Lenten Reflections on Isaiah 58:1-12
"Cry our full-throated and unsparingly" (Isaiah 58:1)
Lord, today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. You spoke to Isaiah and asked him to cry out Your message of repentance to a people uneager to hear it. Do I hear You calling out to me today? "Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel."
The priest or deacon, as a representative of You, Lord, marks my forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross. What cross are You asking me to carry for You today, Lord? What has to die in me to become ashes, so that I may carry my cross well?
Give me a few moments, Lord, to to hear Your full-throated and unsparing cry, calling me again to You. Amen.
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
".. . lift up your voice like a trumpet blast . . . (Isaiah 58:1)
My goodness, my Lord, a trumpet blast is not a gentle whisper. The sound of a trumpet carries far and startles the inattentive soul. If you aren't expecting it, a hearty trumpet blast can make you jump out of your socks.
You told the prophet Isaiah to lift up his voice like a trumpet blast. You can't expect me to do the same, can you? You know that I'm a bit of a wimp. I don't want to startle anyone. I don't want to be noticed. Let me just whisper Your message, please. A gentle whisper. Or is that not what you want this Lent? Do You want me to speak out on issues of life and morality? Do You want me to write that letter to the editor or call in to that radio talk show? Do you want me to say something when I hear my co-workers denigrating Catholics? A trumpet blast, Lord? A trumpet blast is a clear, distinct, and sharp call. If there is something I ought to be trumpet blasting about, then show me what it is and give me the courage to blow! Amen.
Friday after Ash Wednesday
"Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1)
Oh, goodness, Lord, this verse was meant for Isaiah only, wasn't it? Surely You are not asking me to go out and point out someone's sinfulness! Are you? How can I do that when I am a sinner, too?
You know how I don't like to rock anybody's boat. All I have to do is tell my co-worker that he ought to pay for the supplies he's sneaking off with or ask my sister how her husband feels about her secret boyfriend or tell my teen that his language with his buddies is about as clean as a pig sty. You know what kind of a reaction I'm going to get, don't You? Do You really think that people who justify their sins are going to stop committing them just because I speak up?
What do You mean by asking if the people of Israel and the house of Jacob turned from their sins because Isaiah pointed them out? Are You saying that sometimes the value comes in us speaking up rather than in others changing? That not accepting sin is the first step in conquering it? Oh, Lord, I am going to need a lot of help here. Please give it to me! Amen.
Saturday after Ash Wednesday
"They seek me day after day." (Isaiah 58:2)
Hmm, Lord. The Israelites sought You day after day, or so they wanted to believe. Am I seeking You even part of my day? What does seeking You mean?
When we were children, we used to play "Hide and Go Seek." One of us would hide and the others would go to seek him or her. Then we would reverse the process and the one hidden would become the seeker.
Do I see You as hidden from me, and do I seek You? Or do I think I am hidden from You? You know me in and out, my God, so nothing I think or do or say is ever hidden from You. And You are always seeking me. But am I always seeking You? Do I want You in my life, Lord, all the time? Or am I like the child who wants to prolong the game of "Hide and Go Seek" and who purposely looks in every place where he knows the hidden one isn't, because he doesn't want to find him too quickly?
Give me insight today, Lord, into if I am really seeking You and, if I am, how I'm honestly looking for You. Amen.
Sunday after Ash Wednesday
" and desire to know my ways . . ." (Isaiah 58:2)
Lord, the Israelites claimed to "desire to know" Your ways. But this admonition from You bears a tone of sarcasm. Did they really desire to know them? Or was the desire only so much lip service?
You make me look at myself, my God. Do I really desire to know Your ways? Or do I brush off that thought with, "Who can possibly understand the ways of God?" Certainly I cannot know all Your plans and surely I cannot understand the whys of Your actions. But I have to admit that there are some of Your ways that I ought to know. I know You want me to forgive my enemy and to pray for those who persecute me. I know You want me to help the needy, to comfort the sorrowing, to do justice to those who are wronged. I know that You want me to obey Your commandments and the laws of Your Church.
