Covenant and identity

Léon Bonnat, Christ on the Cross (1880)

“Dear friends, as we read our Bibles (as we Catholics surely do very frequently), we discover that, as the fortunes of the Israelite nation began to wane after the death of King Solomon, prophets arrived to warn the people of imminent destruction. We know the names of several of the great prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. These men also foretold renewal, characterised by a New Covenant, as Jeremiah says in our first reading today. The people knew that a Messiah was coming, who would restore their relationship with God, a relationship which was the source of their then-lost prosperity. That relationship with God had been established through the covenant God had made with the people through his prophet Moses, centuries ago, at Mount Sinai. This we Christians call the Old Covenant, or Old Testament. It’s predominant sign was the Law given to Moses, inscribed on tablets of stone that were reserved afterwards in the Holy of Holies, in the so-called Tabernacle of the Testament, and later in the Temple in Jerusalem.

“After the prophet Daniel had made a careful calculation of when the Messiah would arrive (Daniel, chapter 9 and onwards), based on visions he had had, people in the time of Christ knew that something was up, and there were numerous false messiahs in that time. But only one Messiah brought to life one of the vital promises the prophets had associated with Him: the entering into the New Covenant of God not only of Hebrews and Jews, but of peoples from many countries and nations. All these would enter the Church of the New Covenant.

“When Christ met with non-Jewish Greeks, in our Gospel story on Sunday, He announced that the time had come to write the New Covenant – and He would write it upon a Cross and with His own blood. Naturally, the predominant sign of the New Covenant, or New Testament, is the Crucifix.”