March 28, 2007: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent


In the reading for Morning Prayer [Isaiah 50:4b-7], the prophet Isaiah speaks of a precondition for his calling:

The Lord God opens my ears that I might hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.

Then he speaks of the consequences of his calling

I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.
The Lord God is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

There are riches here. We hear first that we must hear God before we can witness to Him. This doesn’t mean that we have to hear divine voices. It’s more than sufficient to pay enough attention to Holy Scripture and to the celebration of the Mass that we might hear God’s commandments and warnings.

Then we must witness to what we’ve heard and must bear the consequences. If we pay attention to the entire stream of Old Testament history, we can see other possibilities, as unlikely as they are.

If more Israelites had paid attention to the early prophets, there would have been a constant stream of witness to God’s Law and there would have been those who remained in the presence of God’s prophets rather than following the wolves into the marketplaces belonging to the idols that natural man so readily worships. Few there were who let God open their ears, few who listened with the prophets or even to the prophets. As a result, a promising God-centered kingdom decayed into a corrupt and centralized political entity that enslaved its own citizens and taxed them heavily to pay for great palaces and wars of conquest that led to Israel itself being a great prize for ambitious men of war.

When we fail to bear witness to God’s word, we might feel we’re practicing tolerance in some cases. In other cases, we might feel we’re acting out of simple loyalty to our families or our parishes or our nations.

We speak the truth about the world around us for the good of those who live in that world. We speak the truth about the world around us for the good of those not yet born into the world. In a sinful world, we must remember that we may well have our backs beat, our beards plucked, and our faces buffeted.

While we’re pondering this matter, it might be a good idea to attend a Stations of the Cross this week or maybe to go on our own to remember the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was whipped. He was beaten and crowned with a ring of thorned branches with those thorns likely driven into His skull. He carried His own cross, possibly to the very same hill from which God allowed Abraham to take his son home. He was crucified.

Jesus was far more than a prophet, but He was a prophet. He suffered partly because He spoke the truth, gently for the most part but He refused to back down when the truth was inconvenient to the powers of His day.

In our age, prophets are not likely to suffer the beatings or beard-pluckings that Isaiah had to endure, nor the whipping and crucifixion of Christ. We modern human beings are creatures of geniality, residents of a marketplace-oriented world dedicated to safety and comfort. We who were formed to the needs of such a world will feel immense pressure to move with the herd. It’s not only teen-aged alcoholics and drug-addicts who are moved this way and that by peer-pressure. We all are and we don’t wish to be different from the Jones family living next-door. We wish to be able to talk to them about what was on TV last night and to be able to join conversations about the sufferings of the latest celebrity to self-destruct.

If we give in to this peer-pressure, we might well feel a need to prophecy some day when we reach our breaking-point, but we’ll open our mouths and all that will come out is the lyrics to some despicable rock-song.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Lenten meditations, Peace of Christ, Religion

One Comment on “March 28, 2007: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent”

  1. Rosemary Boucher Says:

    Hi Loyd,

    I was reading your comments on Isaiah and they are very good. This passage from Isaiah is also one of the main passages of Isaiah that predicted what the Messiah would suffer – specifially His passion. Isaiah as well as the psalms were often quoated by Jesus.

    I may not make Evening Prayer tonight. Please keep me in your prayers.

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