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Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Ez. 16:1-15, 60, 63 & Mt. 19:3-12

Ezekiel recounts, in a tender and graphic style, the immense love and mercy that God had shown His people. He had found them in pitiable and desperate plight, unloved and without hope; He could have left them to their fate but instead He commanded life for them and adopted them as His own.

From then on He lavished every care on them: He brought them to the Promised Land and gave them Jerusalem. The city grew powerful and beautiful but His people were unfaithful to the covenant of love and commitment He had made with them on Mount Sinai. They formed alliances with the surrounding pagan states and took up their neighbour abhorrent religious and cultural practices.

So appalling and wilful was the spiritual and moral conditions of the city (Ezekiel likened it to a harlot) that the only treatment for the sickness was the just surgery of exile and ultimately the destruction of the city. But in the face of His people's betrayal God remained faithful and even consoled them with the promise of a new and everlasting covenant.

Ezekiel's prophecy is for all humanity - it speaks as clearly today as it did to the people of his time. We are born helpless and without hope, too, separated from our Creator and from each other, by the effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve. But God is consistent and faithful in His word and does not abandon us. In sending Jesus to redeem us, He has fulfilled and perfected all the covenants of the Old Testament and inaugurated the promised new one.

The new covenant is not of letter and of the law but of faith and of the Spirit, bringing forgiveness and freedom to all who seek reconciliation as children of God. It is also a covenant that demands our humble obedience, worship and love. But above all else the new covenant expresses, in the person of Jesus, God's boundless love for humanity. Just as the covenants of old were sealed with the blood of sacrificial animals, so the covenant of reconciliation with our heavenly Father has been sealed with the life-giving blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

How can we respond in our daily lives to such an awesome love? It has to be through showing our appreciation by attendance at Holy Mass, frequenting the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession, through heartfelt prayer every day, by loving our neighbour and being true to our vocation in life. Daily we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us in this task, for it is only by His help that we can be pleasing to our Father in Heaven.

Some Pharisees attempt to test Jesus by asking Him whether it is lawful or not to divorce, in today's Gospel reading. His answer to them amazes His disciples as well. The teaching on the indissolubility of marriage appeared too strict to them, and they concluded that it would be better, then, not to marry at all.

People who have lived long together, and whom others consider as successful in their marriage, can testify that their union has not been without its difficulties. They chose to stick together in obedience to God’s command and with His help, in fulfilment of their wedding vows and out of loyalty to each other, and for the benefit of the children.

Usually, part of the joy of the evening of their lives consists in looking back on all the apparently insurmountable difficulties of their life which, rather than tearing them apart, helped to cement their relationship that then flowered in better times.

Lord Jesus, keep us loyal to you and to one another. In doing this we will find true peace and happiness, with You and each other in Heaven if not in this life.

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