Once more we dip into Isaiah (49:8-15) this Lent. While we have become accustomed to dire messages from the prophets, here, exactly two weeks before Easter, is proclaimed to God’s people, Old and New, a message of hope.
Isaiah, channeling the Lord, promises a forlorn and subjugated people that their land will be restored, freedom will be theirs, they will not be subject to hunger, thirst, or the elements, and their journey will be made easy. And all nature will sing God’s praises. A despairing people, still unconvinced that these good things will be theirs, is comforted by Isaiah’s words that the Lord, like a good mother, will never forget His children.
This message of hope is so very welcome as we approach Passion Week. It is also a happy occasion as we solemnly consider the state of our country and the state of our world. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how much we individually or collectively turn away from God, He neither forgets us nor abandons us. We must remain steadfast, full of confidence and hope that Father knows best and that He will intercede as needed, in precisely the way that is most beneficial, and at the exact time that He deems most fortuitous.
As for the faithful, we need to pray more fervently, redoubling our efforts in storming heaven with our pleas. We might place special emphasis on a certain petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “the kingdom come,” in these days. Flowing from this are our actions that serve to build up God’s Kingdom on earth. There is no better place to start than the corporal works of mercy (see Mt 25:31ff), evoked by the reading we are examining here. Isaiah mentions the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned. In addition to caring for those suffering in those ways, Christ tells us, under pain of damnation, that we are also to shelter the homeless, visit the sick, give alms to the poor, and bury the dead.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy we are asked to focus in a special way on the mercy God has granted us and the mercy He expects us to show others. We are to imitate the Lord (see 1 Cor 11:1), having been called to “be perfect”(Mt 5:48). Let others who do not know Christ have Him made known through us.