Thursday, July 19, 2012

Awake and Sing

Awake and Sing!

July 19, 2012
Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

My soul yearns for you at night, yes, my spirit within me seeks you at dawn; When your judgment comes upon the earth, the world’s inhabitants learn justice.  But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise!  Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust!  For your dew is a dew of light,   and you cause the land of shades to give birth.  Isaiah 26:9, 19

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  Matthew 11:28-30


Take from us, Father, all the diversions that keep us from finding rest in you -- our food, sports,  shopping, alcohol, drugs and other things of this world that we pursue for apparent happiness.  Give to us, Jesus, the confidence to turn to you, to learn from you and to deepen our relationship with you.  Set us free, Holy Spirit, from all that imprisons us in the busy-ness of this world so that we may awake to the life-giving rest you promise.  Amen.


The text from the first reading, according to the notes in the New American Bible, is "a mixture of praise for the salvation that will take place, a confession of Judah’s inability to achieve deliverance on its own, and earnest prayer that God may quickly bring about the longed-for salvation."  The notes also speculate that this is on a literal level a passage about how Judah will regain strength resurrection of the dead and more about the actual renewal of the civilization.
"The population of Judah was radically reduced by the slaughter and deportations that the historical disasters of the late eighth and seventh centuries B.C. brought upon the country. In this context, a major concern for the future was for an increase in the population, a rebirth of the nation’s life."
So while there is a literal explanation for the laments and cries of the people, they know that the Lord will respond.  The premise of the people is to think that the Lord will respond by striking at their mortal enemies.  However, the Lord does not promise that he will take up our fight.
He seeks change in us -- change to turn away from our pain -- retreat into his arms and be at rest.  That is where the Lord's response in Isaiah and the Gospel reading match.  In Isaiah 26:20, the Lord's response is "Go, my people, enter your chambers, and close the doors behind you; Hide yourselves for a brief moment, until the wrath is past."  Things will get better but not because you seek or obtain revenge but only when you retreat into the reliable arms of the Lord's protection. 
A Lord who is meek and humble of heart is not one who will carry our banner onto the field of battle against our opponents.  This loving Lord seeks us -- he wants us to desire a proper relationship with Him over any other pursuits we may have in the world.


Here in the peak of the summer, we often turn to the beach or the mountains for our refreshment and replenishment.  However, is it not often when you get back from what you hoped would be a restful vacation only to find that you are more tired than when you left?  Even if the vacation is just a mental health day at home over the weekend, as long as we stay busy with our pursuits, it is hard to get the rest we need.
Last Sunday, the presider at Mass (St. Matthew's in DC) talked about his sabbatical.  He used time away from daily work to read, reflect on his prayer life and write.  Rather than getting away to Disney World, or Myrtle Beach or seeing the latest Broadway show, he took time to rest in the light of the Lord. May our vacation plans -- and our every week -- include the same yearning for the Lord night and day that Isaiah proclaims.

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