YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE LAW AND NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY
BY: REV FR ANSELM CHIGOZIE AMADI
DT 4:1-2, 6-8, JAS1:17-18,21-22,27,MK 7:1-8,14-15,21-23
In the old testament, there were three types of laws : the ceremonial laws that governed the liturgy, the civil law that regulated interpersonal relationship, and the moral law that was conveyed by the ten commandments. The first two were overtaken by the coming of Jesus Christ who has offered one single sacrifice that brought to a halt all the other sacrifices of old and has given a new commandment of love (John 13:34) to take care of all the civil laws of old. The ten commandments, however, remains immutable and universal.
BETWEEN SINAI AND ZION
The author of the letter to the Hebrews drew a picture of the two mountains (Sinai and Zion), as representing the two Covenants (Heb12:18-22), thus ” you have not come to an untouchable mountain and a blazing fire…. No you have come to mount Zion, the city of the living….” Moses received the law at Sinai in an atmosphere of awe and majesty. Jesus, the mediator of the new Covenant, gave the new law in an atmosphere of love and tranquility (Cf Matt. 5).
On the occasion of the sermon on the Mount, Jesus defines the character of the new law as spiritual instead of the externalities that characterised the old. Instead of the law against murder, he forbids anger against one’s brother and use of abusive language (Mat. 5:21-22)
Instead of adultery, Jesus forbids inward impurity (Matt 5:27). By so doing, our Lord calls us away from external observance of the law to inward conformity to holiness and will of God.
This law of the spirit announced by Jesus, the Supreme law-giver, fulfills the prophesy of old : “the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make 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…. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts,… (Jer 31:31-33). The first law was written on tablets of stone and it produced a generation of stone hearted people, who observed it in an externaly religious way without effect on the already hardened hearts of stone. When, in John 8:6, Jesus wrote on the dust (the raw material of which man was made), the finger of the one who wrote on stone now writes on the hearts of his people. As they abandoned their stones, they got rid of their hearts of stone to embrace the heart of flesh. Hence, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (EZ 36:26)”. This new heart obeys the new commandment of love, the essence of true religion.
THE NATURE OF TRUE WORSHIP
“God is spirit and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) “. Jesus condemns the pharisees and the scribes in the words of Isaiah, because they worship God in outward religious rituals without a corresponding inner/ spiritual renewal. The sacrifice of our hearts in love and conformity of our will in obedience is the essence of true worship : obedience is better than sacrifice.
St. Thomas argues that, the virtue of religion, which renders to God the worship due to him, is inferior to the theological virtues. Worship is only meritorious only by reason of charity that animates it. If we forget this, we would pay more attention to worship and liturgy than God himself. We would enthrone the service of God over the love of God.
A saying goes : “negative implies positive”. This implies that, when the law forbids a particular thing, the opposite is commanded. When a sin is forbidden, the opposite virtue is a must. It is not enough to be free from stealing but to engage in helping the poor. It is not enough to refrain from adultery but to pursue purity of heart. That is the demand of the new covenant theology. Without this inner renewal, one would appear right before men but not be right before God.