THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for December 5th, 2013
Liturgical texts here
A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us. Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith. A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you. (Isaiah 26)
So many Christians today have lost their peace! So many, indeed, have lost their joy! And thus, the world finds Christianity to appear somewhat unattractive.
…an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! …they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 10, 15
But to recover joy, we must enter Isaiah’s “strong city”… the City of Joy.
The entrance into the City is through its gates. Now, Isaiah says that the gates are only open to the “just.” Who are the just? Jesus said to St. Faustina,
I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary of St. Faustina, n. 1146
Thus, as today’s Psalm says,
This gate is the LORD’s; the just shall enter it.
To enter into this City, then, we need to turn to the Lord’s mercy, ever open to the contrite and broken heart.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. (1 John 1:9).
But once we enter the gates of this City, Isaiah says we must be of “firm purpose”. That is, we must be determined to keep God’s will. The “walls and ramparts to “protect us” are God’s laws—both the natural laws that govern the universe and the moral laws that govern man’s behavior. They proceed from the charity of God, and thus, are pure goodness itself. As Jesus says in the Gospel today,
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. (Matt 7)
Such a soul, the Lord will “keep in peace; in peace for its trust in you.”
And so, there are three things that give birth to joy in Isaiah’s city. The first is knowing that we are loved because Jesus prevents no one from entering its gates.
God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 3
The second is knowing that God has a plan for your life that is protected by the walls and ramparts of His will. Even when terrible storms come into your life, there is still a path for you to walk, God’s holy will.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock… It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. (Matt 7; Psalm 118)
So knowing that I’m loved, knowing that He has a plan for me, I then trust in Him by keeping His will.
I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. (James 2:18)
This alone brings tremendous peace since, to keep His will is to love Him and others, which is what I was created for.
The commandments of God are like the strings in a musical chord. As soon as one string goes out of tune, the chord become ugly, discordant, tense—it loses its harmony. So too, when we break the laws of God, we lose our harmony with Him and creation—when we keep His word, it brings us peace.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:21-22)
To be loved by Him, to trust in Him, to follow Him… this is the “strong city” that will, if you enter it, become for you the City of Joy.
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