L5B – 17 Mar 2024

The New Covenant Hour

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey


MP3 media (7:30am)

MP3 media (10:30am)

Fr Richard Healey reflects on the theme of longing for intimacy with God during Lent, inspired by his own experience of organising his living space. He connects this desire to biblical narratives, including Noah’s covenant and the law at Sinai. The speaker highlights the historical context of Jerusalem’s impending destruction and the hope in Jeremiah’s words. He points to Jesus’ ministry, where healings and wonders invite all to know God directly. The episode culminates with the inclusion of foreigners and pagans in Jesus’ ministry, symbolising the universal fulfilment of spiritual intimacy. The priest urges listeners to create space in their lives for God’s presence.

(00:00:00) – After getting back from Vincentia four weeks ago, I thought, okay, I need to get myself a little more sorted. And so I bought some new shelves and started to get my room a little bit more organised and tidied. And I was really happy with how it was all sort of structured. And then a few days later, Father John said, “oh, by the way, we’re going to get rid of all the carpet upstairs and replace it with floorboards.” And I’m like, great. So I’ve got to move everything again. So the last three days I’ve spent clearing out both my bedroom and then the office and sitting room and just emptying everything out of that in order then to move it all back in now that the floor has been laid. And it’s nice to have a neat and tidy space and, there was mould growing under the carpet. So, it’s much better now without all of that. But that sense of, okay, well how do I arrange it? How do I organise it?

(00:01:04) – And it’s quite a nice kind of feeling, that experience, when the penny begins to drop and you begin to see a different way of thinking, when you begin to see a different way of being able to organise a space. And, you know, at the end of last night, I was like, yeah, I’m pretty happy with how this is now organised and arranged. It works way better than it did. That is, you know, a wonderful feeling when something that you’ve perhaps been struggling with for some time. And finally, there is the sense, the light bulb goes off or that moment that happens. And it seems that this is what is happening in the gospel today. There is this longing that is in the human heart since the very beginning. And over the course of the last four weeks and these Sundays of Lent, the readings have been walking us through that from the first week. With that experience, the call of the covenant that the Lord made to Noah and to his family, you know that God will be faithful to that promise not to wipe us off the face of the earth, even though there was such violence and hatred that had precipitated that course of action.

(00:02:23) – And then we heard about Abraham and his love, his devotion to his son Isaac. But then the bizarre request, the temptation almost of the Lord to Abraham to say, Will you go as far as sacrificing your only son? And then we heard of the giving of the law, the giving of those ten words at Mount Sinai. And then last Sunday, we heard the end of the story as we concluded from the final words of the second Book of Chronicles, which in the Hebrew Bible is the very last book of the Bible. So we heard the end of the story, as it were, and we hear the things that are still not going well. Everything is falling apart. The situation that Jeremiah faces today in Jeremiah 31 was all of that sense of what was happening at the time, the half century before the northern kingdom had fallen to the Assyrians, and now the southern kingdom of Judah was on the precipice. The Babylonians were pressing hard. They’d managed to defeat them. They’d managed to hold on to the city of Jerusalem in the year 597.

(00:03:41) – But by 587, ten years later, everything would be utterly and completely destroyed, and the city would ultimately fall in 586. And so Jeremiah has this profound sense of hope. There’s no reason for this. There’s no external thing that Jeremiah can point to. But he has this, in a sense, this deep longing within him for his own experience of being able to know God, you know, and to read that first reading and to ponder upon those promises. It’s a beautiful thing to be told that there will come a time when we will know God directly and intimately, that we won’t have to rely on someone else to teach us or instruct us that the words of the law, the words of the covenant, will be so deeply embedded and written upon a very essence that we will just know God. And what a wonderful prospect, what a wonderful gift that is to be able to simply know God. And that’s the longing that is there in the heart of Jesus as he shares his ministry with us, that he’s wanting to show people the way of God.

(00:04:59) – He’s inviting people to experience that through healings, through signs and wonders, through all of these actions that are meant to point us to the wonder of God, to remind us about what we’ve been called and invited into in those first signs of the covenant to be his people, to be captivated and captured by his love. And it seems that the fact that some Greeks came to Jesus and they asked, we want to see Jesus, you know, to see him as another way of expressing we want to know him. And so these words of Jeremiah the prophet seem to be fulfilled. And that’s enough for Jesus to realise that this is the moment everything he’s been preparing for, everything that all of the scriptures, all of those Jewish books, all the, the books of the Hebrew Bible have been preparing us for. It’s all coming to fruition at the beginning of his ministry. You remember with the first sign that he gives back in John two at the wedding in Cana, when Mary’s came to him and said, they’ve run out of wine.

(00:06:14) – And Jesus says to her, woman, what concern is that for me? My hour has not yet come. So he knows then that it’s still not time. He hasn’t done enough yet to open people to the reality and to the mystery of God. But now it’s not just Jewish people, but it’s foreigners and pagans who are coming to Jesus, wanting to see him, wanting to know him. And that is enough. That’s when he’s able to say, now the hour has come. Now there’s this moment when we can all experience this intimacy of life with God. And how do we do that? How do we make space for God to do this work within our lives? It’s by letting go. It’s by surrendering. It’s by making that space, by dying to ourselves. Just as the seed is planted into the soil. And it has to be buried there in the soil in order that it can slowly be changed and transformed. Just as I needed to clear out my room to make space for a new way of thinking, a new way of being present.

(00:07:29) – So sometimes we need to let go of some things. We need to throw out some ideas, some areas of our lives. We need to make space for God to do this wonderful work in us, by freeing us, by allowing us to experience that tenderness and intimacy of life with God. We’re in the final two weeks of this season of lent, so we’ve still got time to die to ourselves. We’ve still got time to renew our desires and our efforts to know God and to see him to be caught and captivated by the very presence and love of God. So let’s indeed make a new effort to let go of those things that don’t serve us, to let go of those habits, those thought patterns, whatever it is that we need to die to in order that we have space for God to do this wonderful work of inviting us more deeply, to know him in the midst of that new covenant promise of life with God.

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