Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Jeremiah 3:31-34; Matthew 16:13-23)
It has been sixty-seven years today since the city of Nagasaki was devastated by the atomic bomb. The ruin was calamitous – estimates indicate that a quarter of the population perished and a good portion of the city destroyed. It completed demoralized the Japanese resistance which almost immediately surrendered to the Allied forces. One might think of Nagasaki in picturing Jerusalem at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy in the first reading.
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, and comforting even more than it is demanding.