Posts tagged: Isaiah

Neighbors in Need

By , February 8, 2014 5:52 am

February 9th, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I frequently refer to the three Scripture readings that the Church presents to us each Sunday as forming a mosaic or a collage, which should tie together and unfold before us a very special message that we ought to study, meditate upon and practice in the week that is before us. Today’s readings are a perfect example of this and the message is that Almighty God expects us to do good things and to be especially sensitive to our neighbors who are in need.

Sometimes we followers of Jesus think that the essence of a good life is avoiding sin. That is important, but God expects much more of us than that. Listen to the message presented in the first reading on this Sunday. Read it in the context that Isaiah is preaching to the people in a terrible time of oppression and poverty. Even with this circumstance, Isaiah challenges God’s people when he proclaims:

Thus says the Lord
Share your bread with the hungry
Shelter the oppressed and homeless
Clothe the naked when you see them
Do not turn your back on your own

Wow! Isn’t it true that sometime we do not see people who are hungry, homeless and naked? Modern American cities are designed to get you through the slums on fast freeways and out to the comfortable world of suburbia. However, the Church never stops calling us to be concerned about those in need, and this wonderful new Pope Francis is making that the main thrust of his pontificate. Just look at these words that appear earlier in his exhortation to the whole world about the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shall not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

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Did you Hear It?

By , January 18, 2014 5:51 am

Did you hear it? I am inquiring as to whether or not you have been listening to the fact that Almighty God is probably calling you to do good things with your life. You are being called to do things not in 2015, but right now in January and maybe even today.
The Christian community has always felt strongly that we live constantly with God. This means that we should struggle to be always aware of his presence and of his expectations of us. When we are called, gongs do not go off, firecrackers do not explode, lights may or may not get turned on, but as we move through the day we see opportunities for kindness, patience and generosity. That is God calling us and expecting a response.

Let’s put those facts in the context of this part of the Church year. We are back with the dull, not too exciting “Sundays of the Year.” Today is the Second Sunday and next November we will be celebrating the 35th Sunday. Remember, this is the liturgical year, not the calendar year. In each Sunday, a collage of texts has been selected to bring us an important message for our meditation and spiritual development, and this Sunday is a classic example of a specific message.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is told by Yahweh that he has been called in a very special way to stand up and proclaim God’s love for the people. In the second reading, Paul tells the Corinthians that he has been called to be an apostle and so have they, and they have been made a holy people. Finally, the Gospel presents the dramatic scene in which John the Baptist points out, “There is the lamb of God!” Jesus has been called into the human story to achieve salvation and victory over evil. That of course is the call of all calls.

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Don’t Ignore the Signs

By , December 21, 2013 5:38 am

December 22nd, 4th Sunday of Advent

Poor King Ahaz. The Lord’s prophet tried to guide him in the right direction but Ahaz was not in a mood to pay any attention. Isaiah urged him to ask for a sign but Ahaz, faking humility, claimed that he would not tempt Yahweh.

Then you heard the strong voice of Isaiah ringing through the centuries and coming into our lives in 2013.

“The Lord Himself will give you a sign!!”

Isaiah was, of course, referring to Mary’s virgin birth who would bear a son and call him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

King Ahaz was a jerk but I am often conscious of the fact that I also miss the signs that sometimes appear in my life. Maybe you occasionally experience the same thing.
Have you ever felt down and discourage and then out of the blue had your spirits lifted by a relative stranger conveying to you an extraordinary act of kindness? Have you failed to make an appointment or a connection and while feeling embarrassed, discovered that it turned out to be a tremendous blessing and was such a good thing that you did not make that appointment?

You can multiply these little events by the thousands and you can also ignore them as being unimportant in themselves. However, when we believe that God loves each of us individually, that God is infinitely powerful, that we are immersed in that love, is it all that hard to believe that this gentle shove, this unexpected message from a stranger, this delightful change in schedule is actually God being with us and pulling us towards himself?

The greatest sign, of course, we now prepare to celebrate – the arrival into the human story of Jesus of Nazareth. Let’s don’t miss that sign.

