God has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life. (II Cor 3:5-6)
On Sunday afternoon, at our parish picnic in Rocky Mount, one of the venerable elders of the parish congratulated our new seminarian, David. Choking back his tears of pride, the good man put it like this: “David has decided to go into the ministry.”
The ministry, which St. Paul describes so dramatically in our first reading at Holy Mass today.
Let’s get a little context. Among the Corinthian Christians, a couple had trespassed against the laws of marriage. It became an open scandal. Paul insisted that the man and woman face discipline. Now, as of the writing of II Corinthians, the guilty parties had repented and reformed. So, in this letter, St. Paul urges the people to forgive and forget.
The ministry of the New Covenant–the ministry of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, of His Body and Blood, shed for us–the ministry of Divine Mercy. Mercy for us sinners, who need a second chance.
As St. Paul puts it, this ministry is purely spiritual. As in: the Holy Spirit of Christ crucified moves us to turn away from the road to death and seek God. The mercy revealed on the cross means that our sins do not have the last word, so to speak.
Moses ministered the Old Covenant in a blaze of glory, because the covenant of Sinai involved the truth of God. The all-holy Lord guides us, by the rule of honesty and integrity, by the rule of justice and humility–He guides us to Himself.
The rules haven’t changed. We still owe God an upright conscience; we owe Him our obedience. The Old Covenant brought death in that it convicts us of our sins. We fall into dishonesty, interior disunity, injustice, and pride. We fail to give God everything that we manifestly owe Him. But Christ has spared us condemnation for this, by taking upon Himself the entire work of atoning for it.
In the New Covenant, in which Christ gives us Himself to be our very life, we can be just with His perfect justice, honest with His perfect honesty, integrated by His perfect integrity, religious with His perfect religion.
The Lord calls some of us to minister this unfathomable mystery of love, this mystery of unfathomable love. The Ten Commandments stand–every last word of them, as Christ Himself declared. Let anyone who would change a jot or a tittle of the moral law be anathema. That would only be pride masquerading as mercy. The words of Sinai stand.
But the love of the Sacred Heart contains the Word of God that cannot be expressed with pen and ink, or chiseled on stone–cannot be expressed in any language known to man.
He calls us to express it with our whole lives. Not because we are great–though David is pretty great–but because God is great. Greatly merciful. Merciful enough to refresh and renew us all.
Dear reader, please pray for David, for all seminarians, and for all priests! Pray that we would always do God’s will in all things. Thank you!