FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
17 March 2013
Second Isaiah prophesies the return from bondage in Babylon. In his vision, God addresses the Jews, reminding them how he helped their ancestors escape from Egypt. But let the past go, for he will now do a new thing: he will bring Israel back from Babylon in an act which will renew the land and, more importantly, establish a nation whose purpose will be to praise God. The speaker/poet uses images that will appeal to desert people, waters that God pushed aside to allow their escape and then released to extinguish their enemy, springs and rivers that will miraculously rise in the desert to sustain plants, animals, and his special people.
Paul reminds his congregation that he was born a Jew, was trained as a Pharisee, and became so zealous as to persecute Christians. Under Jewish religious law, his actions were blameless. But he has turned his back on all of that, which seems to him now like so much rubbish. He has a new, inspiring goal, which is Christ. He can arrive there only through faith. (Salvation by faith, rather than good works is the major message of Paul’s letters.) He uses an image of himself as an athlete in a Greek footrace, straining toward the goal and the prize of a Heavenly unity with God in Christ.