Monday, March 29, 2010

Ezekiel 36:26

It takes a long time to make a good disciple. God has to work with us for many years and it seems that it never ends. Actually, it doesn't end as long as we continue to grow in Christ. Each of us is a sort of house - a House for God Who is the Masterbuilder. Let us search no farther than ourselves and choose to be a place of God’s presence in the world - His House if you will - Home to the Word written on our hearts.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  ~ Hebrews 4:12
God has a promise for each of us. We do not need to remain stubborn in our ways. By allowing Him to work in us, we receive His promise:
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and 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 I will be your God. ~ Ezekiel 36:26, 27a, 28b
Let us harden not our hearts when today we hear His voice but open to Him who is the Word.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ~ Revelation 3:20
This is a mutual indwelling - He in us and we in Him. Let us come to know His ways and believe in Him, for . . . 
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. ~ Psalm 127:1

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  ~ Ezekiel 36:26

This scripture verse is so profound when looked at in the light of the Ark of the Covenant. In the Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament were kept three things:
  • The stone tablets on which were written the Word of God - the Law of Moses
  • Manna eaten by the Israelites while wandering for 40 years in the desert
  • The rod of Aaron which bloomed

The Ark of the Covenant prefigures Mary, the Mother of God in the New Testament. She may be considered the Ark of the New Covenant. For 9 months, Mary carried Jesus in her womb.Within the Ark of the New Covenant were kept three things:
  •  The Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ
  • Jesus, the Bread of Life come down from heaven, Who is the new manna
  • The Messiah, descendant of David referred to in the Old Testament as the sprout from the stump of Jesse

In no way does this diminish Jesus or exalt Mary above God Himself. Jesus became man so that we may become like Him Who is God. It is fitting that His mother's womb be a place set apart because the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, dwelt there in human form for 9 months. It is why we, as Catholics, refer to Mary as Mother of God and why we believe that Mary was spared from sin from the moment of her conception. God pre-applied the benefits of salvation to His own mother.

Jesus had a profound respect for His mother, often referring to her as "woman" - in reference to the woman of Genesis 3:15. God cursed the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve and said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."   Mary is that woman.

But again, reflect on the significance of Ezekiel 36:26 in light of Christ, our Savior. God promises to replace in Israel the heart of stone with a heart of flesh. The verses of the larger passage tell us more about how God's people who have been unfaithful and what He will do for them.

I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. ~ Ezekiel 36:25-28

God is telling the Israelites what He also said through the prophet Jeremiah:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that 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 on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. ~ Jeremiah 31:31-34

Sin hardens the heart and turns it away from God. The Grace of God calls us to repentance. When we only follow the law, it just tells us where we went wrong. When we follow God's Grace, the law becomes written in our hearts. It is the law of Love. It is the tears of a contrite heart that softens the clay of the heart so that God can mold us into the image of His Divine Heart through His Sacred Word and the Holy Eucharist.

Also, when we are spiritually wounded by the sin of others, the heart builds walls around itself to protect it from more harm. God promises us His Mercy to heal those wounds and tear down those fortress walls. He calls us to forgiveness. He wants to be our protection - our Rock of Safety, so that our hearts can be open and receptive to others. It is the only way to receive love and the only way to give love. It is the only way to receive the Spirit He has promised us.

I baptize you by you.

He will write it on our hearts! ...not hearts of stone, but of flesh. In Baptism, the image of the living Christ is imprinted on our souls. We are marked with the sign of faith - the cross of Jesus Christ. When we die with Him, we must also rise with Him. May He reign in our hearts forever!

May God richly bless you with His Grace and Peace. Join me on this journey to Him. for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. ~ Joshua 24:15

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