Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let The Clouds Rain Down The Just One, And The Earth Bring Forth A Savior.

Reading 1              Isaiah 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25

I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!

I, the LORD, have created this.
For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Who announced this from the beginning
and foretold it from of old?
Was it not I, the LORD,
besides whom there is no other God?
There is no just and saving God but me.

Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth,
for I am God; there is no other!
By myself I swear,
uttering my just decree
and my unalterable word:
To me every knee shall bend;
by me every tongue shall swear,
Saying, “Only in the LORD
are just deeds and power.
Before him in shame shall come
all who vent their anger against him.
In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory
of all the descendants of Israel.”


Responsorial                                 Psalm 85

R. Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

R. Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

R. Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.

R. Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.


Gospel                   Luke 7:18b-23

At that time,
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

When the men came to the Lord, they said,
“John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,
‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”
At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits;
he also granted sight to many who were blind.

And Jesus said to them in reply,
"Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

+++ +++ +++ +++

Today we return once again to the Book of Consolation of Second Isaiah (40-45). This reading is part of a message of the LORD to King Cyrus of Persia. Cyrus, who defeated the kingdom while the Israelites were exiled in Babylon, is considered an agent of God, sent to liberate his people. In fact, he is the only person called “anointed one of God”, who is not a descendant of Abraham. Historically, the title is reserved for the Kings of Israel, such as David and Solomon. It is also the title given to Jesus (Messiah = Christos = Anointed). This is, at the historical level, an indication of the fact that the exiles saw Cyrus as their savior. History tells us that Cyrus was seen as a “father” to his people; the Scriptures remind us that the first orders he gave after the conquest of Babylon was to restore freedom to all who were living there in exile, and beyond that, that he provided funds for the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the reconstruction and refurbishing of the Temple of Solomon.

“I am the LORD, there is no other.” The people of Israel, and the King of Persia, are being reminded that the ultimate power does reside in a conquering king, even one considered divine, but from the One True God. This power extends from the rising of the sun in the east to its setting in the west; in other words, it embraces the whole world. “I form the light and create the darkness.” The same astronomical system that seems to move the sun from east to west (but in fact moves the earth from west to east) brings the earth from dawn to dusk, and from nightfall to morning light, every day and everywhere, but according to different schedules depending on the time of the year and the situation of the observer between the North Pole and the Equator.

“O heavens, drop down righteousness like dew from above; let it fall like gentle rain from the skies.” These words echo one of the most beautiful of the Advent hymns (Rorate, coeli desuper, et nubes pluant justum.) It is a poetic way to describe the liberation and “saving justice” that will be granted to the exiled Israelites through Cyrus, but it is ultimately a gift from Heaven – from God himself. Saint Jerome has these verse point directly to Christ – as we do during the Advent season. The Persian king, as an agent of the Lord, brings freedom for God’s people, and their liberation marks the beginning of an era in which justice and peace prevail. God’s work, and humankind’s cooperation join together in an endeavor to bring to fruition once again the peaceable kingdom that existed before the Fall.

Yet Cyrus is merely a forerunner of the true Savior, a Jew born of the house of David and the lineage of Levi – both priest and king. Still, just as Cyrus carried out God’s work before the coming of the Savior, we too are called to carry on the work that Jesus initiated. Justice and peace must yet be brought to great numbers of people in our world. The building of the Kingdom continues from age to age, and today, its chief architects, engineers and laborers are those who form the Mystical Body of Christ – that means you and me.

Taking this beautiful passage as a whole, we are asked to see in Cyrus the work of God being fulfilled in the world by people who do not even know God. This has always been the case; even today, Christ continues to act through people who do not believe in him, and some who many even reject him. The Church visible is not by any stretch of the imagination the whole of the Kingdom of God, but its sacramental and visible sign. For his grace lives within the hearts of all who, even implicitly, abide by the Great Commandment: Love God with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself: Do this, and you will live!

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Your last paragraph describing the visible and invisible church is beautiful.

Justice and peace. From today's psalm I get the impression they might be irreconcilable for mere humans. When people shout 'No justice, no peace' they are actually threatening violence. Many wars are fought for conflicting ideas of justice, especially if legal systems are different, and peace often depends on learning to live with injustice.

The psalm promises the reconciling of irreconcilables. Kindness and truth, justice and peace are opposing pairs. When truth springs out of the earth (incarnation) justice shall look down from heaven (the Kingdom of Heaven).

'Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.'

'for the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.'