Today the Letter to the Hebrews refers to the covenant that was initiated by Jesus as the “better” covenant. This word is chosen advisably. As a grammarian I am quick to point out that the word “better” is the comparative form of the word “good.” It is not the comparative form of the word “bad.” This is an important point to keep in mind. The Old Covenant was not bad; indeed it was good in that it attempted to solidify a right relationship between God and the children of Israel. Though the Old Covenant ratified on Mt. Sinai did not accomplish what it was meant to accomplish, its failure was not on the part of God who kept all the promises that were part of that agreement. The Old Covenant failed because the people did not live up to their part of the agreement. Even so, God did not abandon the covenant relationship. He sent his son to create a better covenant in which the people would understand that God would never abandon them.
It can also be argued that the failure of the Old Covenant has been a good thing for all of us. As the sacred author writes, if the Old Covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for the New Covenant that we have through Jesus. The writer also reminds us that the New Covenant is written not on stone tablets but upon our hearts.
Just as the Old Covenant was created for the twelve tribes of Israel, the New Covenant also has twelve leaders in the apostles, chosen from among the disciples of Jesus. St. Mark’s Gospel enumerates these twelve just as his fellow evangelists do. He tells us that these twelve were named as they were called by Jesus to ascend the mountain with him. So just as the Old Covenant was sealed on a mountain, so too the New Covenant finds its beginnings on a mountain. The choice of the venue is purposeful as a way of comparing the New and the Old.
As we keep this day of prayer for the legal rights of unborn children, let us also pray for the successors to the apostles, the bishops who pastor the flock of Jesus, and who lead us in our quest to protect the lives of the unborn.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator