49. IN THE NAME OF GOD. It is already blossoming

Created: Tuesday, 29 April 2014 Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May 2014

49. IN THE NAME OF GOD.
It is already blossoming


1. The experience of faith means to listen God´s word and to announce it. It is to say, it supposes to speak in the name of God. It is the prophetic experience. But, today does it exist prophets?, which are the features of the true prophet?, may anyone prophesize? Prophet Joel says: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesize” (Jo 3, 1). And the Council says: “the holy people of God also participates in Christ´s prophetic function” (LG 12; see Nm 11, 29)
2. The disciples of Emaús see Jesus as “a powerful prophet in works and words before God and before all the people” (Lk 24, 19). Peter announces that God “has glorified his servant Jesus, to whom you delivered before Pilate” (Acts 3, 14) This “servant Jesus”, “God´s servant”, is the expected prophet. The Lord himself explains to the Emaús walkers “what about him there was in the Scriptures”, “beginning by Moses and following by all the prophets” (Lk 24, 27)
3. This is what Moses said: “God will raise up for you a prophet like myself from among the people, from your brothers, to whom you shall listen” (Dt 18, 15). Let us see what the prophets said. A great prophet that lives among the exiled people of Babylon announces the end of the exile. It will be a new exodus, it will arrive like the Spring: “But do not dwell on the past, or remember the things of old. Look, I am doing a new thing: now it springs forth. Do you not see?” (Is 43,18-19). This good news appears in second Isaiah's part (40-55), in the Book of Consolation, the one that was attributed to Isaiah the second. In order to understand his message implicates identifying a situation (exile), several addressees (Jerusalem, the exiles), a voice that clamours (the prophet that is at the service of God's word).
4. The Book of Consolation can be placed in the middle of the VI century B.C. between years 553, that Persian king Cyrus (Is 45,1-8; 41,1-5; 48,12-15) begins his campaigns, and 539, that Babylon surrenders. These years are characterized for the decadence of the Babylonian empire and the appearing of a new empire, the Persian. Both facts are related between them and bring about the exiled prophet's attention. Cyrus has an open mind and is tolerant: What is happening? Will the ending of exile be near? Will there be a new exodus?
5. Difficulties are enormous. God's word is confronted to Babylon, arrogance itself, powerful and criminal, the one that says: “I and nobody else” (Is 47,7-8). God's word is also confronted to the imperial gods, who are a temptation for Israel itself: “Some pour out gold from their purses, and they hire a goldsmith to make an image before which they bow and worship” (46,6). Everywhere there are temples, statues, and grand liturgies, witnessed for enormous crowds. It is an scandal, a stumble stone for the believer people who says: My destiny is hidden from the Lord, my God ignores my cause (40,27), the Lord has forsaken me, my owner has forgotten me (49,14). Only a few have the door opened to the hope.
6. In this context, a voice is raised: “Let you be comforted, let you comfort my people, says the Lord. Let you speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at the end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of Yahweh she has received double punishment for all her iniquity” (40,1-2). The time of exile is not a lost time. Faith is awakening in difficult moments. Historic books were written, from Joshua to the Kings. The text of the Priest, that narrates the works of God from creation to Moses’ death is written . The old books as well as the new ones are in the heart of the community. The fall of Babylon approaches, the end of exile. As in days gone a road was opened at sea, now a road is opened at the desert, that space that separates from their own land, from Jerusalem: “In the wilderness prepare the way for Yahweh. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of Yahweh will be revealed” (40,3-5).
7. But who is speaking in the name of God? An expatriated prophet, that embodies servant's figure, who is in the God´s service. His figure appears in four songs. In his first song (Is 42) God himself introduces him, supports him, elects him, loves him, gives him his spirit and a mission to accomplish: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. The servant has the gift of the spirit and a mission to accomplish. I have placed my spirit upon him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He does not shout or raise his voice; proclamations are not heard in the streets. A broken reed he will not crush, nor will he snuff out the light of the wavering wick. He will not waver or be broken until he has established justice on earth; the islands are waiting for his law”.  The servant's mission has no frontiers. He has to establish the law and God's commands to communicate his will, to do justice. He will not impose himself by force, neither will he enslave nor will he remain silent or lose his heart. The servant, collaborator of God and fruit of his hands, obeys a destiny received from God: “I, Yahweh, have called you for the sake of justice; I will hold your hand to make you firm; I will make you as a covenant for people, and as light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.”
