Humankind invited into covenant kindness

A COVID vaccination centre in the city of Salvador. Photo: istockphoto.com/Joa_Souza

A COVID vaccination centre in the city of Salvador. Photo: istockphoto.com/Joa_Souza

President Joe Biden has given a striking example of how Covid-19 is moving people to help fellow humans around the globe. He has made five billion dollars available to the World Health Organisation, which is crying out for more compassion towards poor countries. This kindness shown by a President who likes to share in daily Eucharist encourages me to reflect on how each mass celebrates the covenant kindness of Jesus. 

The Last Supper took place in an atmosphere of love. “Jesus, knowing that his hour had come, … having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1-2). While eating the Paschal meal with his Apostles, Jesus announces the new covenant involving the sacrifice of his own body and blood – “This chalice is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Lk 22:20). Jesus also tells the Apostles that the new commandment of this covenant is, “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). This leads on to the heartfelt prayer of Jesus: “Father, I have made your name known to them, … so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them” (Jn 17:26). The Spirit continually answers that prayer by pouring the love of God into our hearts (see Rm 5:5). This is the unfailing source of covenant kinship and, above all, of mutual love.

The hour of Jesus continues in the Garden of Olives. There he prays in agony as the head of the human family. On its behalf he accepts the crucial obligation of the new covenant: ‘Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; however, let thy will be done, not mine” (Lk 22:42).

Then comes Judas with Jewish leaders and Temple guards to take Jesus to unjust trials and his death by crucifixion. It is by shedding his blood on the Cross that Jesus seals the new covenant, binding God to treat the entire human race as his now reconciled family. For its part, the whole family, led by elder Brother Jesus, accepts the Father’s loving care and commandments, cost what it may. Inseparably linked to loving the Father is the commitment to love all members of the global family.

Pope Francis begins his Lenten Message 2021: “Dear Brothers and Sisters, Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world. In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who ‘humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8).”

Now we enjoy what Jesus promised, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men [humankind] to myself” (Jn 12:32). This confirms the intention of Jesus, as beloved Son of God the Father and Son of Mary, to mediate an everlasting family bond between God and the entire human family. What draws all people towards the Crucified is love. The Creator implanted the law of gravity which draws all bodies towards each other, with a force in proportion to the distance between them. Just look at the recent rapid descent of the US Rover to land on planet Mars. The same God, who is love, has also made all humans capable of knowing and loving God, their neighbours, themselves and the rest of their Father’s creation. So love is like the spiritual force of gravity drawing us to relate wisely to God and our brothers and sisters worldwide.

Those of us who have been baptised into the Church now belong to the people of God. We are aware of God the Father loving each of us personally and watching over us as his family. Moved by the Spirit of Jesus we pray, “Our Father …thy kingdom come, thy will be done”. So we freely join with Jesus in accepting the covenant so courageously sealed on Calvary. We notice how we pray to “our Father”, whose kingdom or reign we want to be freely accepted by all. So Father stresses kinship, while King recognises God’s kingship stretching far beyond the Church to all of creation.

Because family ties carry a responsibility to help any other member in need, humankind today urgently needs our covenant kindness as it deals with the ravages of Covid-19. Pope Francis calls for a Samaritan Church, and one like a field hospital. The pandemic still requires a united global response. Countless thousands of good people are giving their all to help others survive the virus. Now is a critical time for more affluent countries to share vaccines and other life-saving resources with poorer countries. The World Health Organisation is already pleading and acting on behalf of our global family.

At the same time, the United Nations has recently had 50 member nations sign in to make binding the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. We need to urge Australia also to enter into that treaty, for it applies the covenant of peace. The first words of the Risen Mediator to his locked-in disciples were “Peace be with you”, twice over. (Jn 20:20-21)

The neighbours we are called on to love and help are the local people we meet or hear about in the local news. Covenant kindness calls us to help them generously and cheerfully.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit all help us carry forward the noble mission of inviting all mankind and womankind to practise covenant kindness. By this, we can all gradually become kind men and kind women. 

Columban Fr Chris Baker resides in Essendon.

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