Monday, March 27, 2017

Unless You People See Signs and Wonders

Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. John 4:48-50

See, I am creating new heavens and a new earth; The former things shall not be remembered nor come to mind. Instead, shout for joy and be glad forever in what I am creating. Indeed, I am creating Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people. Isaiah 65:17-19B

Readings from the prophet Isaiah play an interesting role in the Masses throughout Lent. As we enter our fourth week of Lent, we have several readings this week from the end of the book. However, it is good to remind ourselves of the themes Isaiah laid out from the very start – because he comes back to those at the end.

All is not well in Jerusalem when Isaiah begins his story. Your country is waste, your cities burnt with fire; Your land—before your eyes strangers devour it, a waste, like the devastation of Sodom. (Isaiah 1:7)

Into this wasteland, the Lord asks his people to get their house in order both personally and through justice for the vulnerable. Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right. (16-18A)

The deal is simple: if we change, we get to share in the benefits of the Lord’s bountiful feast. If we do not change our evil ways, then we will not share in the bounty promised by the Lord. If you are willing and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; But if you refuse and resist, you shall be eaten by the sword: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken! (19-20)

In essence, Isaiah is a perfect book to reflect upon throughout Lent. As the notes in the New American Bible point out: “For Isaiah, the vision of God’s majesty was so overwhelming that military and political power faded into insignificance. He constantly called his people back to a reliance on God’s promises and away from vain attempts to find security in human plans and intrigues. This vision also led him to insist on the ethical behavior that was required of human beings who wished to live in the presence of such a holy God.”

Today, if the first reading offers up the warning of a Lent without change, the Good News is truly that – good news. In it, John shows us what happens when we change. In fact, the new creation described with such apocalyptic exuberance is shared with the royal official and his dying son. The former events of the son’s illness are forgotten when the “new creation” of life restored is granted.

If Isaiah is the poetic promise, John comes along and shows us through the example of the royal official, the way to get there. Faith in action. The royal official shows through his faith how his household will share in the promise of new life.

The irony is that his son will live while we know that the Son of God will have to give up his body and mortal life at the end of the period of preparation.

Even if it hasn't been easy to get really engaged with Lent so far, we can still make a new beginning. Perhaps Jesus also was admonishing us -- “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

What will it take? Even now in the fourth of five weeks, the key is for us to be open and desire to change into the obedient and humble servants Jess seeks. Last week, we saw the examples of Mary and Joseph held up. This week starts out with the man born blind from birth (Sunday) and the royal official’s son. They were healed – restored – to the new Jerusalem. Much delight must have eventually ensued.

If we can feel any attraction, any sign that the Lord is possibly drawing us closer, then the Lord can work with us - no matter what resistance or fear we might also be experiencing. Christ is counting on that if we but count on Christ. 

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