8. In the second song (Is 49), the mission of the servant, which apparently is a failure, reaches the whole world. And God´s call reaches the roots of our own existence: “Listen to me, oh islands, pay attention, peoples from distant lands! Yahweh called me from my mother's womb; he pronounces my name before I was born. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a polished arrow set apart in his quiver. He said to me: you are Israel, my servant, of whom I am proud. Since I said: I have laboured in vain, I thought and spent my strength for nothing.”… . The mouth of the servant, which proclaims God´s word is a sharp sword and a well-pointed arrow, a weapon for close and for far away, a weapon utilized by the Lord in the appropriate moment. For a time, the sword is hidden in the shadow of his hand and the arrow kept in his quiver. But it is neither lost time nor useless work. The servant's failure is only apparent. It is not only a question of joining together Jacob's tribes. His mission extends to the end of the earth: “I will make you the light of the nations, so that my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”  God arranges a the scenario of history for a universal event, visible for all the nations.
9. In the third song (Is 50) the servant appears with the mission to listen and to announce an encouraging word, in spite of the blows that he may receive: “The Lord Yahweh has taught me so I speak as his disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning he wakes up my ear, to listen like the disciples.” The servant has a disciple's tongue. With the word that he receives from the Lord he supports the tired people. Every morning he is attentive to The Lord, who arouses his hearing. Exiled and full of vexations, whipped, spat upon and slapped… he knows how to obey The Lord, he knows how to hold on: “I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn. I offered my back to those who stroke me, my cheeks to those who pulled my beard; neither did I shield my face from blows and spittle.” The servant maintains his confidence in The Lord. For that reason he puts his face hard “like the flint.”
10. In the fourth song (Is 53) of the servant one talked in third person. He has been seized, slain, like the lamb that was taken to the slaughterhouse: “Like a root out of dry ground, like a sapling he grew up before us, with nothing attractive in his appearance. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows familiar with grief, a man from whom people hide the face.” The servant takes the human sin upon himself, that becomes evident in his own suffering: “We considered him as one punished by God, stricken and brought low. Destroyed because our sins, he was crushed for our wickedness. He supported the punishment that bring us the peace….Like lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer he did not open his mouth. He was taken away to detention and judgment and who worries about his contemporaries? However, the same God, who made fertile Sara's womb, will give descendants to His servant: he will see his descendants, he will lengthen his days and all that pleases the Lord will be accomplished by his hand…he will justify many”. What the holocausts and sacrifices did not get!.
11. But whom are we dealing with? That is what the Ethiopian pilgrim asks when he meets Philip. Philip belongs to the Greek sector of the community of Jerusalem. The Greek sector, like the Gospel, has done a sweeping of laws and it is on that sector that the persecution specially relapses: “Those who were scattered went about preaching the good news of the word” (Acts 8,4). So, in this context, a messenger, an “angel of the Lord” spoke to Philip saying: “Go south towards the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza the desert road” (8,26). He got up and went. The Ethiopian, an eunuch, Minister of the Treasure, a pious man, was on his way home after worshipping in Jerusalem, seated in his carriage, reading the Bible. The Spirit (without any mediation) tells Philip: “Go and catch up with that carriage” (8,29). Philip ran to him and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He told him: “Do you understand what you are reading? “ He answered:  “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” And he begged Philip to get up and sit beside him. The passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to be slaughtered...” (Is 53; 7). The Ethiopian asked Philip: “About whom does the prophet says this? About himself or about someone else?”. Then Philip began to tell him the “good news of Jesus”, using this text of the Scripture as his starting point. (Acts 8,34 - 35). All that happened that day has a sense, nothing happened by chance. The key of everything is Jesus, crucified precisely in that place from where the pilgrim returns.
12. Jerusalem is asleep, lethargic, she has drunk the anger's goblet and the vertigo's chalice, she is captive: “Awake, awake!  Arise, Jerusalem! You who have drunk at the hand of Yahweh the cup of his fury, the cup which made you tremble, that you drank to the last drop!” (Is 51,17) “Awake, awake! Gather strength, O Zion! Put on your glorious garments, Jerusalem, holy city! For never will the uncircumcised or the unclean enter you again. Shake the dust off yourself and rise up, O Jerusalem. Loosen the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus says Yahweh: You were sold for no amount, you will be redeemed without money” (Is 52,1-3).
