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(Part 36)


February 17, 2018
Today’s reading: Isaiah 58:9-14

Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells His people, “Then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;[1] I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (v.14). God chose and built up His people Israel. He destined them to be a great nation. Though they had strayed away and became unfaithful to their covenant, God proclaimed restoration. They would ride upon the heights of the earth, that is, be victorious in their march and occupy all commanding positions, be beyond the reach of danger and safe from enemies. They would enjoy the heritage of Jacob, that is, possess the land promised to Jacob, and enjoy the fullness of blessings reserved by God for His chosen people. God’s people would have security and prosperity.

Christians today are the new Israel. God’s promises to His chosen and covenanted people are still true.

When Israel was unfaithful and even idolatrous, despite God’s patience and mercy, they lost it all. Now once again, God promises greatness, as His great people do His great work, but we have our part to play. So God gives conditions, various “ifs.”

First, “if you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech” (v.9b). We are not to be unjust to or oppressive of others. We are not to be judgmental. We are not to lie, malign, slander and gossip. These are especially deadly in Christian community, and will cause strife and division, making the body of Christ unable to do great work.

Second, “if you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted” (v.10a). We are to be mindful of the poor. We are to help build the Church of the Poor. Now this is not just about material well-being but also about spiritual. People are hungry for the word of God. People are afflicted by the enemy. People need liberation from both material and spiritual poverty.

Third, “if you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from following your own pursuits on my holy day, if you call the sabbath a delight, the Lord’s holy day glorious” (v.13a). We are to keep the Lord’s day holy. Sunday is for God in the Eucharist, and also for family and rest. Our focus is to be on what really matters­God (and His Church) and the family, on the larger Church that is the body of Christ and the small Church that is the home. We spend time in church and receive the graces bestowed in the Eucharist, and we spend time in our home and minister to those of God’s people whom He has placed in our care.

Fourth, “if you glorify it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs” (v.13b). We are not to look to our own interests, priorities, preferences or agenda. We are the people of God, and our ways and interests should be God’s ways and interests. God first, then everything else follows.

If we do all the above, then God’s blessings will be poured out. This is manifested by the “thens” in Isaiah’s prophecy.

One, “then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am!’” (v.9a). This is amazing. We know we are God’s servants; He calls us and we respond. But here God says He will answer when we call and ask for help. He will be like a servant who says, here I am. Indeed, Jesus came not to be served but to serve.

Two, “then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday” (v. 10b). We live in a world of darkness, dominated by the evil one. But Christians have been called to be the light of the world. We shall be empowered to truly be so. We will be used by God to bring His light to dispel the darkness.

Three, “then the Lord will guide you always and satisfy your thirst in parched places, will give strength to your bones and you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.” (v.11). We are to do God’s work, but in order to be able to do so, we need His mind and His might. Thus God assures us of His guidance and His strength. He will use us to bring refreshment to those who thirst, to share the Christ who is the source of ever-living water.

Four, “then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth” (v.14a). In other words, God will make us great.

This prophecy about being destined for greatness should be particularly interesting to us as CFC-FFL. In our evangelization and works for justice and life, we strive to serve families and the Church. This is the great work that God intends. “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins; the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; ‘Repairer of the breach,’ they shall call you, ‘Restorer of ruined dwellings.’” (v.12). Today, marriages, families and homes are being ruined, and the assaults against family and life are intensifying. Today, our Church, established by Jesus two millennia ago, is threatened, as Catholics leave the faith, and liberals/progressives undermine the age-old faith from within.

The defense, renewal and strengthening of the family and of the Church (the family of God) is critical.

Today this is the great work that God intends. And those who respond in fidelity, zeal and endurance, will be those who are destined for greatness in Christ.

* * *

[1] The phrase “heights of the earth” or something similar occurs in Deuteronomy 32:13, Psalm 18:34, Amos 4:13, Habakkuk 3:19.

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