Yesterday, the 14th Sunday of the Year, the first reading came from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.
At a time when Jerusalem was sacked and its people deported, the prophet evoked Jerusalem as a place of health and restoration, of hopes and dreams not dashed or still-born, but fulfilled.
be glad for her, all you who love her!
Rejoice, rejoice for her,
all you who mourned her!
That you may be suckled, filled,
from her consoling breast,
that you may savour with delight
her glorious breasts.
For thus says the Lord:
Now towards her I send flowing
peace, like a river,
and like a stream in spate
the glory of the nations.
At her breast will her nurslings be carried
and fondled in her lap.
Like a son comforted by his mother
will I comfort you.
And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.
At the sight your heart will rejoice,
and your bones flourish like the grass.
To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.
The current division of Jerusalem – Israeli/Palestinian – remains a contradiction of those hopes. The people of Jerusalem are separated from one another by the visible sign of the wall and checkpoints, but also by fear and suspicion and hate.
The current division of Jerusalem also reminds of the importance that those hopes still retain for us – that hate and fear be overcome, that we find together common purpose in love of God and love of neighbour and fulfilment of our own human potential in and through this love. As yesterday’s Gospel assured: ”The kingdom of God is very near to you.’
So near and yet still seeming so far.
The hateful divisions and continued atrocities that take place in and around Jerusalem need to serve as a check to our rejoicing, a damper on any celebration of God’s power and glory and the promise it holds for us. But they also need to serve as encouragement for us to work for something better, for all God’s children.
In addition the political/religious/moral and economic divisions which we see out there may also represent the sort of divisions that may be in all of us. The reality of the exterior world may help us to acknowledge our inner predicaments too. Maybe there are parts of our lives we are happy to be seen and known, and that there are parts we seek to keep in shadow, suppress and hide from God, others, ourselves; deny to God, others, ourselves.
Hope, and healing and reconciliation are called for here too.
Isaiah calls us to hope now, though he places the fulfilment of God’s promises in the future. But, now, he calls Jerusalem, and us, to rejoice on the strength of what will be.
What needs to change? What do we look forward to? What part might we play in the coming closer yet of God’s kingdom?.
- What do you hide?
- What do you fear
- What do you hate in others and why?
- What might they hate in you and why?
View over Palestinian community in the Kedron valley, Jerusalem towards the wall of separation and Israeli settlements. (c) 2013, Allen Morris