January 28, 2019
by Joan Blandin Howard
Creighton University's Christian Spirituality Program
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 317

Hebrews 9:15, 24-28
Pslams 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6
2 Timothy 1:10
Mark 3:22-30

Praying Ordinary Time

An Even Better Marriage

Laughter was Born

The letter to the Hebrews is of particular importance as it introduces the ‘new covenant’ to the Hebrew community and us. 

The original covenant was between Yahweh and a very old man Abram and his elderly barren wife Sarai.  In small asides scripture illustrates how much Abram cared for Sarai. We are told  in their travels, Abram put up Sarai’s tent before putting up his own.  The most telling incident of his care and respect for Sari was that though allowed by law and custom to take another wife to ensure offspring, he did not.  It was only when Sarai encouraged him take her slave Hagar did he do so.  Their son Ishmael was Abram’s first born.  Scripture illustrates that God favored Sarai.  One indication is that she is one of the few women named in the bible.  Although barren, God blessed her and Abram with a child, Isaac, even after they both laughed at the proposition.  “Isaac” means laughter.  God speaks to Abram and tells him to no longer call his wife “Sarai,” but to call her “Sarah”.  When God gives someone a new name as Jesus did to Peter, it indicates a new beginning.  Sarah and Abraham were chosen as the recipients of Yahweh’s covenant. 

Yahweh’s original covenant with Abraham and Sarah included the Promised Land, countless descendants and that his chosen people would bring blessings to all the nations.   In return Abraham and his family, his tribe, were to be faithful to Yahweh.  Yahweh was to be their God.    This covenant did not work out as Yahweh had desired. Yahweh desired a faithful, loving, personal relationship with his chosen people.  This sort of relationship was foreign to these people.  Respect, fear, admiration, ownership and the law were the basis of most relationships.  Love was not a consideration, especially the concept of a loving God.

Jesus was the incarnation of this New Covenant. The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant…”.    Through Jesus, God promised “eternal inheritance”“…so also Christ, offered once to take away the  sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him”.

Jesus was the incarnation of Love.  Jesus was to mediate, to be the conduit of God’s love, faithfulness, mercy, justice and healing.  Jesus showed us how to live out this new covenant, not just through the law, but  also through personal and intimate relationships – with God primarily and with neighbor and family.  By living this covenant of Love we would be given “eternal inheritance…salvation…”

Although Mark does not speak directly of the new covenant, he does say, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”  The implication is that a united kingdom can and will stand.   I think we can safely say that if the covenant is firm, if we as individuals and as community are committed to this ‘new covenant’, we can count on God’s faithfulness, love, support, protection and salvation.   Through Jesus we will be joyfully and enthusiastically welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom.  Imagine God’s thrill and delight that we respond to his covenant of Love! Joan B Howard Howard <Joan B Howard Howard <jpbh0125@gmail.com>>

So Laughter was born!

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