A Vision of Hope in the Words of Scripture?
Fourteenth Sunday of the Year. fr Leo Edgar helps us to see a vision of hope in the words of the prophet Isaiah.
Writing this article three days before “Referendum Day”, and aware that it is likely to be read a few days after the result has been declared, I can’t help wondering whether we can compare our world of today, with all its uncertainties and anxieties over the future, with the world of Isaiah around 700 B.C.E, and the chance to learn something from the comparison?
The great prophet Isaiah had warned the Kings of Judah (Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah), of the danger of playing ‘power politics’, and despite trying hard to convince them of the errors of their ways, he was largely rejected by them.
The vision of hope that Isaiah tried to convey was based on the need for God’s intervention, reflected in the prophet’s announcement that Jerusalem should rejoice and that the people should shout for joy! (Is. 66:10-14). In this last chapter of the Book of Isaiah, a picture is painted of Jerusalem being like a mother who comforts her son. The Church today sends its ‘labourers’ into the world to offer peace and to bring hope to a world that still needs God’s presence, perhaps more than ever, and Luke’s gospel (Ch.10) reminds us of Christ’s warning to the seventy-two chosen to be his ‘labourers in the harvest’ that they must expect to be welcomed by some, but not welcomed by others. Nevertheless, they returned we are told, from their journeys rejoicing and optimistic.
Whatever the future holds for us we can rejoice in the promise God made to his people through Isaiah that he will send “peace flowing like a river, and will reveal his hand to his servants” (Is. 66: 12).
Pope Francis reminds us in his recent exhortation,: “The Joy of the Gospel”, that, “God does not hide himself from those who seek him with a sincere heart, even though they do so tentatively, in a vague and haphazard manner” (art.71); and again he exhorts: “May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News” (art. 10).
It was for the same purpose that Christ sent his advance party of 72 out in pairs to prepare the way for his coming visits.
We ourselves have recently witnessed so many conflicting “prophecies” of a sort, telling us how our nation should be prepared for an uncertain future, depending on the outcome of the Referendum; most of these predictions seem to lack the knowledge of Isaiah, inspired as that knowledge was by God himself.
Even if not necessarily inclined to “cry out with joy, all the earth” as Psalm 65 encourages us to do today, we must always face the future with hope, inspired by the Gospel. Whatever the outcome on June 23rd, we can thank God for the inspiration we get from Christ’s words to the seventy-two when he said, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10: 20).
It would seem that God’s message to mankind, either in the Old or the New Testament, either through prophets like Isaiah or through Christ’s own teaching, is the essential element in developing a true understanding of the sort of world we should be trying to establish for future generations – one based on Christian values of justice and peace, tolerance and love.
Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14 | Galatians 6:14-18 | Luke 10:1-12,17-20
The image above is a Mosaic detail from San Vitale in Ravenna.