Today we come to the eighth 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 4:2-5:7
2 And in that day God shall shine gloriously in counsel on the earth, to exalt and glorify the remnant of Israel. 3 And it shall be, that the remnant left in Sion, and the remnant left in Jerusalem, even all that are appointed to life in Jerusalem, shall be called holy. 4 For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning. 5 And he shall come, and it shall be with regard to every place of mount Sion, yea, all the region round about it shall a cloud overshadow by day, and there shall be as it were the smoke and light of fire burning by night: and upon all the glory shall be a defense. 6 And it shall be for a shadow from the heat, and as a shelter and a hiding-place from inclemency of weather and from rain.
1 Now I will sing to my beloved a song of my beloved concerning my vineyard.
My beloved had a vineyard on a high hill in a fertile place. 2 And I made a hedge round it, and dug a trench, and planted a choice vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and dug a place for the wine-vat in it: and I waited for it to bring forth grapes, and it brought forth thorns. 3 And now, ye dwellers in Jerusalem, and every man of Juda, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What shall I do any more to my vineyard, that I have not done to it? Whereas I expected it to bring forth grapes, but it has brought forth thorns. 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be for a spoil; and I will pull down its walls, and it shall be left to be trodden down. 6 And I will forsake my vineyard; and it shall not be pruned, nor dug, and thorns shall come up upon it as on barren land; and I will command the clouds to rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Juda his beloved plant: I expected it to bring forth judgment, and it brought forth iniquity; and not righteousness, but a cry.
There is an unusual verse in the gospel of Mark where Jesus says: everyone will be seasoned with fire (9:49). Our Lord spoke here about Christians - we will all be seasoned with fire. What does that mean? St. John Chrysostom says that our Lord was describing the Holy Spirit - that we all have access to the Holy Spirit, Who teaches us about humility, repentance, and sacrifice, and Who came down upon the heads of the apostles like tongues of flame. Isaiah says the same thing: “For the Lord shall wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and shall purge out the blood from the midst of them, with the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning.” During this holy season of Lent, we rely on the forgiveness and mercy of God. He will wash away our sins, and purge the blood stains from our souls. How? Judgement and burning. If you have been serious about Lenten repentance, brothers and sisters, you have an idea of what this means. It is not easy to face our sins and to confess them. We feel ourselves judged, and we feel the condemnation that comes when we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit showing us where we have fallen short. This is the spirit of burning.
What a great gift we have been given! Mercy, love, forgiveness! Let us not be like the vineyard described in today’s reading from Isaiah that yields nothing but thorns, but use this time to draw near to God, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and bear the good fruits of repentance.