What’s the difference between a contract and a covenant? This is something I discuss with couples I meet with in preparing them for marriage. As I explain to them, a contract is a civil agreement between two persons, and a covenant in the spiritual sense is an agreement between two persons and God. We hear about the covenant God established with the Israelites today in the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy. The covenant called for the people to observe all of the statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to the voice of God. They are reminded that if they do this, they will be favored in God’s eyes and sacred to the Lord.
God enjoins upon us this same covenant promise. If we but follow the commandments, decrees, etc and walk in the footsteps of God, we will enjoy a lasting relationship with our God. How difficult can this be? In one sense it seems so simple, just do what God asks us to do and we’ve got it made! True to form, being the frail human beings we can be, we often make the simple to be the most difficult!
Each year during Lent, we set out to be the people God created us to be! We slip and fall, pick ourselves back up time and again and start over. God as our loving parent, is always there to pick us up again and again, to remind us of the great love that surrounds us and makes this parent/child relationship so powerful and perfect!
Matthew offers words of advice in his gospel today in regards to just how we can strive to be faithful to the covenant. We are called to heed the law of love,
“love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children
of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes
rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
This requires a willingness on our part to lay down our weapons of jealousy, envy, pride, stubbornness, impatience and quick judgment. It requires us to embrace our brothers and sisters as members of the one family of God. We can’t do this if we view our relationship with God as a mere contract, something we do by ourselves devoid of any spiritual assistance from our loving God.
May our Lenten journey lead us into an ever-deepening covenant relationship with a God who loves us unconditionally and promises us a share in that perfect if we but follow that path set before us.
Theresa Secord is a Pastoral Associate at St. Agnes Parish, Louisville, Kentucky.