I know these ways of Yours because You've told us them plainly through Scripture and through our Church. I know, too, that these commands of Yours are meant to be more than general platitudes. They are meant for each one of us personally, and that includes me, to put into practice in specific instances in our lives. Help me to honestly desire to know Your ways, my God, and to give You Your way in the messy parts of my life, the parts that need to be turned over to You and the actions that need to be done as You would have them be done. What are Your ways for me today, Lord? I desire to know them. Give me the grace to walk in them. Amen.
Monday, First Week of Lent
"Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God" (Isaiah 2:2)
Lord, only if we do what is just will we be following You, for You are a just God. When we abandon You, we fall into injustice and the complacent blindness which accompanies it. How many times have we justified revenge by calling it fair return for what has been dished out to us? How often have we bent or disregarded God's directives by claiming that our conscience tells us we can't be wrong? Then we justify our ill-formed conscience by portraying ourselves as open-minded in a Church that is medieval. Your laws of morality, just distribution of wealth, and care for creation are clear in both Scripture and the teachings of the Church. Yet we make excuses, find exceptions, and misinterpret whenever Your wishes don't suit us.
Lord, how many times have I pretended to do what is just while abandoning Your Will? Am I doing anything of that sort now, Lord? Open my eyes, Lord, to my justifications and to my moral and ethical tweakings of Your law. Give me the courage to do what is what is truly just so that I may truly follow You. Amen.
Tuesday, First Week of Lent
"They ask me to declare what is due them. . . . " (Isaiah 58:2)
Goodness, Lord, dare I ask You to declare what is due me? The Israelites thought that they were completely in Your Will, offering up their sacrifices and keeping all the fine points of the law. Yet they were far from You because they did not show love to their neighbors. What was due them, Lord, for keeping the outward sign of religion but missing its core? Am I like that, my Lord, keeping all the rules but missing out on the fruit of the Spirit?
What is due to me, Lord, if I neglect the poor, if I gossip about my neighbor, and if I retain bitterness against my enemy? What is due me, my Lord, if I make excuses when I could help, if I do what I prefer instead of showing compassion, and if I am too cowardly to speak up for what is morally right?
Lord, forgive me. Do not give me what is due or even tell me what I deserve. I could not bear to know, my God. Declare to me what I must do, my God, to make amends, to turn my life around, to clean up the shadowy parts of my faith walk, and to become truly Yours. Amen
Wednesday, First Week of Lent
" . . . .pleased to gain access to God." (Isaiah 58:2)
Lord, this phrase seems odd to me. We need a key to gain access to a locked house and a password to gain access to our email account. But You are not a locked house or a private email account, Lord. You are God, and You are always accessible. I don't have to have any special quality, good work, or prayer to gain access to You. I don't even have to come to You, Lord, because You are always with me. I merely have to recognize Your Presence. I do not have to gain access to my heart or my mouth because they are part of my body and always with me. But You are superior to every physical part of me, for Your Spirit permeates mine. Your Spirit created me-- body, soul, mind, and spirit. You have complete access to me always and I have complete access to You. Any attempts to keep You out of my life are pure foolishness, Lord, for You continually know my every action, thought, word. You are always with me. Thank You, Lord, for being perpetually available to me. Amen.
Thursday, First Week of Lent
"Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?" (Isaiah 58:3)
Oh, goodness, Lord. You told us to fast in secret so that people would not know we were fasting and be able to commend us for being holy. But do we think that You ought to commend us for being holy because we fast? Are we fasting to wrench Your good favor from You? Or are we fasting to discipline ourselves and give You glory by giving up what we want? What merit is there in fasting? Don't folks on diets fast? Likewise, are we doing other penances to gain Your favor? Ought they not, instead, be intended to foster our conversion, that is our giving of ourselves totally to You? Lord, purify my fasts and penances this Lent. Prevent me from using them as bargaining chips to obtain from You spiritual or physical or material ends. Amen.
Friday of the First Week of Lent
"Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits . . ." (Isaiah 58:3)
Lord, these are Your words to the Israelites, and they are Your words to me. Where did You ever say that fasting and carrying out our own pursuits were incompatible? Yet You say it here. Are my pursuits not compatible with Your Love, with Your goals? Am I refraining from food so that I have more time to do my own things? Has the lack of food not changed my lack of charity? Am I not to be pursuing Your pursuits, my God? What do You want me to do, Lord? Give me insight into Your Holy Will and help me to give up my unholy will. Amen.