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Cause for Optimism

By , December 14, 2013 5:37 am

December 15, 3rd Sunday of Advent

I don’t think that I am the laziest man in the world, but like most human beings I am often tempted to take a shortcut. The temptation is hovering over me right now and why should I resist when there is such a great reason to plagiarize without getting sued. Thus I will hit on Isaiah.

In the first reading that you will hear tomorrow morning, the voice of Isaiah will come flashing across the thousands of years and it is a voice of joy and optimism. Let’s listen to him as he provides a beautiful prayer and frame of reference to the approaching celebration of the birth of Jesus.

“Strengthen the hands that are feeble
Make firm the knees that are weak
Say to those whose hearts are frightened
Be strong fear not
Here is your God
He comes with vindication
Then will the eyes of the blind be open
The ears of the deaf be cleared
Then will the lame leap like a stage
And the tongue of the dumb will sing”

Now that is a program!
Be ready. It is very close.

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Stumps Can Be Important

By , December 7, 2013 5:35 am

December 8th, Second Sunday of Advent

Every one of us has seen tree stumps in the ground many times. When we do, we ought to stop and think about the symbolism contained in a stump. At first, it looks very grim. Prior growth, foliage and life itself seems to have been cut away. A number of times in my life I have driven through areas where large forests of wonderful trees were being harvested for timber. It is a grim sight but do not be discouraged. We have learned to compensate for that by immediately moving into reforestation.

The importance of this idea comes before our eyes on this Second Sunday of Advent. Isaiah has been looking around and seeing the terrible destruction that has befallen Israel. The ordinary thoughtful person would not see much chance for hope or optimism. But Isaiah does. He looks into the future and sees a TREE STUMP! Guided by Yahweh Isaiah promises his people that

“a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and
from his roots a bud will blossom.”

What a beautiful sentence. Isaiah is not devastated, he is not hopeless. He sees the stump but he also sees the shoot, the sign of new life and he tells us the wonderful things that will flow from this shoot because this shoot is a person, the awaited Messiah.

“The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of counsel and strength…
he will judge the poor with justice
and decide a right for the lands afflicted.”

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Happy New Year!

By , November 30, 2013 4:11 am

I know that that sounds silly but I say it every year on this particular Sunday. It is accurate because we ARE starting a new year. Not a year marked by months with the names of Roman emperors, but a year that marks and memorializes all the events relating to Jesus of Nazareth and therefore relating in an awesomely important way to each and every one of us.
The first reading from Isaiah seems to me to really jump off the page. It is early in this important book of the Old Testament and the message is wonderfully hopeful and optimistic. Isaiah is writing from about the 6th century before Jesus. Everything has gone wrong. God’s people have been terribly oppressed. There have been many destructive wars but Isaiah looks into the future with confidence.
His words, which were written more than 2,500 years ago, have very helpful meaning for the Year of Our Lord 2013
Listen to Isaiah. He reminds us that we have instructions from God himself in the Sacred Scriptures. He urges us to listen as Yahweh….
“Instruct us in His ways that we may walk in His path.”
“For from Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between nations and impose terms on many peoples. “
Regretfully, while that has already happened, the desired results are not yet at hand. Isaiah hopes and prays that,
“They shall beat their swords into plowshare and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not raise the sword against the other nor shall they train for war again.”

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Hope And Light Within Darkness

By , September 3, 2013 5:16 am

Last week, I mentioned that I was profoundly affected when attending the funeral of a close friend and ordination classmate, Father Charles Domec, the lovable and successful pastor at St. Simon and Jude Catholic Parish in Houston. I stated that hearing the prayers at the funeral service and especially the hymns had very special meaning for me. I think the reasons should be obvious. The offertory hymn was the simple but beautiful, “Be Not Afraid” by Bob Duford. Taken from Isaiah, it describes a scene where everything is terrible, everything is painful and destructive but Yahweh, the Lord, will get you through it. Anyone who has serious financial troubles or whose teenage son is on drugs or possibly agonizingly caring for an elderly mother who is slowly dying of cancer, should pick up that hymn, read it slowly and carefully and apply it to themselves.

You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live. Be not afraid. I go before you always.

