Father David's Reflection for Thursday of the Fifth Week in Lent
The Responsorial Psalm gives us a motive to persevere in discipleship: "The Lord remembers his covenant forever" (Psalm 105). Discipleship is a covenant between teacher and learner. We are certain God will keep his side of the bargain.
In Genesis 17: 3-9 God made his first covenant (the "old testament") with Abraham and his descendants: "This is my covenant with you." God promised human benefits: "You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now. for a perpetual holding..."
In return God asked faith in God and good human behavior: "On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages." This consisted essentially in keeping the Law, rooted in the Ten Commandments, which are instructions for living a good human life on earth.
Obviously, to receive what God promised, the People had to study and learn the Law in order to live by it. Fidelity to the covenant presupposed discipleship, sustained by the assurance that "the Lord remembers his covenant forever."
In Luke 8:51-59 Jesus is speaking in the context of the new and "better covenant. enacted through better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). This was the "new testament" that brought the old one to perfection (see Jeremiah 31:31; Luke 22:20). What Jesus promises in this covenant is far beyond all that enhances human life in this world. Jesus says, "Whoever keeps my word will never see death." What Jesus promises is something beyond all human power to give or even to comprehend. It is the gift of sharing in the divine, eternal life of God.
Those to whom Jesus was speaking got the point: no mere human could promise this. "Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? Or the prophets who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?"
Jesus told them he was indeed what his promise implied: "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham came to be, I AM." Jesus is God in the flesh.
If we are going to be disciples of this man, we must be motivated by more than the promise of a long and pleasant life on this earth. To us God promises eternal life, a share in God's own life. But he also asks more: divine behavior. He asks us to live on the level of God. That is the goal and guide of our disciple- ship. And we pursue this goal with confidence based on his promise: "The Lord remembers his covenant forever".
Initiative: Be a disciple. Study to be divine. Don't limit your focus to human behavior or human rewards. Open yourself to the mind and heart of God.