Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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

Lent is commonly associated with the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt.  The forty days of sacrifice to overcome selfishness rhyme with the forty years of purification that the Hebrews spent in the desert.  But other Scriptures from both the Old and the New Testaments give meaning to the Lenten experience.  The reading from the prophet Isaiah today gives one 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.  In that long period many Israelis took up the idolatrous practices of their neighbors.  Often the rich spent their fortunes on sumptuous living and ignored the poor in their midst.  But after decades of mortification in Babylon, Isaiah now declares the people have suffered enough.  They have learned their lesson.  God is ready to take them home.

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