Column: Isaiah’s words on exile speak to us still

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

Sometimes, a wound cries out for our attention. For example, a plaster cast alerts us to a broke arm. Black stitches reveal a nasty cut sewn up.

But at other times, the wound remains hidden. The death of a loved one, the trauma of divorce, all these can leave a psychic wound, invisible to the eye.

That is the type of wound Sunday’s first reading, Is 58:7-10, focuses on. It tells us: “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.”

When this prophecy was made, the whole people of Israel was afflicted with a deep psychic wound. They had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of their enemies, the Babylonians. Their capital city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Their elite had been carted off into exile. Their nation was devastated.

But now, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Those in exile were looking forward to returning home, to rebuilding their nation. They trusted in God’s mercy: “The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; ‘Repairer of the breach,’ they shall call you, ‘Restorer of ruined homesteads'” (Is 58:12).

In order to bring forth the light, the prophecy instructs the people: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.”

These works of mercy sound very familiar to our ears. But one in particular would have struck a chord with those returning from exile. They would have been especially sensitive to the state of being homeless. They had experienced it themselves.

The original setting for Isaiah’s prophecy disappeared long ago. But his words still have value for us. As Christians, we reread Isaiah’s prophecy to refer to Jesus Christ. We have been exiled from God’s grace. We are looking forward to returning home to God. We identify the light which shall break forth like the dawn
as Jesus Christ. And the wound? That is sin.

Frequently, the Gospels picture sin as an illness or injury to the soul. It is a spiritual wound. And Jesus Christ is the one who can heal that wound.

Often, in the Gospels, when Jesus would heal someone, he would say to the person, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus’ forgiveness would heal their spiritual wound.

That still holds true for us.

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