A Covenant Response to God’s Love
“The Lord God is my help”
Today’s readings: Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-24; Phil 2:6-11; Lk 22:14-23:49
The passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 22:14-23:49) are the basis for our covenant with God. At the last supper, Jesus blessed the wine, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” (Lk 22:20). God initiated the relationship, made the pure offering of His own Son, and ratified it by Jesus’ precious blood shed on the cross. That was quite a price to pay, and God paid it. All because of His love for us.
If God loves us so much, if God Himself enters into covenant with us, if God indeed is a faithful God, then all these are our basis for having hope. How do we respond? And given Jesus’ example, what ought to be the fruit of hope in our lives? We look to the reading from Isaiah.
First, we fully accept the covenant and what God wants to do with our lives. God does not impose on us, even if what He wants to give is the best thing in the world for us. Jesus went to the cross, unilaterally loving us, but takes the risk of our rejection. So we accept, and we are faithful. Whenever we stray away, we return to God, repent and are restored. “And I have not rebelled, have not turned back.” (Is 50:5a)
Second, we grow in our relationship with God, because that is what covenant is all about. This happens as we pray every day in order to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. “Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear” (Is 50:4b). God wants to speak to us so that he can form us and guide us. We just need to be available, and open our ears, and our hearts, to hear.
Third, since we know God is there for us and we look forward to a future full of hope, then we can endure whatever trials we encounter in life. We can even suffer persecution and oppression willingly, knowing that these can purify us and bring us closer to God. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Is 50:6).
Fourth, again knowing where our hope lies, we can persevere though the trials and crosses. God does not assure us of instant deliverance. At times He might even seem to be very far away. At times those who oppress us seem not to be chastised by God. At times there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. But God allows these circumstances, using them to draw us closer to Himself. We just need to fully trust in Him. “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” (Is 50:7). And it is when there really seems to be no hope, that professing hope in God acquires real meaning. It is when we reach this point that we can say we are now really learning the lessons of Lamentations.
Fifth, experiencing hope ourselves, we must now also be instruments of hope to others. “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” (Is 50:4a). Our speech must be upbuilding for others. There should be no negative talk like gossip, slander or putting down others. Then we speak words of fraternal correction to those who need such, so that they might repent and be restored. Then we comfort and console the weary, the grieving, those losing hope. Finally we speak in ways that rouse people, in ways that encourage, build up and strengthen.
Our covenant is with God and with God’s people. God ministers to us, and we minister to one another.
In all the above, the model for covenant fidelity is no other than our Lord Jesus Christ. We should take on the very attitude of Christ, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:6-11)
What is the way to hope and joy? From the example of Jesus, it is the way of self-denial, servanthood (Lk 22:24-30), humility, obedience, taking up our cross and dying to self. It is always submitting ourselves to the will of God. The prayer of Jesus, in his time of intense trial and agony, is our prayer as well: “not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42).
Action: Jesus paid the price. Have you accepted the gift? Consider also how faithful you are to daily prayer, how you face trials in life, how successfully you have endured, and how you have helped build up others.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for being my God and my deliverer. I live in a very uncertain, dark and hostile world, “Yet you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother’s breast. Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth you are my God. Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help. But you, Lord, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me. Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you” (Ps 22:10-12,20,23). What a wonderful God you are! What a wonderful gift your covenant is! I will praise you forever. Amen.
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)