Saturday, First Week of Lent
". . . . and drive all your laborers." (Isaiah58:3)
Well, Lord, I don't have any laborers so this does not apply to me . . . Or does it? Who do I expect to do things for me and why have I focused on them? Do I expect fellow workers or committee members to do things just the way I would, and, if they don't, do I find fault with their efforts? Do I leave certain chores undone, which I could easily do, thinking, "It's not my job?" How do I treat the clerk, wait person, gas station attendant, phone operator, my child, my spouse? Do I find fault with the way my food is prepared, my clothes are made, or my mail delivered? How do I treat those who are working for me, if not because they are employed by me but because I use their services? Do I give them encouragement and compliments? Am I courteous? Maybe, in some ways, I am a slave driver, Lord. Open my eyes to how I treat and talk about others. Help me to do better, for love of You. Amen.
Second Sunday of Lent
"Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw." (Isaiah 58:4)
Oh, Lord, that drives a punch right to the heart. The verbs here increase in violence from arguing to fighting to striking with wicked claw. Fasting was intended to sanctify the Israelites, but, despite their fasting, they were behaving like clawed beasts trying to overpower one another. What is the purpose of fasting, Lord? It has to be more than just obedience to a law. Fasting from food is intended to make us fast from selfishness. By doing without what we want to eat, we ought to learn to do without what we want to say or do. By giving God our fasting, we ought to learn to give others our respect. But if the fast is only a discipline that we don't allow to penetrate our spirits, then we continue to act like animals who can't get enough to eat in the winter but who remain animalistic nevertheless. Let me take a few moments, Lord, to see if my bodily fasting is influencing my fasting from selfishness. Where can I do better in my thoughts, words, actions, or lack of actions? With whom do I have to make peace and how may I do it? Lord, I want to be an animal no more. Make me Your holy child instead. Amen.
Monday of the Second Week of Lent
"Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!" (Isaiah 58:4)
My Lord, this verse says to me that You wish me to fast correctly and that You long to have my voice heard on high. You are asking for a fast that will reach you as a prayer, for prayer is what You "hear." What is prayer, Lord, but a conversation with You? A conversation means that I speak but I also listen. A conversation is not a list of demands or chattering along without giving the other a chance to speak. Do You mean that You wish to converse with me through my fasting? Do I think of my fasting as a prayer, Lord? Help me to see that it is, indeed, a prayer of the body, offered up to You. Help me to fast prayerfully, Lord. Amen.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
"Is this the manner of fasting I wish . . . " (Isaiah 58:5)
Lord, this tells me that You do wish us to fast. But You have Your own thoughts about what a fast ought to be. And those thoughts may not be mine. You had said that our fast was not acceptable, despite the penances we performed, because it was not accompanied by a change of heart. What kind of fast do You want, Lord? Enlighten me and help me to know. Amen.
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
" . . . of keeping a day of penance." (Isaiah 58:5)
My Jesus, for us in the Confraternity of Penitents, every day must be a day of penance (conversion). Every moment must be a moment of penance (conversion). Always our lives must be turned continually toYou. There is no time when we ought to be doing just what we like without regard for Your Will. Lord, help me to keep on keeping on in the penitential (converted) life until my life is completely Yours forever. Amen.
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
"That a man bow his head like a reed . . ." (Isaiah 58:5)
Lord, this speaks to me of prayer. A reed can bow before the wind and portray a prayerful aspect but it is only a reed. No prayer rises to You. No humility enters in. No change takes place because the reed is bowed. When the wind dies down, the reed is again erect, the same as ever it was. Are my prayers like this, Lord? Do I pray inattentively so that, when I rise from prayer, I am no m ore changed than if I had never prayed at all? Do I revert to my pride and self-righteousness, completely unaware of the needs of those around me. Oh, Lord, let the wind of Your Spirit pierce my soul so that prayer changes me into who You wish me to become. Amen.
