Isaiah speaks as clearly to us today as he did to the Jews those many centuries ago. He speaks the truth, God’s truth.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6
There really is nothing new under the sun. The times in which the Book of Isaiah was being written, though thousands of years in the past, are eerily similar to our own times. There is a reason for this, of course, our fallen human nature. The Chosen People, like us, knew God’s law, had experienced his power, his affection for them and their own liberation from the slavery of Egypt through him. Yet, like us, they grew lazy, forgot God in the busyness of their lives, or in the whirlwinds of various immoralities. They, too, turned earthly things into gods, gave their allegiances to finite and immediate human powers.
Isaiah speaks as clearly to us today as he did to the Jews those many centuries ago. He speaks the truth, God’s truth. It is a truth that we can understand only through an awakening of humility, a recognition of our own sinfulness, our own turning away from God. We too have given God good reason for righteous anger. Like our ancient ancestors, we too often “become like one who is unclean.” As a result, what good things we may have done in the past, grow tattered, worn, and moth-eaten by neglect. We, like them, have gotten caught up in selfish desires and self-created “needs” to the point that we have forgotten that we are and have nothing without God. As in Isaiah’s time, there are fewer and fewer today who, “call upon [God’s] name, who rouse themselves to take hold of [him].” (verse 7) Might this be the reason for why we are seeing so much evil happening toward the innocent around the world and here at home?
Isaiah is speaking to us on behalf of God as directly today as he was to our spiritual ancestors those many centuries ago. Are we listening? Will we turn back to God in time? We know that God is slow to anger and rich in kindness and mercy, but are we still pushing the boundaries like witless teenagers? Will we only wake up when we get slapped awake by his righteous anger? The suffering of this world today is the result of human choices. It is the offspring of our turning away from the truth, and toward the lies of self-serving physical pleasures, greed, fame, and earthly power. Every sin is a rebellion against God and our own God-given nature, no matter how small or how great. After all, every deed has its effects and its consequences.
What if we Christians, in particular, really started, in our great numbers, to live God’s laws in all things, in every way? What if we Christians really began loving one another as the Father loved us in Jesus? What if we really took the Sermon on the Mount to heart? What if we Christians, in our tens of millions, instead of just a relative few of us, were taking Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35-40 seriously and were feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the imprisoned, comforting the sick, giving clothes to the naked, no matter their color, their ethnicity, their religion? What if we no longer had divisions among us? What if we were all really trying to live as one body in Christ, as he intended us to be? Would not God be pleased? Might it be possible that his graces would flow like a cleansing stream throughout the world, washing away the suffering and the terror we are so familiar with today? The early Christian, Peter Chrysologus (380-450 A.D.) wrote in one of his homilies, “If the peace of the Church causes joy in heaven, then division must give birth to grief.”
Lord, give us eyes to see our failings, and the will to turn away from them out of our love for you. Teach our hearts the liberating power of humble obedience and pour upon us you graces so that we can remain clean in body and mind, and no longer shrivel up like leaves that are easily blown away in the winds of temptation. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Amen!
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