19 Pentecost

Jer. 31:27-34 [Gen. 32:22-31]
Ps. 119:97-104 [Ps. 121]
2 Tim. 3:14-4:5
Luke 18:1-8

Judgment approaches its end; though, in truth, even the mercy of the Lord is a kind of judgment, a decree. A bitter judgment becomes the judgment of promise and hope. “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord” (Jer. 37:27-28).  It is not hard to find fault with these words, to take issue with a God who brings evil and then brings good. This difficulty is reason enough to pause and contemplate.

Faith is not, in the end, advanced by seeing God only as the agency of goodness measured by human ease and pleasure. In this case, all misfortune, testing, trial, and pain, of which there is much in this fallen world, would be evidence of where God is not. In the world of the Bible, God address his people in judgment against unrighteousness. God does this by a righteous and correcting love. God is present and speaking in every moment, mysteriously embedded in human sorrow and human joy, human loss and human hope. In all this work, God is sowing the divine presence more deeply into the human heart. “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. … I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:31, 33).

To know the Lord Jesus Christ is to know the One and Living God, to know inwardly and in the deep chambers of one’s being the truth of divine presence, grace, and energy. This is a bracing and consoling presence. Inwardly, God is plucking and breaking and destroying the Old Adam and calling into life a New Being in union with Christ.

This is the new inward law of Christ, and in Christ we hear all the words of sacred Scripture.  “Oh, how I love your law!” (Ps. 119:97). In like manner, we are called to love Christ, and we are called to inwardly digest Scripture as the revelation of Christ. “All day long it is in my mind; it is always with me; your decrees are my study; I observe your commandments; I keep your word” (Ps. 119:97-101).

The author of 2 Timothy viewed Scripture in precisely this way.  “The sacred Scriptures are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).  Indeed, the earliest Christians had only the Old Testament as their sacred book, and in it they espied innumerable references to Christ until every word and sentence seemed to radiate something of the Lord Jesus.

This is why the reading and study of Scripture is so vitally important. Scripture is a means of encountering the living presence of the Lord. This encounter takes time and patience, repetition and review. Ideally, Scripture is read as if in the midst of a great liturgy. Scripture lives in the Church, lives in the themes of the Church year, lives in the many who gather and the one who prays and studies alone.

Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)  Will he find those who pray always and study often?

Look It Up:  Read Jeremiah 31:33.

Think About It:  Jesus will write himself on your heart, and your heart will bleed and beat on.

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