Friday of the Second Week of Lent
". . . . and lie in sackcloth and ashes?" (Isaiah 58:5)
You know, Lord, I think I'm doing pretty good with giving up chocolate for Lent. Or maybe I've stopped watching television or I check my emails only on Saturdays as a Lenten penance. Compared to those Old Testament penitents, however, am I really doing all that great? Did they really dress in itchy sackcloth and lay down in ashes to go to sleep? How did they ever sleep not to mention rise refreshed to do their labor? A penance like sleeping in sackcloth and ashes would effect you twenty four hours a day. I know You're not telling me to imitate these old time penitents, but maybe You are saying that I ought not be so smug about what I am doing. Give me the humility to admit that my penances are pretty tame. Help me to do honest penance which is to fast from self-righteousness and spiritual pride. Amen.
Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
"Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?" (Isaiah 58:5)
Lord, I want all my days to be acceptable to You. I thought a fast was pleasing to You. It is pleasing, but only if the outward fasting has an effect on the heart. Help me to make today acceptable to You, my Lord, by fasting from my own willfulness and seeking to do Your Will. Help me to put others before myself and to show compassion, gentleness, patience. The best fasting I can do, Lord, is to fast from concentrating on ME, isn't it? Help me, O Lord! Amen.
Third Sunday of Lent
"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish . . ." (Isaiah 58:6)
Lord, You do wish us to fast. You desire that we fast in ways that are pleasing to You. Lord, I want to do Your Will. Grant me Your grace to know what the Will is in regard to fasting and to all things, and give me every virtue I need to follow your Holy Will. Amen.
Monday, Third Week of Lent
" . . . releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; " (Isaiah 58:6)
Lord, You wish us to release those bound unjustly. Who do I know who has or may have been unjustly accused? What have I done to try to discover the truth? Have I given that person the benefit of the doubt? Have I spread gossip, told half truths, believed rumors? Have I lied or exaggerated about someone to make myself look better? Have I been silent when I ought to have spoken up to clear someone's good name or to defend someone? Have I made excuses for not helping an overburdened neighbor or family members? Have I overworked someone or given them busy work? Who do I know who is bound by guilt or shame? Have I encouraged them to seek forgiveness and healing? Am I supposed to listen to them, Lord? Am I to absorb their grief, confusion, or rage until their spiritual yoke is broken? Open my eyes to those who are bound, my God. What do You want me to do to help release them? Give me insight, Lord. Give me courage to act. Amen.
Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
"Sharing your bread with the hungry . . ." (Isaiah 58:7)
Lord, how can I do this better? Might I tithe a certain percentage of my income and give it to an agency that supplies food to the needy? Can I purchase two canned goods each time I go to the grocery store and give them to the food pantry? How about bringing a casserole to a new mom or sending over a tray of cold cuts and rolls to the family when someone has died? If a wife is in the hospital or dies, can I invite her husband over for dinner? Might I offer to buy breakfast or lunch for a homeless person? How about helping at the soup kitchen or sending an extra cupcake in my child's lunch so he or she can share with a friend? Show me ways to help, my God. Open my heart to give. Amen.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
" . . . sheltering the oppressed and the homeless . . ." (Isaiah 58:7)
Oh, boy, Lord, I've read this closely and You are calling from a very personal response from me here. You are asking me to consider sheltering the oppressed and the homeless. You mean here in my own house? Isn't it enough to give money to homeless shelters and to agencies that help the oppressed? Are you really asking me to take someone in? Maybe you are. Pregnant young women, thrown out of their homes by irate parents, need a place to stay. Immigrants need someone to vouch for them and offer them shelter. A relative loses his or her job and can't pay the rent. A college student needs a bedroom. Older children are waiting for adoptive homes. You could not be asking me to open up my house to one of these folks or someone else? Could You? Help me, Lord, as I ponder what You are asking of me. Amen.
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
"Clothing the naked when you see them . . ." (Isaiah 58:7)
Well, Lord, in Isaiah's day, the destitute were everywhere and it was possible to see them as one went about one's business. Did a good servant of the Lord carry along an extra garment to give to a naked person? I wonder . . . Today the naked come to me in appeals sent through the mail or via email. We have clothing drives and good will stores. I have so many clothes, my Lord. Do I really need all of them? What can I give away? And might you be asking me for something deeper here, my God? To clothe those naked of virtue with Your grace so that I see them wrapped in Your love? Knowing that You love those whom I find hard to love, Lord, is clothing them in the dignity You created them to have. Let me clothe the naked today, my God. Amen.
