I listened to a speech recently in which the speaker used the expression, “Wrong Way Corrigan” and I searched what that expression meant. That expression was how the media on July 18, 1938 dubbed a flight by aviator, Douglas Corrigan, who initiated a flight from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn New York to Long Beach California but ended up in Dublin, Ireland. Maybe you’re different but I have found myself in some occasions going the wrong way, like Mr. Corrigan. In fact, that has been the history of humankind. And Jeremiah bemoans this condition in today’s first reading where he announces a new covenant that God wishes to inaugurate. Like Corrigan, humanity has had a long history of going the wrong way and breaking the covenant with God—five straight covenants, all broken. Yet, God insists on sharing His inner life and love with us.
The history of Israel as recorded in the entire Bible is a story of covenants made and broken. The terms Old Testament and New Testament simply refer to “old and new covenant.” Testament and covenant mean one and the same thing and can be used interchangeably. The first covenant with Adam and Eve was broken when our first parents, rejecting God, trusted the deceit of the enemy. The second covenant with Noah suffered from unwarranted ambition that led to divisions in language. The third covenant with Abraham suffered from lack of trust, too, when Abraham, once praised for his faith, went into his slave girl. No sooner had the fourth covenant been ratified at Mount Sinai than Israel dropped the ball and worshipped the golden calf. And you know the story of David and libido. All five covenants were broken warranting the announcement of a new covenant. The terms of the new covenant would be different. Listen to Jeremiah: “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people...I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more” (31:34). At the last Supper that Jesus had with 12 representatives of the people of the new covenant, He lays out in concrete terms the heart and soul of this sixth covenant, which he calls “a new and eternal covenant.” His body will be given up and His blood poured out for many. The idea of being poured out or in precise covenantal term, “cut” (berith), implies that the new covenant will effect something the old ones didn’t. The victim will be the Son of God, not an irrational beast. He will bear the curse of the previous broken covenants, in order to ratify the new covenant in the self-pouring of Himself—what theologians call “immolation,” (Latin mola—grain, grind). To be ingratiated into this new covenant then, one must die with Him—like a grain of wheat that dies in order to produce much fruit.
What Jesus tells the Greeks who came looking for him in the gospel explains the New Covenant World Order to which both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) are invited as members of one universal family—the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. This will no longer be a covenant with Jews alone, rather with the entire human race. Another expression for it is a “Catholic Covenant.” The only term: submission to death with the Lord Jesus. Too bad, if you think that’s too much to ask. The alternative option is to die—which you must, anyway—with your corrupt nature, your greed, envy, sloth, impurity, pride and rebellion and rot in hell with the devil. An ancient hymn summarizes it: “If we die with the Lord, we shall live with the Lord. If we endure with the Lord, we shall reign with the Lord—Keep in mind that Jesus Christ has died for us and is risen from the dead. He is our saving Lord. He is joy for all ages.”
The number is growing in modern society of those who think that Jesus, rather than being and leading the way, is in their way. They believe that life will be a bed of roses if God gives way and they live for themselves. Jesus says: the way to be happiness is to die to self and live for others; it is more rewarding to give than to receive. This may sound like “Wrong Way Corrigan” to the world; but to Jesus—the man of paradox and contradiction—for the seed to sprout, it must first experience death. New life will then blossom.