HOMILY LENT WEEK 05 06 – Year I
A Covenant of Peace
(Jer 37:21-28; Jer 31:10-13; Jn 11:45-57)
Have you ever had an experience of being in exile? of feeling alienated and lost? out of sorts? One day on Facebook someone from north central Saskatchewan posted: “Pray for me today – I don’t feel so good.” Perhaps a touch of exile.
Today, we are invited to trust in the Lord who can overcome all obstacles in our lives.
Through their disobedience and infidelity, the Israelites had landed in exile in a foreign land. They had lost everything – homes, lives, land, all that was familiar, and were now reduced to servitude and slavery.
In this, the Israelites’ darkest hour, Jeremiah comes through as a genuine prophet – not as a fortune teller, eccentric or zealot, but as someone who is close to God, hears the Word of God and shares what God has revealed to him.
What Jeremiah shares is a word of hope to the hopeless. God will someday gather all the dispersed tribes of Israel, forgive their sins and heal their sinfulness. They will be united once again, and live in humble obedience to God. There will be an everlasting covenant of peace, and they will be God’s people, with God dwelling in their midst.
Today’s psalm builds on the words of Jeremiah, continuing the theme of salvation and liberation, of forgiveness and healing. They also add the element of rejoicing and joy.
What era was Jeremiah referring to in this prophecy? Was it the time of Solomon, or of David? Would this be a future messiah? When would this truly take place?
The answer is revealed in the gospel. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead, which led many of the Jews to believe in him as the Messiah. This, of course, upset and disturbed the religious establishment in Jerusalem and put them in a quandary – what were they to do about this Jesus? They were afraid the people’s faith in him would upset the delicate status quo they had developed with the Roman oppressors favoring the limited power they had.
That leads to an ironic prophecy by the high priest Caiaphas who asserted it was better for one man to die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed. What he did not know was that Jesus’ death would be not just for the people, but also for all of creation. His death would draw all people to himself when he would be raised up, as he stated earlier in the gospel, and have the cosmic effect of redeeming the whole world.
Regarding the prophesied covenant of peace, we know God has always wanted an intimate covenant relationship with God’s people throughout our salvation history. That history would find its fulfillment with the perfect covenant in the body and blood of Jesus shed on the cross, in his perfect sacrificial love and loving obedience to the Father. It is this covenant alone that truly takes away the sins of the world and can give us eternal life and peace.
According to Bishop Robert Barron, the Messiah had four roles to play: gather all the nations to himself (people came from all directions to Jesus, and not to the temple); restore the temple (the shekinah, or glory of God had risen up and left the temple during the time of Ezekiel; Jesus cleansed the temple and referred to himself as the temple that would be raised up; the glory of God then did return, not on the physical temple, but upon the early believers gathered in the Upper Room in the form of wind and fire at Pentecost); overcome the enemies of Israel (by his death and resurrection Jesus would vanquish the real enemies of Israel – sin, sickness and death), and reign over all of creation (Jesus is even now reigning over all of creation as Risen Lord).
When Jesus comes again in the Parousia, these four roles already partially fulfilled, will come to their fulfillment. Then there will be perfect peace, harmony, wholeness, unity and unbelievable rejoicing.
Through our faith in Jesus as Messiah, Lord and Savior, we already live in his Kingdom and can claim those gifts of the Spirit – peace and joy in our lives, regardless of any difficult or stressful situation facing us.
The Eucharist is our food for any exile we may find ourselves in, and a foretaste of that heavenly banquet to be celebrated within the fullness of that covenant of peace and joy.
So, let us place our complete trust in Jesus as Lord, Savior and Messiah, who alone can overcome all the obstacles in our lives and offer us his peace and joy.