Friday of the Third Week of Lent
". . . and not turning your back on your own." (Isaiah 58:7)
My Lord, You call me back here to my own family, immediate neighbors, and close friends. Sometimes I get so caught up in doing for others that I brush aside those whom I love the most and who deserve my main attention. Give me patience the next time my child interrupts me when I am talking on the telephone. Give me super patience as I potty train our toddler. When my spouse leaves the newspapers strewn across the couch for the zillionth time, put love in my voice as I ask yet again that they be folded and placed on the end table. When You nudge me to call my parents, nudge me hard enough so that I don't procrastinate. And when my friend can't seem to get past an old wound, make my shoulder sturdy enough to bear those tears yet again. Give me, Lord, the virtues of a saint as I deal with those so very close to me. Amen.
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
" . .. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn. . . . " (Isaiah 58:8)
Lord, are You telling me that I can be a light? You had promised your servant Jesus, through the prophets, that He would be a light to all nations. But are You asking me to be a light? But, of course. Didn't you say that we ought not hide our lamps but let the light of our faith shine to all the world so that we can, by Your grace, show You as a light in the spiritual darkness of our world? Oh, Lord, You say that if I follow You in truth and love, not just in outer actions but in inner transformation that touches the lives of others, then I will be one of Your little lights. Oh, Lord, let my little light shine! Amen.
Fourth Sunday in Lent
" . . . and your wound shall quickly be healed . . . " (Isaiah 58:8)
My Jesus, I do have wounds. Sometimes I am all too aware of them. Other times I try to hide them from others and even from myself. But I cannot hide them from You. You know the depth and the pain of my wounds. Oh, Lord, some of these wounds have come from well meaning people who meant me no harm, while others were inflicted by my enemies or through what we like to think of as "accidents" or the "trials of life." But You, O God, are Lord of all, and You knew about each of my wounds before they occurred. You permitted them to come to me, many times for reasons which I may never know. You Who still bear Your wounds offer to heal mine. If I become more like You, my God, by loving both You and my neighbor in sincerity that leads to loving response, You pledge to heal my wounds. My Father, grant me the grace to move forward so that my wounds may be healed. Amen.
Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
"Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard." (Isaiah 58:8)
My Lord, You assure me that, if my fast is just, You will protect me from spiritual attack. You will precede me as my vindication--that is, my avenger, my defender, my protection. Your glory will follow me as a rear guard. All around me shall be Your spiritual protection so that I shall be like a king surrounded by his protective guards. In my case, however, I who ought to be defending Your goodness before the people, shall be defended by You. The King of kings protects the soldier of the Lord rather than the soldier guarding the King. How awesome You are, my God, to turn everything to my advantage! Let me serve You rightly, my Lord, so that I may always enjoy your spiritual protection. Amen.
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
"Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer . . . " (Isaiah 58:9)
How I want You to answer when I call, Lord! So often You are silent, or so it seems. Or maybe I am not tuned in enough to hear Your answer. When I call, and You seem to be silent, are You really telling me to be patient, to trust, to wait? Am I looking for the answer I want to hear instead of hearing the answer You are giving? My Lord, help me to pray and fast and give alms with the right spirit, so that my spirit is attuned to Yours and I can comprehend Your answers to my questions, however those answers may come. Amen.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
" . . . you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!" (Isaiah 58:9)
My Lord, how many times do I fail to call on You for help? I am so centered in my own problems, trying to do things my own way, that I neglect to stop and ask for Your guidance. Maybe I am secretly fearful that You really will help me, but not in the way I desire. Help me to cry out to You in my need and to trust You to answer in the best way possible. Your way may not be mine, my Lord. But it will be the best way. Are You not always with me, my God? Oh, Lord, let me always be with You! Amen.
