I’m sure we are familiar with the adage; “Timing means everything!” So many things fail to make sense unless we locate them in their chronological space. Certain teachings have meaning only in the Old Testament and others only make sense in the New Covenant.
Take for example our first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah. The universal message for all times is that God rejects no one so long as that person will accept God. Many foreigners do so by “joining themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants.”
Then Isaiah explains this can be done in his time by keeping the Sabbath free from profanation, offering burnt sacrifices on the Lord’s altar and using his temple as a house of prayer. Here we can recognize some directives hardly applicable to people of the New Covenant.
In the Christian era we keep holy the Lord’s Day - Sunday - not the Sabbath. We offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, not whole burnt offerings. And the Lord’s House of Prayer is wherever in the whole world people gather together to raise their hearts and minds to God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is explaining that John the Baptist was the precursor of the New Covenant. “John was a burning and shining lamp, and for awhile you were content to rejoice in his light.” John’s baptism of repentance was satisfactory for his generation. But now the Baptism with flowing water “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is the sacrament of initiation into the Mystical Body of Christ.
What made sense and opened the gates of heaven in the Old Covenant was sufficient in Old Testament times. But what Jesus prescribed for those living in Christian times is found in his Good News. The Old Testament remains important because in both Testaments the same universal message is proclaimed: God’s unconditional love and salvation is offered to all peoples. Only the directives and the methods are what have changed. For that be grateful. The difference occurred when the Son of God became man. It allowed us to share in his divinity.
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