Periodically we are confronted with people who consider the Old Testament irrelevant or who claim it presents a God of justice while the New Testament presents a God of love. I am always mystified by their views, especially when I recall Jeremiah’s God who loves us with an everlasting love (31:3) and Isaiah’s who declares that even though a woman might forget or be without tenderness for the child of her womb, God will not forget us (49:15). In addition to these passages, how can we forget the writings found in “Hosea” and in the “Song of Songs”? By contrast, we run into passages where Jesus warns us, that if we fall into the sinfulness of the prisoner in Luke’s Gospel (12:59) we, too, “…will not come out from it until we have paid the last penny!” How can we identify the God of love in that New Testament passage? Fortunately, the Old and New Testaments complement each other. The Psalmist lets us know, for example, that frequently our failings are hidden from ourselves and he pleads to be freed from these secret faults (Ps. 19:13). And the writer of Romans graphically describes the human condition as it is (7:13-23). We are both aware and unaware of the sinfulness within us. We do not understand our own actions; it is not what our innermost selves tell us is good that we do but, rather, evil things which we would not do if we understood they were evil. But that is precisely the point. We are powerless. We, too, must ask with the same writer, “Who can free me (us) from this body under the power of death?” Or, to raise the question posed by Luke’s sinful prisoner: “How can we pay the last penny?” Jesus is the answer of course. In his death he has already paid the debt and in his resurrection we have been given his Spirit, that power within, to help us overcome our powerlessness. Let us rely on his strength a little more each day.
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.