St. Therese of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

(Nehemiah 8:1-4.5-6.7b-12; Luke10:1-12)

We have all heard the mistaken notion that in the Old Testament God reveals Himself as the mighty Lord demanding justice while in the New Testament Christ reveals Him to be a loving Father. Such an error comes from frequent references in the Prophets to God punishing His chosen people for their sins while forgetting that Jesus too speaks of “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” No, God can be recognized in both parts of the Bible as full of hesed, the Hebrew word for merciful love.

Why else would the Jews break out in tears when they hear "the law" read to them in the reading from Nehemiah today? Certainly there is something more at play than words of a legal code provoking such pathos. Law here means Torah, the first five books of what we call the Old Testament, which tell of God carefully forming Abraham and his descendants into a holy people like Himself and then rescuing them from the tyranny of Pharaoh.

But we must not be too hard on those who find God as revealed by Jesus somehow superior to the One the Jews had known. After all, in time God truly did perform the unimaginable. He came to us in the flesh so that we might have a personal experience of His goodness. God did not change, but we became aware of the depth and breath of His love. St. Therese was aware of this as much as just about anyone. She prescribed the appropriate human response to God when she wrote, “Love is repaid by love alone.”