Saturday, March 21, 2015

God the Same Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Lent 5B)

An enthusiastic student bounced into music class one day and asked the teacher “What’s the good news for today?”

The teacher picked up a tuning fork and struck it. A clear note emerged and the teacher said, “There’s the good news for today. That, my friend, is an A. It was an A yesterday, and it will be an A tomorrow, and next week, and for a thousand years.

“The soprano in the senior choir sings off-key; the tenor flats his high notes, and the piano here in the music room is sometimes out of tune, but that is an A.”

God is like the music teacher’s “A”. He is steadfast, consistent, and always loving. We may go flat by falling into sin. We may stop reading his music. We may decide other notes are more to our liking. But God remains who and what he is.

As we heard in our reading from the Prophet Jeremiah: I will be their God, and they shall be my people. God remains faithful to us. In spite of our weaknesses and failures, he keeps offering us fresh opportunities to be reconciled with him.

Lent reminds us of God’s consistency, and of the fact that he always keeps his promises. The most important and fundamental promise, of course, was that he would send a Messiah to heal our sins and open the gates of heaven to us. Today’s readings show us how magnificently God did this, sending his only begotten Son to be lifted up on the cross, to draw all people to himself—“the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Even before the birth of Jesus, God rescued his people time after time through a series of covenants. He gave them signs and sent prophets to preach that he would not give up on Israel. And eventually he promised a new covenant—an eternal covenant.

The new covenant isn’t engraved on stone tablets like the covenant with Moses on Mount Sinai; it’s written, as Jeremiah tell us, on our hearts. The human heart is changed, because the law of God is inscribed upon it. The new covenant “will bring about a change of hearts and the gift of the divine spirit” (Cf. Ezekiel 36, 26 ff; Xavier Léon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2nd ed., 96).

We are the people of the new covenant. We have the law written on our hearts, wounded though they are.

Jesus fulfills the promises made through the prophets. He draws us to himself from his throne upon the cross. We have the Church, the saints, the sacraments, Scripture and, most important, the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Still, many of us seem to be tone-deaf. We cannot hear God’s message, consistent and faithful as the music teacher’s “A”. God’s message is that he wants us to grow closer to him; to be with him forever.

In these last two weeks before Easter, let’s slow down and listen to the music. We can find time to harmonize our busy schedules with our need for prayer; we can look into our hearts to see where we’ve gone flat or sharp in our relations with God or others.

Let’s make a special effort to train our ears on the still small voice that calls us by name, perhaps by spending some time reading the Word of God. We desperately need to hear the crisp clear notes of the unchangeable teachings of Christ, given the uncertain trumpet that sounds in modern society.

There is still enough time for each of us to claim Christ’s loving promise of mercy, freedom and abundant life, so we can sing a new song at Easter and forever. 

I don't make much use of homily services, and when I do I generally revise the outline considerably. But this week I have relied very closely on a delightful homily by an anonymous author in "Homilies: Sunday and Weekday Masses, January - March 2015," published by Faith Catholic Publishing and Communications, an arm of the Diocese of Lansing, MI. This fine outfit also produces commentaries and intercessions for use at Mass.

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