Fr. David's Lent Reflections day 32
Here we come to the 32nd day of our Lenten journey, God bless you as you travel the path to the Cross and to our Lord’s resurrection. Our reading from scripture is Isaiah 42:5-16
Thus saith the Lord God, who made the heaven, and established it; who settled the earth, and the things in it, and gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to them that tread on it: 6 I the Lord God have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will strengthen thee: and I have given thee for the covenant of a race, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 to open the eyes of the blind, to bring the bound and them that sit in darkness out of bonds and the prison-house.
8 I am the Lord God: that is my name: I will not give my glory to another, nor my praises to graven images. 9 Behold, the ancient things have come to pass, and so will the new things which I tell you: yea, before I tell them they are made known to you.
10 Sing a new hymn to the Lord: ye who are his dominion, glorify his name from the end of the earth: ye that go down to the sea, and sail upon it; the islands, and they that dwell in them. 11 Rejoice, thou wilderness, and the villages thereof, the hamlets, and the dwellers in Kedar: the inhabitants of the rock shall rejoice, they shall shout from the top of the mountains. 12 They shall give glory to God, and shall proclaim his praises in the islands.
13 The Lord God of hosts shall go forth, and crush the war: he shall stir up jealousy, and shall shout mightily against his enemies. 14 I have been silent: shall I also always be silent and forbear? I have endured like a travailing woman: I will now amaze and wither at once. 15 I will make desolate mountains and hills, and will dry up all their grass; and I will make the rivers islands, and dry up the pools. 16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and I will cause them to tread paths which they have not known: I will turn darkness into light for them, and crooked things into straight. These things will I do, and will not forsake them.
The opening sentence of this section refers to the work of God in creation, with each element experiencing two actions: “Thus saith the Lord God, who made the heaven, and established it; who settled the earth, and the things in it, and gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to them that tread on it.” So first the heavens were made, then established. The earth was created, then settled. And human beings were given breath, then spirit. This may seem to us like nothing but a poetic formulation, but the church fathers see something more. They say that the last phrase refers to two different kinds of people, for while all the living people on earth breathe, not all have the spirit given by God. As St. Irenaeus says, “The breath of life, which also rendered man a person, an animated being, is one thing, and the vivifying Spirit another, which also caused him to become spiritual. And for this reason Isaiah said, “Thus says the Lord, who made heaven and established it, who founded the earth and the things therein, and gave breath to the people on it and the Spirit to those walking on it;” thus telling us that breath is indeed given in common to all people on earth, but that the Spirit is theirs alone who tread down earthly desires.” (Against Heresies, 5.12.2).
There have been times during this fast that I have grieved for those who pay little or no attention to their spiritual lives. It’s one of the downfalls of fasting - judging others. The first pitfall of Lent is spiritual pride and pride’s oldest child is judging others. So Lent is a time to watch for and cut down judging when it occurs in us. But today Isaiah and St. Irenaeus also remind us that not everyone around us, living and breathing as they are, want to feed their spirits. Why spent energy feeding what you don’t possess?
Brothers and sisters, we were once blind, and now we see. It is for us, especially now in these holy days of Lent, to pray for those around us that the prophesy of Isaiah would pertain to them: “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and I will cause them to tread paths which they have not known: I will turn darkness into light for them, and crooked things into straight. These things will I do, and will not forsake them.”