Friday, January 21, 2011

Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr

(Hebrews 8:6-13; Mark 3:13-19)

It is not that typewriters are old that makes us want to ditch them, it is because they are obsolete. In almost every way computers outperform typewriters so that most of us don’t even have room for the latter in storage. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews finds God’s covenant with Israel similarly obsolete.

The Old Testament passage which today’s reading cites comes from the prophet Jeremiah. Living six hundred years before Christ, Jeremiah saw that the people were not prepared to keep the Covenantal Law. He foretold not only a new law but a new kind of law written on the heart so that those so inscribed could comply with it just as much as, for example, they love their children. We understand this New Law as coming to us with the Holy Spirit who prompts us to do what is right.

But how obsolete is the Old Covenant? To be sure, as liberal critics point out, we cannot hold to each of its ceremonial and judicial precepts. Yet the Ten Commandments still guide our relationships with God and neighbors. It would be tragic to dismiss these moral precepts as out of date. Rather we need to apply their wisdom to life today as a matter of the Spirit’s