Wednesday June 8, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 3:4-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:17-19)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians that the first covenant (that is, the covenant of Moses which was made with the Ten Commandments written on stone) is a covenant that brings condemnation, a covenant that brings death. Yet he talks about the fact that it was made with such glory that the people of Israel could not look upon the face of Moses because his face glowed after his face-to-face conversation with God. So he is pointing out that this indeed is the Word of God and this has surpassing glory. Yet by comparison to the New Covenant in Christ, he says, it should be considered almost as no glory at all because it is so different.
It would be the difference between looking at something which is somewhat beautiful, for instance, something that a little kindergartener might make in a finger-painting class (you can see the beauty in it and you can see the innocence of the child coming through) and then you look at a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo and you say, “Look at the difference.” The one should be considered almost as nothing at all even though it is beautiful in its own right. You can see very clearly the difference.
Well, that is exactly what we have. We have a new covenant that is a covenant of life and that is given in spirit not in letter. But even the letter of the law, Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, is going to remain right to the very end because it is still the Word of God and it is still the Will of God. God does not change, so neither will the Ten Commandments change. Even if most people do not seem to think that they have to follow them, the Ten Commandments still remain in effect.
And so we have these commandments. The difference now is that the way those commandments are lived has become much deeper and more profound because the new law in Christ is a law of love. Therefore, we are called not just simply to live according to the letter of the Ten Commandments, but we are to live the Ten Commandments in love, to love God so much that what would be the most natural thing in the world for us to do would be to live according to the Ten Commandments, because if you love you are not going to do anything that is wrong. Consequently, if we are living according to the New Covenant, we will follow perfectly the Old Covenant; but, in this case, the old will be brought into the glory of the new. That which brought death, because no one was able to simply live according to the precepts of the Old Covenant, now becomes a means to life because it is the expression of the Spirit that has been given to us, it is the expression of the glory that is within us.
We have to understand, just as it was 3,500 years ago when the people would look at Moses and they would have to see him at a distance and he would put the veil over his face so that the people could not see the glory, so too, the law which was there was written in stone. It was separate from them. But it is different for us because our covenant, remember, is a person, and our incorporation into that covenant is to be incorporated into the very Person of Jesus Christ. So it is not something external to us. It is not something separate from us. It is not something that we look upon from afar. It is something within, and it is something that we have been brought into. It takes place in us, but we are also to enter into the covenant – and the covenant is the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is eternal, and therefore there will be no end to the glory of the New Covenant. That is what Saint Paul is talking about.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel that He came to fulfill the law and the prophets. That is why He is far more glorious even than what they were. They were just human persons and they were external laws. But Jesus, Who is God, fulfilled them. They spoke the Word of God and the laws expressed the Word of God, but Jesus is God. If they had glory, it was merely a share in the glory of the Person of Jesus Himself. Now we have the very Person. So we have an unsurpassing glory which has been given to each and every one of us, and we are called to live according to that glory in this life so that we can share in the fullness of that glory in the next life.
This is why Saint Paul would talk about how the former should be considered as no glory at all compared to what we have today. Now the question is a matter of living it, to be able to recognize our dignity, to see what God has done for us, to accept it, and to live it. That is the challenge presented to each one of us. That people do not live it does not change the glory in the least, because the glory is the Person of Jesus. Saint Paul said that it is not anything that any one of us can take credit for, but the credit goes to God. If we are serious about trying to live this, then it will be very evident to everyone that the glory they will see in us is the glory of God. And the glory that we are going to be living is the glory of God. Even in this world we can begin to live fully the covenant that is ours, but the covenant will find its fulfillment only when we are in heaven, so that we can live it to its absolute fullness. The glory of God will fill each one of us, and we will be united, then, in that glory for eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.