First Reading: Isaiah 55:1-11

Celebration Without Logic

Have you felt the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders? Why did you feel that way?

1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters! Come, he who has no money, buy, and eat! Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which doesn’t satisfy? listen diligently to me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3 Turn your ear, and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples. 5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you don’t know; and a nation that didn’t know you shall run to you, because of YHWH your God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he has glorified you.”

6 Seek YHWH while he may be found; call you on him while he is near: 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to YHWH, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” says YHWH.

9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky,
and doesn’t return there, but waters the earth,
and makes it bring forth and bud,
and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return to me void,
but it shall accomplish that which I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing I sent it to do.

World English Bible

Written in the time heady times of Babylon’s conquest by the Persians, rumors began to circulate that the Jews would be allowed to return home. The author of Second Isaiah picked up on this thought and addressed a skeptical audience. Their liberation was an invitation to celebrate. Their exile was over. Their judgment was past. Even the morally questionable were invited to the feast. The people would be as one again. And they would be with their God again.

The invitation and amnesty were a declaration of liberation and return (5:1-7). But why did God now show his face? Why did he return his compassion? These questions were the flip side to the questions the exiles asked when they were first dragged off. Why us, Lord? Why did we receive your wrath? The question revealed the context of the exiles’ psychology. At the beginning of the exile, surprise, dismay, and remorse were widely shared. In the end, depression and resignation were community-wide attitudes; they had accepted their status as alien residents.

But were those attitudes acceptable in the current climate? Second Isaiah did not think so. He answered their questions about God with an answer that might have escaped common logic at the time, but revealed the power of God. He freed his people because he wanted to. He showed gracious forgiveness. His ways were not their ways. His thoughts were not their thoughts.

In many ways, this reading celebrates the power and logic of God present in the Easter Vigil. The shamed preacher from Galilee is now revealed as the victorious Messiah. He died show we can live. This is reason enough to celebrate, to forgive the sinner. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts transcend our poor logic. Thank God!

What do the mysteries of the Easter Vigil show you? How do they give you hope? And a feeling of freedom?