Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant in the thirty-first chapter of his writings. He goes on to tell us how this covenant will be different. We know that the first covenant was written on stone tablets which Moses brought down from the heights of Mt. Sinai. Those tablets were housed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Jerusalem. The new covenant will be, according to Jeremiah, written on their hearts.
Of course, we have all heard of stony hearts. Perhaps we have met one or the other person who could be described in these words. They are cold and distant people who lack compassion and mercy; they lack human empathy. Jeremiah’s words today carry with them the implication that the children of Israel had lost that empathy. They had become cold-hearted people and had forgotten that God’s covenant, God’s Law was about love of God and love of neighbor.
When we first hear God talking of the covenant in the Book of Exodus, it is expressed in conditional terms: “If you will be my people, then I will be your God.” Notice that Jeremiah’s expression of the covenant lacks these conditional words. God will not turn away from the covenant even if the people do so. The other prophets, notably Ezekiel, pick up on Jeremiah’s expression and include it in their writings as well. God’s is ever faithful to the covenant relationship.
Of course that fidelity is best expressed in the person of Jesus whom God sent to make the new covenant, the covenant that is remembered when we celebrate the Eucharist. God’s mercy and compassion will never desert us. God is faithful. This covenant will stand until the end of time.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator