My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you; when your judgment dawns upon the earth, the world’s inhabitants learn justice (Isaiah 26:9).
The oracle that we hear from the Prophet Isaiah today Is a collections of various verses from chapter twenty-six of the prophet’s writings. The Lectionary for Mass will frequently create this kind of reading, picking and choosing certain verses to bring some focus to a particular issue.
However, one of the other things that happens when one does this is to give us a verse or two which can be used as a mantra throughout out the day. Verse nine can serve in that capacity, giving us two possible mantra-like prayers that we could use over and over again throughout the day. Praying with the Scriptures in this fashion opens up the biblical verse and allows the person to delve ever deeper into the beauty and power of the words.
Verse nine struck me this morning as I was listening to the words of Isaiah simply because I heard it at the first moment of prayer in my day. The sentiment is not unusual. Several times in the psalms and in the writings of the prophets we hear of people who seem to have been keeping a vigil, waiting for the coming of God with the dawn. This has long been a common thought in the lives of people who are seeking the Lord. They have come to the realization that the rising sun can stand as a symbol of the return of Jesus, a return for which we faithful yearn.
The eventual return of Jesus has long been a part of my prayer. Consequently I was rather shocked one day when a person whom I regarded as an exemplary Catholic boldly stated that belief in the second coming just did not figure in his/her “scheme of things.” I was, to be honest, dumbfounded; so dumbfounded that I did not have words with which to respond. For some time after that, I found myself coming back to that moment in my prayer. Indeed, it was passages like the one from Isaiah in today’s lection that has led me to place great faith in the notion that Jesus will return one day just as He promised. It is a day for which I long.
To be sure, I also see my vocation and the vocation of every CUSAN in the light of Jesus’ return. St. Paul, himself a student of Greek philosophy, often references a key element of that philosophy in talking about the return of Jesus. He looks upon that second coming as the inauguration of a “new age.” The Greeks believed that any new era or new period of history was always preceded by a period of intense suffering. They compared it to the pangs and “affliction” that a pregnant woman feels as she goes into labor. That pain is a necessary part of giving birth. So too in the case of the birth of a new era, the human race will of necessity experience pain and suffering.
Those of us who live with chronic illness, chronic pain and with disability are, therefore, simply participating in the birth of that new era that will dawn when Jesus returns. Consequently, we can pray with Isaiah and with the psalmists: My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you; when your judgment dawns upon the earth, the world’s inhabitants learn justice (Isaiah 26:9).
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator