Isaiah 54:1-10, December 16, 2021

Reading

Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear,
Break forth in jubilant song, you who were not in labor,
For more numerous are the children of the deserted wife
than the children of her who has a husband,
says the Lord.
Enlarge the space for your tent,
spread out your tent cloths unsparingly;
lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes.
For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left;
your descendants shall dispossess the nations
and shall people the desolate cities.

Fear not, you shall not be put to shame;
you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced.
The shame of your youth you shall forget,
the reproach of your widowhood no longer remember.
For he who has become your husband is your Maker;
his name is the Lord of hosts;
Your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
The Lord calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
A wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
But with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

This is for me like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
should never again deluge the earth;
So I have sworn not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Reflection:  

The love and commitment of a husband and wife is the image Isaiah is seeking to portray in this reading regarding God’s unconditional and eternal love.  Although the analogy limps a bit, because we are trying to understand an infinite God with finite and earthly comparisons; the essential aspect of this passage is God has loved us from all eternity and will always love and embrace us, no matter what we do or how we sin.  When Isaiah notes, “for a brief moment I abandoned you,” the prophet is referencing the period of exile.  Even through our sinfulness and using the marriage analogy of the repeated adulteries of his spouse (us), God’s love is so profound and immeasurable he cannot bring himself to divorce her (us).  The innermost manifestation of God’s love was achieved in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus initiated a new relationship with us, a new marital relationship, not just with the Jewish people, but with the entire human race.  Even with all our imperfections Jesus loves us more than any husband or wife could love their spouse and he ultimately demonstrates this to us through his death on the cross.  Out of his unconditional love for us, we share in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.