Fr. David's Lenten Reflections Day 6
Today we come to the sixth day of our Lenten journey, God bless you as you travel the path to the Cross and to our Lord’s resurrection.
We’ve heard the first five readings from Isaiah for Lent, which cover the first three chapters of the book. There is much talk in these chapters, as there will be for most of the book, about God punishing His people. Many are uncomfortable with this, the idea that God punishes us. But the spiritual life consists of reward and punishment, the way all of life does. Most people want to only acknowledge half of the equation. In other words, people want to see God as always love, always forgiving, and never punishing. I myself have gotten into some rather animated conversations with priests and theologians about this - people who think that it is wrong to announce the punishment of God upon sin and sinners. Or, if they don’t think it’s wrong, at least they think it makes for bad press. By this I mean that certain church leaders believe they will attract more people to the faith by teaching only the mercy and forbearance of God, and avoid any mention of His rules and the consequence of disobeying those rules. Popular media, even old novels and stories, portray characters who announce the consequence of disobedience as frustrated, angry, unhappy, and well, no fun to be around.
Certainly that’s the way the Israelites regarded most of the prophets. As our Lord said when He arrived at Jerusalem, on a hill overlooking the city, first to the pharisees, and then to the city as a whole: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Did you hear in that passage, brothers and sisters, our Lord’s prophetic announcement describing the consequences of turning one’s back on God? Indeed, we cannot deny this and we do so to the peril of our souls.
As we continue in the Lenten readings, let us courageously listen to the whole message of the prophet, so that we might reap a harvest of joy as we prepare for and arrive at the resurrection of our Lord.