In many instances in Scripture, God is seen making a covenant with mankind. But the term has different meanings to different faiths. This week's clergy add clarity to the term.
Rabbi Uri Goren, Temple Avodah, Oceanside:
The idea of a covenant in Judaism is not just an agreement between two parties, between God and people. It means that we human beings have an obligation to finish the work of creation. We don't believe that God created the world 100 percent perfect. Our covenant is the idea of finishing the work of God, making the world perfect.
One of the ceremonies we have that symbolizes that covenant is the bris. By the ceremony of circumcising, we symbolically are finishing the work of creation.
Even more than a covenant, we are in partnership with God. He does his part, but unless we do our part as Jews and human beings, we cannot bring about perfection in the world. Our idea of perfection is not that all people should be Jews. Our idea of perfection is bringing things such as love, compassion, kindness, friendship, understanding and a long list of other things into the world. Those are the things we have to achieve to fulfill our covenant.
He gave us the ability to do these things, but he doesn't force us to do them. We have free will to choose to fulfill the covenant.
The Rev. Katrina Foster, D.Min., pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Amagansett; and Incarnation Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton:
The Bible is full of covenants. In each, God is always the actor, the first mover, the giver of the covenant. We are the recipients.
In my life, this covenant has been my identification since Dec. 13, 1968, when I was baptized at 3 months old. God came and made a covenant with me. I had a complete identity as a baptized child of God. That is an irrevocable gift. No matter where I go, what I do, that gift remains bestowed upon me.
Theologian Martin Luther (1483-1546), who began the Protestant Reformation, said that "every time you wash your face, remember you are a baptized child of God." That is who I am, no matter what other trappings I have. That is the covenant, the promise God has made to me. Martin Luther says that I am freed from death, damnation and the devil. I also am free for maximum, loving service to God and to my neighbor. It is both an individual covenant and a collective covenant. When he makes me his kid, he makes me a part of a family, the body of Christ. I have millions of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Martin Luther made it very clear, baptism is our identity. We should spend the rest of our lives working out how we are to live out that identity. Wherever you are planted, you are to live out your life, live out your purpose, whatever that purpose may be.
Father Thomas A. Cardone, S.M., chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale:
I have to base my answer on how I teach the covenant. A good definition is the relationship between God and the human person. In the Scriptures, God is making covenants with his people. Whether God is with Abraham, with Moses or with Israel, we are always in relationship with God. A Catholic view of covenant includes the importance of being in relationship with God every step of the way. Our covenant is initiated in baptism and continues through the sacramental life of the church.
For example, we see God very much alive in the covenant of marriage. We see God very much alive in the covenant of the holy orders and religious professions. As the covenant in the Bible evolves, our covenant with God evolves. We see in Mary the true model of the new covenant, of a person being totally connected to the will of God in times of joy and in times of suffering. Mary demonstrates for us what it means to be in union with God from the moment of her Immaculate Conception to her glorious triumph in heaven. Covenant is basically an agreement between God and man, but not only an agreement. It is a relationship as well.