Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Psalm 50:8-9,16bc-17,21 and 23
Isaiah prophesied to Judah and to Jerusalem in the eighth century BC during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Last Saturday, we read the story of Isaiah’s call during a vision in the Temple. Today, we read from the first chapter of his book, which compares Judah to the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Like the people of Israel who offered ritual sacrifices but oppressed the poor, the people of Judah have fallen into the same hypocrisy.
God is not glorified and praised by vain offerings, but rather by pure hearts, just deeds, and service to the poor. God tells the people that even though their sins be like scarlet, they shall be made white as snow and wool (Isaiah 1:18). God will reward those who are obedient to his law and to his word. God promises to vent his wrath on his enemies and to redeem Zion.
Chapter Two of Isaiah speaks about God’s universal reign. He sees the day when all the nations shall come to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. The people of all nations will learn the ways of God: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:1-3). This passage finds fulfillment on the day of Pentecost, when the people from many nations gather in Jerusalem and receive the New Law from the Spirit-filled Apostles.
Chapter Three communicates God’s judgment upon sinful Judah and Jerusalem: “Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen” (Isaiah 3:8). Isaiah says that the speech and deeds of the people oppose God and defy his glorious presence. The people are indifferent to God, proclaim their sins like Sodom and bring evil upon themselves. God judges the rulers of Judah for devouring the vineyard of the Lord and oppress the poor; he judges the women of Jerusalem for their vanity.
Chapter Four tells us what God will do for his people: he will wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleanse the bloodstains of Jerusalem. He will fill Zion with his holy presence, in a way similar to the journey of the people of Israel in the desert: he will overshadow Mount Zion as a cloud by day and as smoke and fire by night.
Finally, Chapter Five uses the image of a vineyard to tell the people how much God has done for them: what more, God asks, could he have done for the house of Judah. Instead of yielding good grapes, Judah has produced sour, wild grapes. Because of this the walls of Jerusalem will be torn down and the people will be sent into exile (Isaiah 5:13).
Isaiah, then, moves back and forth between the condemnation of sin and the promise of redemption. All nations, not just Judah, will worship God on his holy mountain. They will be purified from their sin and receive the law from God. God will protect his people and be present among them.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, we read the end of Jesus’ second great discourse. After appointing the twelve as Apostles, Jesus gave them instructions and prepared them to face persecution from the Jews, the Gentiles and their own families. As they proclaim the kingdom of God, the disciples will experience trial and tribulation, events which signal the end of the exile of God’s people and the age of the Messiah. “The proclamation of the kingdom will cause division not because of the message itself but because of the way people receive it. Responses will vary from full reception to hostile rejection, and this will cause discord – even hostility – within families” (C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 148).
Jesus’ disciples will share in the humiliation of the Cross. They will lose their old, earthly life of sin for the sake of Jesus, and, in turn, gain eternal life united to him. Empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit, they will produce good fruit for the kingdom. As laborers in God’s vineyard, they will produce sweet grapes; as workers in God’s field, they will produce a plentiful harvest; as fishers of men, they will haul in a great catch.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].