13. The messenger announces the good news, God's action, the salvation, the liberation: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion: your God reigns right now!” The Lord opens a road amidst the exile. Therefore, it is precise to come out of Babylon: “Depart, depart from that nation! Touch nothing unclean. Depart from there; purify yourselves, you who bear all Yahweh's holy vessels. Yet do not hurry, do not scatter in fright, because The Lord Yahweh is leading the way.” (52,11-12).
14. The holy city is ruined and without inhabitants, but the Lord announces its reconstruction: “O afflicted city, lashed by storm, disconsoled, I will set your stones with turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will crown your wall with agate; make your gates crystal, and your ramparts of precious stones” (54,11-12). The Lord answers to her complaints and lamentations: “Can a woman forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child of her womb? Yet though she forgets, I will never forget you. See, I have written your name upon the palm of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (49,15-16).
15. Jerusalem is the holy city, but also the wife. Yesterday deserted, abandoned and sterile, she listens now to a wonderful promise. She is going to have to make room for the children that are coming from all over the world. Her husband is now with her forever: “Rejoice, O barren woman who has not given birth; sing and shout for joy, you who never had children, for more are the children of the rejected woman than the children of the married wife, says Yahweh. Enlarge the space for your tent” (Is 54,1-2).  
 16. Jesus’ mission accomplishes the announcement of prophet Isaiah. The “word gospel, good news” (Mk 1,1) comes from the prophet who announces the end of exile. (Is 52, 7).  John the Baptist, the predecessor, introduces himself with these words: “A voice is shouting: In the desert let you prepare the way for the Lord (Mt 3,3).  When he evangelizes, Jesus is not alone, he is with the disciples who go with him: the twelve (Mt 10,1), and farther away of this close circle, the group who follow Jesus (8,21) and, also, the seventy two who Jesus sends in mission (Lk 10, 1). The community is the new family of the disciples where fraternal love is lived. (Mk 4, 34; Jn 13, 35), the school where the Gospel’s special teaching is received, the centre from which the received Gospel is spread.
17. To carry out his mission, Jesus does not identify himself with any of the social and religious groups of his time: the Sadducees (belonging to the Jewish aristocracy and the priestly institution, contributors with the roman power), the zealots (supporters of the violent revolution, coming from the labour class), the Pharisees (strict observers of the Moses´ Law and apolitical), he esenians (religious ascetics, who depart from the world), the scribes (intellectual minority, dedicated to teach the Scriptures, without listening the Word). Jesus comes out from these circles and he opts for the poor, for the harassed and dispirited crew (Mt 9, 36)
18. Thus Isaiah’s prophesy is accomplished: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind” (Lk 4, 18). Old Simeon, who hopes “Israel’s consolation” (Lk 2, 25), may already di in peace. The figure of the servant is fully accomplished in the baptism (Mk 1, 11), in the transfiguration (9, 7), in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The new birth of the Church is contemplated in this manner: “I shall raise David’s fallen tent” (Acts 15, 16)
19. Fifty years ago, when the call for the council matured in John XXIII, it was not like fruit of a prolonged reflection, but like the flower of an unexpected spring. Little by little afterwards we have gone, for successive approximations, recovering the communal experience of the Acts of the Apostles and therefore the simplest and purest features of the nascent Church have been appearing. In spite of the difficulties and resistances, which have been many, renewal is not a vain word but something that already is sprouting, that already is on the way, that we already are living with. Without this renewal – still pending to a great scale – the Church appears “like nothing” to the eyes of many (Ag 2,3), without the fertility of the mustard grain (Mt 13,32), aged, lifeless, hopeless. Like that old elm tree of worm-eaten and dusty trunk that the poet A. Machado sang: “It will not be like the singing poplars/ that the road and the bank keep/ inhabited of brown nightingales".
20. The word of God that in its moment determines Jeremiah’s vocation continues to be present. The prophet contemplates like a symbol and sign “a branch of almond tree”, the first tree that blooms and thus announces the spring: “That is how I am, says the Lord, attentive to my word to accomplish it” (Jr 1, 11 – 12) The word of Yahweh brings the spring. That's why, I too " I want to note down in my wallet /the wit of the bloomed branch. /  My heart also hopes, /towards light and towards life, /another miracle of the spring".
*    Dialogue: The “servant Jesus”, God´s servant”, is the expected prophet. Resurrected, he himself explains to the Emaus´ walkers “starting with Moses and going through the prophets, he explained to them every thing in the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Lk 24, 27) Does he explain it to us?