Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Jeremiah 3:31-34; Matthew 16:13-23)
It has been seven months since the earthquake in Haiti killed approximately 300,000. Pictures now appear in our newspapers showing the tent cities in which 500,000 survivors are forced to reside. With all the misery these poor people have experienced, prospects are still grim for relief soon. The rainy season is beginning in earnest possibly bringing not only discomfort but also disease.
Haiti today is like the devastated Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s time. Hope in the holy city is scant as the Babylonians have completely desecrated the Temple, killed thousands of people, and taken into captivity many other thousands as booty. “What good could possibly come of all this?” the prophet, a survivor, surely asks himself. But he does not remain in disillusion very long. He feels the Holy Spirit speaking inside him. Like a musical round that refuses to leave one’s consciousness repeating itself with words of consolation, the Spirit speaks. “I will write my law upon their hearts,” it says. The people will never stray forget God’s law again because it is indelibly engraved in them. Rather it will bring righteousness in individual lives and justice in society.
The law of which the prophet foretells and Jesus proclaims is none other than God’s Holy Spirit. Inscribed upon our hearts with Baptism, the Spirit prompts us to always do good, to avoid evil, and to love sincerely. It has a written counterpart in the Sermon on the Mount, but it is first and foremost spiritual, intractable, comforting even more than exacting.