In chapter nine of the Letter to the Romans, Paul begins his attempt to explain the Jewish rejection of Jesus Christ. He begins, not in anger, but in sorrow. Rather than a tempest of anger or condemnation, Paul approaches the rejection of Jesus by his countrymen with the poignant sorrow of a broken heart. Just as God hates the sin and loves the sinner, Paul is beset by sorrow because of his love for his fellow Jews.
Paul goes so far as to say that he would lay down his life for them if they would but accept Jesus as the Messiah. In this he emulates Moses who, when the Israelites turned to the worship of idols while he was in conversation with God on Mt. Sinai, offered his own life if God would turn away his wrath and forgive them. He even goes so far as to say that he would accept the curse of anathema if it would mean that they would accept Jesus. However, he knows in his heart that the nothing will ever separate him from Christ, a point he has made very strongly in chapter eight
The fact that they did not accept Jesus confounds Paul because he has come to understand the special relationship that they have shared with God down through the ages as God’s plan by which the Messiah would be introduced to the world. The glory of God, the covenant, the Law, the temple ritual, the promises preached by the prophets and patriarchs of Israel have all been part of God’s plan of salvation. Paul ends this exquisite passage of beautiful prose by offering praise to God who so loved us that a plan was set in place to save us from our sins.
Jesus is the fourth covenant that God has offered to the human race. This covenant was preceded by the covenant of Noah and the sign of the rainbow, the covenant of Abraham and the sign of circumcision, and the covenant of Moses and the sign of the tablets of the Law. The covenant of Jesus also came with a sign, the bread and wine which become his Body and Blood, the meal in which we participate each day. Indeed, blessed be God who has given us His only Son. Amen.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator