People are fascinated with predictions of the future. Around New Year, supermarket tabloids boost sales by running articles on “top psychic predictions for the coming year.”
While the Catholic Church does not endorse psychics, she does believe in the prediction of the future. In fact, the idea that holy men of old foretold the coming of Jesus is part of the Gospel message itself. In the creed we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit … who has spoken through the prophets.”
The Holy Spirit spoke about Jesus Christ through the prophets. There are many examples of this, but for today I just want to focus on one prophecy, one that every Catholic should be familiar with, because it is fulfilled every time we celebrate Mass.
About 700 years before Jesus was born, there lived a young prophet in Jerusalem by the name of Jeremiah. It was a very dark time for God’s people, and it seemed like the people of Israel would be overwhelmed and destroyed by their enemies. During these hard times, Jeremiah spoke on behalf of God:
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 … which they broke ….
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel …
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 31:31-34)
Now a covenant is a family relationship formed by an oath. Marriage and adoption are classic examples. When Jeremiah wrote, the people of God were experiencing the dire consequences of having broken their covenant relationship with God. But God promised a future day when a new covenant would be formed, better than the old one.
Hundreds of years after Jeremiah, on a Spring evening in Jerusalem, Jesus spoke these words as He led his disciples in a Passover meal: “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). He could scarcely have said anything more shocking to the men around the table. The people of Israel had been waiting for this moment for seven hundred years, and now it was happening before their eyes, in this small room in a crowded quarter of Jerusalem!? Indeed, it was!
Moses established the old covenant in a ceremony using animal blood (see Exodus 24:6-8). Jesus formed the “new covenant” using his own blood. A covenant forms the participants into a family. Animal blood could only symbolize blood relationship, but the blood of Jesus—both human and divine—truly makes us “blood relatives” with God when we consume it!
Jeremiah prophesied, “I will put my law within them … write it on their hearts.” In the old covenant, Moses wrote God’s laws on tablets of stone. In the new covenant, the Holy Spirit is God’s “law” written upon our hearts. St. Paul says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 5:5) and “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).
We virtually repeat Jesus’s words from the Last Supper at every mass: “This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant …” Though we hear these words weekly or even daily, how often do we ponder that every mass fulfills the prophecy from a young Israelite holy man uttered over 2,700 years ago? Our faith is not a novelty or a strange teaching appearing without warning. It is the culmination of what “the Holy Spirit … has spoken through the Prophets.”