Friday, July 4, 2014

Catechesis on St. Isaiah

Among the many saints in glory whose feast we commemorate this Sunday is one of the four Great Prophets, St. Isaiah. Isaiah was of royal stock, the tribe of Judah & lived in Jerusalem.  Under King Hezekiah in the South 715-686 BC, Isaiah warns of impending doom.  Assyria sets its eyes on the Southern Kingdom.  They arrive at the walls of Jerusalem only to be struck with a plague (2 Kings 19:35; Sirach 48:21)-A narrow escape (701 BC). Isaiah warns against for alliances whether w/ Assyria, Egypt etc.  and emphasizes Israel's need to be faithful and rely upon the Lord.

The major themes of his prophecies are the threat of punishment, the time of exile, and the time of restoration, which reflects the typical deuteronomic pattern of sin, punishment, repentance and restoration. In fact, according to Josephus, King Cyrus was convinced to free the Israelites after being shown the prophecy of Isaiah (Is 44:28) which names him as the one to end the Babylonian exile and to rebuild the Temple.

Some of Isaiah's major topics include:

- Social justice: He condemns commercial greed, drunkenness, immorality, extortion etc.  He declares that the sacrifices in the Temple are not pleasing because God really desires the sacrifice of Purity of life, contrition for sin, honesty, justice, mercy, & truth.

 -Isaiah emphasizes the holiness of God, the greatness of Jerusalem &  the importance of the Davidic dynasty and tells of  the Messiah as Suffering Servant, Light of the Nations, the Good Shepherd etc.

- Messianic Prophesies: It is of Isaiah that we learn that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son (Is 7:14). Here we learn of the BVM's virginal conception of the Messiah through the over-shadowing of the Holy Spirit. St. Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew & St. Jerome in his diatribe against Helvidius both defend this Catholic understanding of Isaiah.

Isaiah lists for us the qualities of the Messiah (Is9:1-7), His Davidic descent & the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Is 11:1 ff) . " A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;  from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—  and he will delight in the fear of the Lord."  For the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we must look to St. Paul in Galatians 5:22.

Isaiah is well worth the read, especially during Advent & Lent.
--- Rev. Harold B. McKale

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