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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for Thursday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time, 04 August 2022, Mat 16:13-23

Many Christians do not know that the first half of our Bible which we call OLD TESTAMENT is the Bible of the Jewish people up to now. Of course the Jews do not call it “Old Testament”. It became Old Testament only to us Christians, the moment we added the second half, which we call “New Testament”. Did the idea of a New Testament come from Christians? No it is there already in the Old Testament. Its originator is the prophet Jeremiah. In our first reading, he says,

Jeremiah 31:31 “See, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” New covenant, New Testament, they’re basically one and the same thing: an agreement that is mutually binding.

For Judaism this covenant is represented by the two stone tablets of the commandments which are supposed to be the very heart and soul of the Hebrew Bible. It is only by obeying the commandments that they fulfill their call to be a people of the covenant. Only this way does Yahweh become their God and they in turn become God’s people. It is the Law that keeps them connected to God. When they break the law, they violate the covenant and therefore disconnect themselves from God.

And so, Jeremiah prophesies that God will make a new covenant, no longer by writing his law on stone tablets. Rather, he says in chapter 31:33, “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Christianity sees the fulfillment of this prophecy in Jesus. His very person becomes the covenant. In the person of Christ truly human and truly divine, God and humanity become one. He becomes our permanent bridge or connection between heaven and earth, between God and humankind. By living in Christ, by being part of his body, we enter into a bond with God that cannot be separated, not even by sin, not even by death. That’s why Paul has the courage to declare in Romans 8:39 “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is also what Jesus is trying to say to Peter in today’s Gospel. After Peter confesses his faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus in turn confesses his faith in Peter as “the Rock on which he will build his Church,” and through which they become the people of the new covenant. What Jesus does, Peter and the Church are now also empowered to do as well. It is like being entrusted with the keys to God’s kingdom. Mat 16:19 “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This is the good news that we preach.

Today we also celebrate the memorial of St. John Marie Vianney, patron saint of priests. For John Vianney, covenanting is what the priesthood is all about. He once said, “The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.” It is what makes of us a people of the new covenant, with no other bond uniting us with God, than the heart of Jesus.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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