Life and Prosperity
Today’s homily discusses what would seem to be an obvious choice. We can choose life and prosperity or death and doom. Who wouldn’t choose life? We do not choose life when we fail to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. Going Behind the word discusses how the first reading is an example of the steps of a covenant in the biblical world.
Going Behind the Word
Today we get a smaller version of the covenant God will make with his Chosen People. While this does not include all of the elements of a covenant, it includes many. Covenants can either be between two equal parties, or they can be made between an inferior party and a superior one.
A Contract is Not a Covenant
First thing it is important to understand is that there is an important and significant difference between a a contract and a covenant. A contract is simply an agreement where one party promises something and another party promises something. It is a transaction. It is usually related to services or things that people can do.
For example, let’s say I sign a contract with a contractor to have my house painted. The contractor agrees to paint my house, and I agree to pay him. This is a contract. Contracts are limited in time, and they are an exchange for a time.
Covenants on the other hand, are different. They are not for a time, but forever. They are not about the exchange of goods or services, but rather about relationships. Covenants outline what the two parties will be for each other. This is why marriage is a covenant and not a contract. Marriage is a total self-gift of one to another. (This is why a pre-nuptial agreement is not allowed in the Catholic Church.)
The Parts of a Covenant
A Covenant Needs at Least Two Parties
While there can be more than two parties to a covenant it is required there be at least two parties. I cannot make a covenant with myself. The parties can be of equal status, which is called a conditional covenant, or it can be an unconditional covenant which is between two parties of unequal status.
Total Commitment to a Binding Agreement
A covenant, as we have mentioned is not an exchange of this for that, like a contract, but it involves the total gift on one party to another. This is why it involves relationships.
A Covenant Involves Oaths
As said above, this is not about an exchange of services. Rather, it is a solemn promise or oath to be someone. While the promise does involve actions, it is the case that the actions further the relationship between the parties.
There is a Physical Sign or Symbol
The covenant usually has some type of visible reminder of the covenant, so that people will have a way to recall the terms of the covenant. It is a reminder of the significance of the relationship.
It involves a Witness (or Witnesses)
A covenant involves having a witness, or more than one witness. This witness need not be a person, but can be an object as well.
It is Often Sealed
There is often a formal sign that the covenant has been agreed to. It is a sealed. We have seen throughout history that documents can be sealed, let’s say in wax.
There is usually a Ritual or Ceremony
After the covenant is sealed, there is usually some ritual or ceremony that is performed. In the Old Testament, for example, Moses sprinkles blood on the altar to ritualize the covenant.
There are Consequences
The covenant features benefits for following and keeping the covenant, and serious consequences for failing to keep the covenant.
Ways to Celebrate Lent
You can find podcasts, homilies and more on this website. High School reflections are provided by students at Christian Brothers College High School. The readings of the day can be found on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In addition to the Confessions of Saint Augustine, the Friar Book Club is reading the Meditations for the Time of Retreat by Saint John Baptist de la Salle. If you have intentions you wish to have prayed for, you can do so on this website.