When the prophet Jeremiah coined the term "new covenant" he was actually doing something quite radical. For the Jewish people, there was only one covenant, the one made between the Lord God and Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai. For Jeremiah to suggest that God would somehow supersede the covenant with a new one would have sounded audacious to Jewish ears. But in this way he is a predecessor of Jesus who, in the Gospel of John, is continually portrayed as superseding the past, establishing the reign of God in a new way. And in today's Gospel passage, Jesus the "new covenant" speaks the language of his "new commandment" of love when he tells of the dying grain of wheat, and of our own need to die to self in order to be raised with Christ.
As lent ends and we prepare to enter into Holy Week, the dying grain of wheat serves as an excellent symbol of the kind of dying and self sacrifice to which disciples are called, a symbol of that new covenant written deep within our hearts.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Greg Esty
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