Day 230: A New Heart

Jeremiah 7:1-20 The Assyrian forces that had assembled at the walls of Jerusalem suddenly left without initiating a siege in 701 BC. This miraculous turn of events led many Jews to believe that the presence of the Temple was enough to ensure their security. Since their special covenant with God made them his Chosen People, they could not imagine the possibility of defeat and destruction. When Jeremiah tried to persuade them of the contrary, they simply chided him.

Ch 7:2 Proclaim there this word: The Word of God is not merely read but proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word and is an important element of the celebration of every Christian liturgy. (CCC 127, 1154, 1184)

Ch 7:5-7 If you do not oppress...the widow: Neglect of the poor was condemned alongside other grave sins, especially when it victimized the underprivileged or disadvantaged. 

Ch 7:9 The list of sins here is not exhaustive but representative of the entire Law and Commandments. Israel would not be able to avoid imminent chastisement without a change of heart and commitment of fidelity to the moral law revealed to Moses. It is important to bear in mind that liberation from sin and its effects is impossible without contrition and repentance. (CCC 2056-2063)

Ch 7:21-34 The people did not listen, and the prophecy turned back to a description of what Judah would suffer. 

Topheth: This site of one of the “high places,” elevated mounds, or “poles,” was used in pagan worship. (CCC 1856)

Ezekiel 36:1-15 This prophecy of blessings upon Israel included all the central themes common to the major prophets of the Old Testament. It encouraged hope for salvation that necessarily began with repentance and conversion, which occasioned the necessary purification of all their sins and infidelities. The Lord would remain faithful to his covenant and would restore the people of Israel to their land as they awaited the coming Messiah. The salvation that the Messiah would bring to the Jewish people extends to people of all nations, bringing the human race to the unit of one universal family. (CCC 64)

Ch 36:16-24 The name of God is profaned and blasphemed in a certain sense whenever his Commandments are transgressed. The sins of anyone who claims to have a relationship with God makes religion vulnerable to ridicule; as St. Paul wrote, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom 2:24). Therefore, a consistent witness to faith is vital. By bringing the exiles back to Judah, God both restored his people’s land and revealed his presence and power. The manifestation of God’s providential power attracts everyone ultimately to himself. (CCC 2811-2812, 2814)

Ch 36:24-38 Through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, God the Father fulfills his promise to protect and assist his people. The prophet Jeremiah had already prophesied that the Lord would make a “new covenant” with Israel, and Ezekiel’s prophecy went a step further to explain that this would be established in the intimacy of the human heart. The Holy Spirit transforms the hardened heart and creates a new one, infused with grace and charity. By responding to these graces, a person grows in holiness, reflecting the love of Christ. (CCC 368, 1287, 1432)

St. John Paul II said that this canticle of Ezekiel draws out the “deep meaning of the tragedy” that the People of God experienced in the years of domination, defeat, and exile. “The sin of idolatry had contaminated the land that the Lord had given to Israel as inheritance...In the final analysis it was this more than anything else that was responsible for the loss of the homeland and dispersal among the nations. In fact, God is not indifferent to good and evil; he enters the history of humanity mysteriously with his judgment that sooner or later unmasks evil, defends its victims, and points out the way of justice...However, the goal of God’s action is never the ruin, the pure and simple condemnation or elimination, of the sinner” (General Audience, September 10, 2003)

Instead, as Ezekiel explained, Israel would be purified and renewed by its trials and suffering. “The prophet takes up this oracle and completes it with a marvelous explanation: The ‘new spirit’ given by God to the children of his people will be HIS SPIRIT, the Spirit of God Himself” (St. John Paul II, General Audience, September 10, 2003)

Proverbs 14:29-30 In line with this proverb, St. Paul also exhorted the Thessalonians, “Be patient with them all,” even when dealing with the weak or the lazy (cf 1 Thes 5:14). Some who appear weak may be pure of heart, and some who perform great acts may be struggling with many weaknesses, especially envy (cf. St Gregory the Great, Regula Pastoralis, 3, 10). 

Ch 14:31 This verse is reminiscent of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in which Christ taught that whatever we do to the “least of these my brethren,” we do to Christ himself (cf. Mt 25). The teaching refers not only to works of charity directed to the poor and needy but also to efforts in creating a more just society that is cognizant of the value of each person. (CCC 1916, 1928-1929, 1938, 2425-2426, 2442)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and we give you glory. We thank you so much every day for your word, every day for your faithfulness to us, and also for you reminding us not only of our need to be faithful to you, but to be attentive to the people around us. Lord God, in Jeremiah you highlight how your people failed to take care of the needy, the poor, the orphaned, those without fathers, without mothers. And here in the Book of Proverbs you also note that those who oppress a poor man insult our maker and then we insult you. But he who is kind to the needy honors the Lord. And Lord God, we want to be those kinds of people that are not blind to the needs of the people around us, not deaf to the cries of the poor, but take the time to see, to note, and to act. Help us to never be false children to you. Help us to always be children who are like you not only in our thoughts and speech but also in our actions. Help us to be your image in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”