If you pass through raging waters, you shall not drown.
If you walk amid burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the powers of hell and death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all.

I lifted those verses out of the music and have them typed on a small white card on my desk. I have heard these verses repeatedly over the years but suddenly they have a deeper meaning for me and they are part of my morning and evening prayers.

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God’s Plan- What’s Your Part?

By , August 24, 2013 5:45 am

August 25, 21st Sunday of the Year
Jesus Christ came among us with a message of joy, hope and salvation. These are tremendous gifts and we should be forever thankful but to receive them we must cooperate with our Lord.

In today’s Gospel, we see St. Luke continuing to describe the long journey that Jesus is taking towards Jerusalem. Physically and physiologically, it is an uphill climb as he walks up from the mountains as followers peppered him with questions. Needless to say, many of these so-called followers have clearly expressed their rejection of his message. The response from our Lord is really challenging all of us. If we don’t accept the invitation, we may find the door locked. If we don’t appreciate his generosity, he may not hear our cries of complaint.

That is serious enough but let’s take a quick switch back to the first reading from Isaiah. Isaiah is preaching to God’s people at a time of great trial and suffering. But he sees through all that to the time when Yahweh will gather nations of every language and they will all become one enormous family of faith. It is a magnificent view of the ultimate triumph of God’s plan. We all have a part in it but it takes work.

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By , February 9, 2013 5:32 am

February 10th, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings present us with a scriptural foundation for the natural missionary thrust of the Church. The Church was brought into existence as a community of faith by the will of Jesus Christ. The Church holds tightly and courageously to that faith. From the very beginning our Lord made it known that it was not a treasure that was to be kept safely in a box. It was to be spread out into the world. “Go ye therefore into the whole world teaching them…”.
Who was to do that? Well, those who had been blessed with the faith, they have a responsibility having received that gift to attempt to share it. For this, let’s go back to today’s reading from the 6th chapter of Isaiah. Here we see Isaiah living through a dramatic vision, a scene in which he himself sees Yahweh, the Lord, and Isaiah is terrified. Isaiah admits his own unworthiness. Why should he receive such a gift? He cries out that he is unclean and he has unclean lips. Suddenly, an angel comes from Yahweh with a burning ember and touches the mouth of Isaiah and announces that this suffering has cleansed him of all guilt. Then the voice of the Lord says, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah answers, “Here I am Lord. Send me.”
If you hold on to our holy Christian faith, have been baptized and formed in that faith, you have weaknesses that may block you from effectively transferring it to your brothers and sisters. However, don’t worry. You have been purified by the death and resurrection of the Lord. When you hear the voice of the Lord asking, “Whom shall I send?” you should consider answering with Isaiah. “Here I am Lord. Send me.”
If one of us worked for the president or for the governor, or I guess for that matter, even the mayor, one would ordinarily be very proud of that fact. How proud we should be and how enthusiastic we should be when we realize that when we are working for Jesus of Nazareth we are working for the Lord of the universe. It is not sinful pride. It is very reasonable and logical.
Let’s go to work!

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Weak – Yes But Not Alone!

By , December 10, 2011 4:21 am

December 11th, Third Sunday of Advent
We are getting close to the great celebration of the birth of the Savior.

Today’s first reading carries forth the tremendous optimism of Isaiah and let me remind you that Isaiah’s optimism is being manifested in absolutely terribly difficult circumstances. However, Isaiah has faith in Yahweh, faith in the Lord, and confident of the ultimate triumph of God’s plan.

Do any of us experience some of the things referred to in this excerpt? Are our hands ever feeble? Are our knees weak? Are our hearts frightened? Are we frequently afraid? Don’t worry. Salvation is coming not from our uncle or from the government or a wealthy friend. Salvation is coming from God himself. When that happens the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and we will all sing in joy.

Despite our burdens and difficulties, we walk into the future with a calm confidence. That confidence is based on hope and we have hope because of the revelations that we have received from God. We are redeemed. We are invited to eternal happiness. God’s plan for us will triumph and when it does, we will, “enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.” We, “will meet with joy and gladness. Sorrow and mourning will flee.”

Let us continue to walk towards Christmas!

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