capacity for God, capax Dei, is stamped upon the heart…and so we all will know, the least and the greatest, no difference, we all will be taught Divine love and forgiveness, we all will be sustained by the Divine Presence, the God of love.

We can assume that this passage from Jeremiah was one that Jesus integrated and built upon in his life and ministry.  We can see it in such sayings as: “New wine needs new wine skins” (Mk 2:22).  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood…” (Lk 22:20).  “I will drink no more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God” (Mk 14:25).  In Jesus and his gospel, what is the symbol of this new covenant that is written upon the heart?  It is the cross.  It is the great paradox: ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies’… ‘if any want to be my follower, take up your cross and follow me’… ‘those who lose their lives will find it’.  None of this makes sense or is easy to take without this interior experience of the covenant of love that is written upon the heart.  Pope Francis in an ‘Angelus’ talk said: “And this dynamism of the grain of wheat which was accomplished in Jesus must also take place within us, his disciples. We are called to take on the Paschal law of losing life in order to receive it renewed and eternal” (March 18, 2018).  This ‘law of love’ that is written upon our hearts is a ‘Paschal law’…it blossoms as we lose our life for life, and doing this in small ways and in the larger ways that we are called to, individually and as a community.

Pope Francis in another Angelus talk said: “The important thing is that the sign be consistent with the Gospel: the cross cannot but express love, service, unreserved self-giving: only in this way is it truly the ‘tree of life’, of overabundant life” (March 21, 2021).  The ‘Paschal law of love’ is written upon on our hearts…Am I ready to die daily for this love to grow and blossom?  Do we want renewal in our community life?  This is where it begins…this Paschal law of love purifies the heart and soul from inside…it heals the wounds of power, of when we have to be right, or it is my way and no other way… ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies’….how renewing, how freeing, how strengthening interiorly, the heart converted in and through the gesture of dying, of losing life for life.  In similar words Pope Francis says: “That this dynamism of the grain of wheat….is the necessary foundation upon which our communities can grow” (March 18, 2018).  Sisters, this is the foundation for our community to grow.  With grace, let us receive the Paschal law of love…it lives within, its symbol is the cross, and we have access to it as we let go, surrender, die symbolically. This letting go will always yield life, abundant life, renewed life, and we will encounter the One who will always be at our side leading, guiding, showing us the way. 

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

Chapter Talk – Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 17, 2024 – cycle-B









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