Presentation on theme: "Pentecost Is the Fulfillment of the New Covenant General audience of August 2, 1989."— Presentation transcript:
Pentecost Is the Fulfillment of the New Covenant General audience of August 2, 1989
The Pasch of Christ's cross and resurrection reached its climax in the Pentecost of Jerusalem. The descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, assembled in the upper room with Mary and the first community of Christ's disciples, was the fulfillment of the promises and announcements made by Jesus to his disciples.
Pentecost is the solemn public manifestation of the new covenant made between God and man "in the blood" of Christ: "this is the new covenant in my blood," Jesus had said at the Last Supper (cf. 1 Cor 11:25).
This is a new, definitive and eternal covenant, prepared by previous covenants spoken of in the Old Testament. Those already contained the announcement of the definitive pact which God would make with man in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
The revealed word in Ezekiel's prophecy was an invitation to view the Pentecost event in this light: "And I will put my spirit within you" (Ez 36:27).
Pentecost had at one time been the feast of the harvest. (cf. Ex 23:14) It was later celebrated also as a memorial and a renewal of the covenant made by God with Israel after the liberation from the Egyptian bondage (cf. 2 Cor 15:10-13).
We read in the Book of Exodus that Moses "took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.' And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people and said, 'Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words'" (Ex 24:7-8).
God's covenants with Noah and Abraham The covenant of Sinai had already been made between the Lord God and Israel. Before that there had been, according to the Bible, God's covenants with the patriarch Noah and with Abraham.
In the covenant with Noah after the flood, God showed his intention to establish a covenant not only with humanity but also with the whole of creation in the visible world: "Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you... with all animals that come from the ark" (Gen 9:9-10).
"I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you" (Gen 17:7). The covenant with Abraham had also another meaning. God chose a man and made a covenant with him because of his descendants:
The covenant with Abraham revealed God's plan to choose a specific people, Israel, from which the promised Messiah would be born.
The divine law was given in the covenant of Sinai The covenant with Abraham did not contain a law in the true and proper sense. The divine law was given later, in the covenant of Sinai.
God promised it to Moses who had gone up the mountain in answer to God's call: "Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine.... These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel" (Ex 19:5).
Moses informed the elders of Israel of the divine promise, "and all the people answered together and said, 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do.' And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord" (Ex 19:8).
This biblical description of the preparation of the covenant and of the mediating action of Moses sets out in relief the figure of this great leader and lawgiver of Israel, showing the divine origin of the code which he gave to the people.
the Lord chose Israel as his special possession, "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). But it was on the condition that they would remain faithful to his law in the Ten Commandments, and to the other prescriptions and norms. The people of Israel on their part pledged themselves to this fidelity. But it also wishes to make it understood that the covenant of Sinai involved commitments on both sides:
The history of the old covenant shows many instances of Israel's infidelity to God. The prophets especially rebuked Israel for their infidelities, and they interpreted the mournful events of their history as divine punishment.
They threatened further punishment, but at the same time they announced another covenant.
"Behold, the days are coming says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke" (Jer 31:31-32).
"This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer 31:33). The new and future covenant will involve man more intimately.
God's law will be put in the depths of the human "being" (of the human "I"). This character of interiority is confirmed by the words, This new initiative of God concerns especially the "interior" person. "I will write it upon their hearts." It is therefore a law with which man is identified interiorly. Only then is God truly "their" God.
According to the prophet Isaiah the law constituting the new covenant will be established in the human spirit by means of the spirit of God.
The Spirit of the Lord "shall rest upon a shoot from the stump of Jesse" (Is 11:2), that is, on the Messiah. The words of the prophet shall be fulfilled in him: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me" (Is 61:1).
Guided by the Spirit of God, the Messiah will fulfill the covenant and will make it new and eternal. This is what Isaiah foretold in prophetic words floating above the obscurity of history:
"And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children's children, says the Lord, from this time forth and forevermore" (Is 59:21).
Whatever may be the historical and prophetic periods within which Isaiah's vision is set, we can well say that his words are fulfilled in Christ, in the Word who is his own but also "of the Father who sent him" (cf. Jn 5:37); in his Gospel which renews, completes and vivifies the law; and in the Holy Spirit who is sent by virtue of Christ's redemption through his cross and resurrection, thus fully confirming what God had already announced through the prophets in the old covenant.
With Christ and in the Holy Spirit there is the new covenant, of which the prophet Ezekiel had prophesied as the mouthpiece of God: "I will give you a new heart and a new spirit. I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances...and you shall be my people, and I will be your God" (Ez 36:26-28).
In the Pentecost event of Jerusalem the descent of the Holy Spirit definitively fulfilled God's new and eternal covenant with humanity sealed in the blood of the only-begotten Son, as the crowning moment of the "Gift from on high" (cf. Jas 1:17). In that covenant the Triune God "gives himself," no longer merely to the Chosen People, but to all humanity.
Ezekiel's prophecy, "you shall be my people and I will be your God" (Ez 36:28), acquires a new and definitive dimension: universality. It realizes to the full the dimension of interiority, because the fullness of the gift the Holy Spirit must fill all hearts, giving to all the necessary power to overcome all weakness and sin.
It acquires the dimension of eternity: it is a "new and eternal" covenant (cf. Heb 13:20). In that fullness of the gift the Church has its beginning as the People of God of the new and eternal covenant. This fulfilled Christ's promise concerning the Holy Spirit sent as "another Counselor" (Parakletos), "to be with you forever" (Jn 14:16).