Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Lent

(Isaiah 49:8-15; John 5:17-30)

Lent is rightfully associated with the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Our forty days of sacrifice to overcome selfishness mirror roughly the forty years of purification the Israelites underwent in the desert. But other Biblical passages as well give meaning to the Lenten experience. The reading from the prophet Isaiah in today is a good example.

In the sixth century before Christ the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah and carried many of its people into exile. It was a terrible experience of subjugation and humiliation. The prophets write of it as a punishment for the excesses of the people during the almost 500-year period of Israel’s kings. During that time many Jews took up the idolatrous practices of their neighbors. Often the rich squandered fortunes in sumptuous living while ignoring the plight of the poor. But after decades of mortification in Babylon, Isaiah declares enough is enough. The people have learned their lesson. God is ready to bring them back to their own land.

We should hear the voice of Isaiah today as an indicator that Lent is almost over. God has noticed our sacrifices and is coming to forgive our sins. True, we have to hold the line for two and a half more weeks. But just as sure as daylight has overtaken the night (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) so can we count on God liberating us through Christ’s resurrection. He will crown our efforts of charity, prayer, and fasting to make us God-like in mercy, holiness, and generosity.