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
"If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech . . ." (Isaiah 58:9)
Oh, my Lord, open my spiritual eyes. Am I oppressing anyone by my continual complaining or by placing too high standards on them? Do I spread gossip or insinuate untruths? Have I habit of saying things to make others look bad or to hint at their dishonesty or other faults? Do I hold onto grudges against those who have talked badly about me or who have hurt me? You are asking for love here, my God. If I truly loved, I would never oppress, accuse, or speak maliciously. I would, if I loved, try to find the motivation behind another's actions, and I would seek to understand and pray to forgive. You call me to become as You are, my God, You Who are Truth, Mercy, and Love. Make me, my God, fully into Who You call me to be. Amen.
Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
"If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted . . . "(Isaiah 58:10)
My Lord, You mentioned earlier, through the prophet Isaiah, that You ask for "Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own." Once again You emphasize these works of charity. "If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted." Are You trying to drive the message deep into my heart, my God? Who is hungry whom I have not fed? Was it the person who wanted to talk when I wanted to hang up the phone? Is there someone who ought to have a card, an email, a phone call from me and I've been putting off the contact because I'm too busy? Is it up to me to satisfy the afflicted? I thought You did that, my God, if they put their trust in You. But do You want to use me as a partial answer to their prayers? Where am I lacking in charity, my Lord? Is the time I have my time? Isn't it Your time? What do You want of me today, Lord? How may I show Your love? Amen.
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
"Then light shall arise for you in the darkness . . ." (Isaiah 58:10)
My Lord, I do not even know how deep my darkness is. I look at my present situation, and there is so much I cannot control. I gaze into the future and can see no resolution to my trials. I come back and peer into my soul, and I shudder at the hidden sins that are not hidden from You. Oh, Lord, how I need Your light! Show me a way out of my misery. Give me the graces to overcome my sins. Grant me a trust that clings to You in my spiritual night. Every day is fraught with terrors and worries. Every night brings desolate thoughts. How I need Your light, my God! How I need trust in that light! Let Your light arise for me, Lord. Shine in my darkness. Give me hope. Amen.
Fifth Sunday of Lent
" . . . and the gloom shall become for you like midday; " (Isaiah 58:10)
Oh, Lord, what a promise You give! Midday is such a glorious time, with the sun at its zenith and the air as bright as it will be that day! You promise that, if we follow Your way of love and charity, the gloom of our sins and the darkness we allow to engulf us will be transformed. We will be flooded with Son light. No longer will we grope in the shadows of our own reasoning but will see clearly Your work in our lives. My Lord, grant me true charity and love so that my penance is genuine. Let Your Son flood me with His light. Amen.
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
"Then the LORD will guide you always . . . " (Isaiah 58:11)
Oh, Lord, how I desire this! At least, I think I do. Do I really want You to guide me? Do I trust You enough to go where You lead? What if You lead me into self-sacrifice, trial, surrender? What if You ask me to relinquish what is closest to my heart? Suppose You ask more than I want to give? These and others are the fears that hold me back, my God. You promise, through the prophet Isaiah, that, if I exercise charity and true repentance, You will guide me always. But, oh, I see now my lack of trust in You. How I want to believe that You ordain all for my ultimate good! Yet I am so afraid that what You see as being for my good, I will see as being for my destruction. Father, I have to get out of my own way so that I will allow You to guide me. I am like a dog pulling against the master's leash, wanting to go my way instead of Yours. Help me, Lord, to trust You with all of my life. Amen.
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
" . . . and give you plenty even on the parched land." (Isaiah 58:11)
Oh, my Father, my soul is as a parched land. How it thirsts for the living water of Your grace! You are the only One who can green it with virtues and bud forth the flowers of good deeds and the fruits of love in action. It is I, my God, who have kept the rains of Your life giving Spirit from falling on the dryness of my spirit. I have erected tents of my own self will, stubbornness, and pride, and have hidden myself within them to keep from being washed by Your love. Father, give me the courage to stop resisting You, to strike down and fold up my tents, and to stand free in the gentle and persistent rain of Your love. Let the parched land of my soul become fruitful and let me live there always, trusting in Your goodness and spreading it to others. Allow me to permit You to replace my barrenness with plentitude. Amen.
