This Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Genesis tells us about God’s promise to Abraham that He would make of him a great nation. This promise was because of the covenant that God made with him. Abraham was not the first person that God made a covenant with. Before Abraham, God made a covenant with Noah after the flood and God would later make other covenants with Moses and David. Finally, through the Prophet Jeremiah, God makes a promise of a greater covenant still to come and we find that covenant is made and fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ.
So why does this particular act with Abraham stand out? As God fashions His covenant with Abraham in Genesis, He promises to make of him a great nation, but He goes further in promising Abraham that their bond will be unique and personal. A covenant is more than an agreement or a series of promises; a covenant is a sacred relationship.
The covenant that God made with the children of Israel through Abraham is not undone but rather perfected in Jesus Christ and we have been made partakers of that same covenant. This Christian covenant is both corporate and personal, and we are brought into this sacred relationship through baptism. In baptism, we are chosen by God and rescued from the power of sin and death. In this wonderful sacrament the promise made to Abraham is also made to us individually: I will be your God and you will be mine.
As with any other form of agreement or contract, a covenant’s value is only as good as each party’s resolve to keep it. The good news for us is that God’s resolve is infinite which is why His covenants are everlasting. God does not relent in his love and He is forever true to His word. What about us? What about our resolve to keep our part of the covenant? I doubt that any of us if asked, would say that our resolve to maintain our relationship with the Lord is anything but resolute; our words may say that, but what does the lived reality of our daily lives say? Are we living up to our side of the covenant each day?
Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church has this sacred season of Lent. This season is an invitation from a loving and merciful Lord to examine our lives, our part of the covenant, and truly reckon with ourselves if we are living up to our part of the agreement, maybe only somewhat, or maybe not really at all. The journey of Lent is a call to return to the grace that was given to us at baptism, when God made a covenant with us individually and thus made us corporate members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. In this weekend’s second reading, St. Paul says to each of us through Timothy “bear your share of hardship for the Gospel.” We must be ready and willing to do our part in this covenant relationship with the Lord, and the Good News continues because God’s goodness is never outdone as Paul reminds us that God gives us the strength to do it.
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.