Every love story starts somewhere. Mine began on a busy road in south Edmonton in the winter of 2004. I had been trying to work up the courage to ask her out on a date throughout the evening, and as she was about to get into her car and head home from the birthday party we had both attended, I managed to stammer: “We should talk, sometime.” She offered a polite but confused “sure” in reply, then drove away. I am fortunate that this would be the last time I would ask a girl out on a first date… and I’m even more fortunate that, when I later asked to take her to dinner using much clearer words, she said yes. Eighteen-and-a-half years later, that awkward exchange remains one of the most important in my life. But it is critical to note that, for our love story to unfold, three things had to be true:
- Jen needed to be free and able to respond (if someone asked her out on a date now, she wouldn’t be free nor able to respond, as she is spoken for.)
- I needed to take the first step and ask her out.
- She needed to say ‘yes.’ (Which she did, and I am ridiculously blessed because of it.)
The thing is, what is true in a love story like mine is also true of our relationship with God. God created us free and gave us the ability to respond to His initiative. We looked at that last week. This next section of the YouCat looks at the way in which God has taken the first steps towards us:
“God did not have to reveal Himself to us. Just as in human love one can know something about the beloved only if he opens his heart to us, so too we know something about God’s inmost thoughts only because the eternal and mysterious God has opened Himself to us out of love.” -YouCat 7
The Bible teaches us the ways that God has revealed Himself to us. We read in the Old Testament how “God makes it possible to experience Him in history” (YouCat 8). If you want to more clearly understand the love story revealed to us in Sacred Scripture, you need to understand what the Bible is talking about when it uses the word “covenant.” Dr. Scott Hahn says that covenants are the “master key that unlocks the Bible. We cannot talk about God’s love for us in Scripture without talking about Covenants.” A biblical covenant is best understood as a ‘sacred family bond,’ by which God desires to make us not just creatures, but His children (John 1:12).
To accomplish that goal, God unfolds a series of covenants throughout the Bible. Every biblical covenant shares these five characteristics. First, every covenant has a mediator – a human person to whom God proposes a particular covenant, and this person stands for a particular group of people (his family, tribe, etc). Second, every covenant promises certain blessings for those who keep the covenant. Third, there are conditions laid out for keeping the covenant – and curses that come with breaking these. Fourth, each covenant has a tangible sign which is used to celebrate and remember the covenant. Finally, God’s family takes on a new (and bigger) form with each successive covenant, going from a couple in the garden of Eden through to the universal Church in Christ. Dr. Hahn identifies six covenants that share these criteria in the Bible: covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and finally the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. By sending His Son, “God shows us in Jesus Christ the full depth of His merciful love” (YouCat 9). Jesus dies for his bride, the Church. He reveals the love of the Father and is the head of the Church. Christ offers Himself as sacrifice once for all (an action of the priest), He shows us how to live (prophet), and reigns for eternity as our King. It is this enduring story of love and faithfulness which is revealed to us from start to finish in the scriptures and is interpreted for us within the context of the Church’s lived faith.
In creating us as free creatures, God has made us free and able to respond to the love He has for us. In a love story documented from cover to cover in the Bible, we discover how God’s love for us knows no limits and His ongoing invitation that we might “talk sometime.” But in the same way as my love story would have sputtered out had Jen not said “yes,” so too this story is not complete without our response of faith.
“Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is… there is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.” -Pope Benedict XVI