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
"He will renew your strength . . . " (Isaiah 58:11)
My Father, how I need You to renew my strength! I am so weak spiritually and I fall into sin so easily. Words I should never say slip out of my mouth. Thoughts I should never think dance in my mind. Things better left undone are completed by my hands. My Lord, I fight not against outside forces but against my own sinfulness. I am Your greatest enemy. Lord, I grow weary in the trials of my life, and so often these, which You created for my perfection, become the very sources of my failure to follow You. Strengthen me with Your graces so that I will turn from sin and cling to You. Give me trust that You will see me through the hard times, that You will be my strength when I have none of my own, and that You can keep me in Your care as long as I may live. Amen.
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
". . . and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails." (Isaiah 58:11)
Father, how I thirst for Your will and Your love! I have lived, quenching this inner thirst with everything but the life giving water You promise. Now I know that, all my life, I have thirsted for You. Convert my parched soul into a lush garden watered by Your Spirit. Become in me a fountain o f living, rushing, endless water that will sustain me into eternity. My God, turn me back to You so that I may live for the first time in my life. Amen.
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
"The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake . . . " (Isaiah 58:12)
My Father, You speak of ancient ruins. The ruins of my life are recent as far as time goes, for I have not yet lived a hundred years, barely a shadow in the eons of time. Could the ancient ruins be the pride that infects us all? But pride is a towering edifice, not a ruin in today's world. No, Lord. You speak of ancient ruins. What has been in ruin from time immemorial? Is it not humility, my God? Simplicity? Selflessness? The ruins are the opposite of pride. They are every virtue which pride has struck down. If we act with love and charity, my God, You promise to rebuild these ancient ruins. Are You saying that the virtues need not precede our works of charity, but that they shall surely eventually follow? Are You saying that doing good, even if for the wrong reasons, will eventually begin to sow good in our souls? When we show love, my Lord, Your Spirit will slowly but surely restore in us humility, simplicity, and selflessness. Let me see, my God, how I can give love today. Amen.
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
" . . . and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up . . ." (Isaiah 58:12)
My Father, what are the foundations of ages past if not the precepts underlying the Ten Commandments? In these, You call us to honor You and to obey Your laws. You have told us that, if we seek Your Will and follow it with love, Your law will be written in our hearts. It is a an unchangeable law of love for You and for our neighbor. The foundation that as destroyed by the sin of our first parents You shall raise up again. We shall love and trust You and do what You command, following not our own ways but Yours. Oh, Father, how our world needs these foundations to be raised up! Begin with me, my God. Amen.
"'Repairer of the breach,' they shall call you, . . . " (Isaiah 58:12)
My Father, where are the breaches in this world? Are they not everywhere? Every injury to a neighbor, every grudge, bad feeling, slander, calumny is a breach that rends the love we are to bear to one another. Every selfish act, pride of heart, abuse and misuse of another, every act against human life, is a breach that cries to You for repair. Every time one turns his back on You, every neglect of You, every blasphemy and mockery, widens the gap between You and us. We live in a broken world, my God, filled with more breaches against love than there are sands on the seashore. Give me the courage to look at my own life, my God. Where do I find broken relationships and bruised egos? What breaches can I, with Your grace, begin to repair? Set my life in order, my God. Give me pure motives and right actions so that I may begin to act in love. Amen.
Monday of Holy Week
"Restorer of ruined homesteads." (Isaiah 58:12)
My Lord, You assure me that, if I follow Your ways in love and humility, people will think of me as a "Restorer of ruined homesteads." So many natural disasters, Lord, have shown the world many ruined homesteads. So much outpouring of aid is helping to restore these. Indeed, love of God and of neighbors, whom most of us will never meet, have brought about this promise. Do You not also mean something deeper than framing in houses and replacing roofs? Are You not also speaking of that temple within, of our souls in which You are to dwell? Sin destroys Your homestead within us, Lord. Charity restores it. Will not our kindness to others bring them to a greater realization of Your actions in their lives? In our love, will they sense Yours? Lord, grant me an ever deeper love in thoughts, words, and deeds so that I may truly help restore Your dwelling place, not only in my own soul but also in the souls of others. Amen.
