August 9, 2012 - Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:12-15, 18-19
Matthew 16:13-23

The meaning of life is to have a relationship with God, but the problem is how we limited, insignificant creatures can have a relationship with the allpowerful, infinite God without losing our free will. With the Israelites, God solves this problem by giving the law. The Jews used to follow the law in order to have a relationship with God. They could not see their God or touch him, but they could follow the law that he gave. The law was the connection between the spiritual world and the physical world because it is given in the spiritual world but lived out in the physical world. The words came from God to Moses, and the Israelites lived out the words in their lives. God’s will was lived out in the world, not as if he were controlling the people, but because the people longed for the will of God and loved the law. Humans were free to obey it.

The law says, “Do not kill.” It is important that we not kill because that would be to hurt another, but that is not the only reason. Some people think that morality is all about not hurting other people, as if the meaning of life is to get through without hurting anybody. The meaning of life is to have a relationship with God. The best reason to not kill is because by following the commandment of God, we are in relationship with him. So also for every law. They rested one day a week because when they did, they were in a particular relationship with the command of God to rest.

So the law preserved their freedom while allowing them to be in relationship with God, but there is still a problem because following the law is difficult, even impossible. Even if we want to follow the law, we end up breaking it. So God says in the reading today that he will create a new covenant, a foundation of a new relationship. This new covenant will not be a law which we have to follow; it will not depend on our own strength. The law of the new covenant is the Holy Spirit.

When we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we find that we believe without knowing why, that we love with a love that is not our own, we hope for what we have never seen. This is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Still, free will must be retained. The Holy Spirit will only work within us if we invite him in. We invite him in the sacraments. We invite him by spending time in prayer. You all have invited him today by taking the time to come to Mass. When we have invited him in, and have not rejected him with sin, we will discover that he is working great miracles in our hearts.