First Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:1-7
16 For you are our Father, though Abraham doesn't know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us: you, YHWH, are our Father; our Redeemer from everlasting is your name. 17 O YHWH, why do you make us to err from your ways, and harden our heart from your fear? Return for your servants' sake, the tribes of your inheritance.
19 We have become as they over whom you never bear rule, as those who were not called by your name.
64:1 Oh that you would tear the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence, 2 as when fire kindles the brushwood, and the fire causes the waters to boil; to make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome things which we didn't look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 For from of old men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides you, who works for him who waits for him. 5 You meet him who rejoices and works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned. We have been in sin for a long time; and shall we be saved? 6 For we have all become as one who is unclean, and all our righteousness is as a polluted garment: and we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 There is none who calls on your name, who stirs up himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have consumed us by means of our iniquities.
World English Bible
How long, O Lord, how long?
We all have good times. And we all have bad times. 2001 was my bad time. Between the shooting at Santana High School (Santee, CA) my son witnessed, to the funerals my wife and I attended, to 9/11, the year seemed to be one long grieving period. A year with death in the air. A time to be endured.
Bad times like that give us a hint at the despair and desperation found in this reading. Several generations had passed from the return of the exiles in Babylon. Jerusalem and its Temple were being rebuild. A sense of normal living had returned. Yet, the people were forlorn. Life was hard. And God seemed to be far away.
The author of these passages (the so-called "Third Isaiah") spoke the prayer of the people. How long before the people returned to glory? How long before God's presence shone before the nations? Note the prayer for divine intervention was mixed with self-examination. The loss of stature was not necessarily God's fault [64:5b-7]. Yet, also note the sense of hope. The petitioner called upon God as Father and asked for his return [63:16-17].
Like those who lamented in Jerusalem, we, too, may have times we feel cut off from God and his blessing. Yet, there is always hope. For the Lord is coming. Soon!
When did you experience "bad times?" How did God give you hope?