Tuesday of Holy Week
"If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your won pursuits on my holy day . . . ." (Isaiah 58:13)
Lord God, You gave us a commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. How many of us do that these days? So often we tend to think this Sabbath day rest was intended for field laborers, so they could get a break from hoeing and harvesting. We are just as busy these days with all our own pursuits. Yes, our pursuits of work and pleasure leave so little time for You, Lord. Your call to keep the Sabbath holy is a call to take the focus of us and of what we consider to be our all important pursuits and to put the focus on You. It's a call to give You time in our lives which can be totally consumed with countless things that easily shut You out. The Sabbath was meant to relieve our work so that we could comprehend that we do not live on bread alone but on every moment to moment breath of Your grace. The ultimate Sabbath for each of us is death when all our so precious activities will stop. The world goes on when we don't. Help us to find that lesson in the Sabbath rest, my God. Amen.
Wednesday of Holy Week
"If you call the Sabbath a delight, and the LORD'S day honorable . . ." (Isaiah 58:13)
My Father, of all the days of the week, I have never thought of the Sabbath as a delight or used the word "honorable" in its regard. To me, it's been a day off from work, a time to go to Mass, and the last day of the weekend. I've never focused on it, in its own right. You ask us to delight in Sunday and to recognize its honor. This is the day when Our Lord rose from the dead, the day when all of history was transformed and the promise of life eternal assured to those who believe in You. Sunday is the day when despair was transformed into joy and hopelessness into hope. With how much honor ought we treat the day in which our faith in Christ was confirmed? Oh, Lord, open my eyes to the meaning of Sunday. Let me celebrate this Easter as the first Easter of the fifty two "Easters" that come each year. Amen.
"If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice --" (Isaiah 58:13)
My Lord, You call us to follow Your ways, not our own, because, good as our ways may sometimes be, Yours are better. We see only our little corner of the world, but You, Lord, see all. We may never know why You lead us as You do, but all is for a greater purpose than we can often understand. Lord, often our ways are tinged with hidden self interest and even malice. We may want to show others what we can do or even prove to ourselves that we are great and capable. What humility You call us to, Lord, when You call us to follow Your ways, to seek the interests of others, and to leave all malice and self righteousness behind! Give us purity of motive, my Lord, so that our service to You is honestly done in love. Amen.
"Then you shall delight in the LORD . . . " (Isaiah 58:14)
My Lord and my God, on this day we commemorate Your Passion and death. We delight in what You have done for us. You, by dying, have given us eternal life. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, in Chapter 58, You have called us to die to ourselves and to live for love of you and of our neighbor. How can we deeply delight in what Your death, because of Your love, gained for us if we do not undergo death of self for a similar love? Oh, Father, You show us that living for You is not easy but it is supremely good. Give us the graces this day to enter deeply into the meaning of Your Passion and to embrace our own in love. Amen.
" . . . and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth . . ." (Isaiah 58:14)
Father, You are Lord and God. You promise that, if I treat all with love in actions, not only in words, You will make me "ride on the heights of the earth." Father, so much here is evil. We see the results of evil playing out before our eyes, my God. You promise that love will raise us above the selfishness, self-interest, and unfair dealings we see. If we follow Your law and not our own self centered ideas, You will make us "ride on the heights of the earth." We shall be close to You in the heights of prayer and our journey will be easier because we will be riding and not walking or straining on our own. When we do things Your way, You carry us, O Lord. You are Lord of heaven and earth, and You are Lord of my life. Help me to give my life over to You. Amen.
"I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 58:14)
My Father, if only we follow Your ways in love, real love, for You and for one another, You promise to nourish us with the "heritage of Jacob." Jacob's heritage was a covenant "I shall be Your God and you shall be My people." You promised to bring Jacob's descendents into a land "flowing with milk and honey," a land so rich in sustenance that the Israelites would never be hungry again. You promised them peace and prosperity on property of their own. If we follow Your ways in love, Your promise of eternal life will nourish us. You will become within us the "fountain of living water" which is spiritually complete as milk is a naturally complete food and which is sweet as honey. With Your Spirit within us, we shall never hunger or thirst for love again for we will know You Who are love. Despite what troubles swirl around us or even consume us, You will fill us with a "peace beyond all understanding" so that our spirits will prosper in holiness and our souls be possessed by You. Lord, give us the graces to embrace You and all You ask with love and trust so that Your promises may be fulfilled in us. Amen.