Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 16:13-23)

It has been seven-three 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 desecrated the Temple, killed thousands of people, and taken into captivity many other thousands.  “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 welling inside him.  Like a musical round that refuses to leave one’s head repeating words of consolation, the Spirit speaks.  “I will write my law upon their hearts,” it says.  The people will never stray from God’s law again because it is to be engraved in them.  To the contrary it will bring righteousness to individual lives and justice to 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 written counterparts in the Sermon on the Mount and other Scriptural passages.  But the New Law is first spiritual, intractable, and comforting even if it demands of us everything.