In our prayer and meditation it is possible to compare our first reading, the Second Song of Isaiah (Cant. 10 or MP II) with our Lord’s teaching to his disciples on the prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer”. They both are about our prayer response to God concerning the needs of the world and our own needs.
In my spiritual reading I recently came across an analogy along the same lines in the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest, scientist, theologian, and spiritual writer of the last century, in his book, Toward the Future. This was in a chapter on “Reflections on Happiness,” using three different attitudes to life to illustrate differing reactions to words such as those of Isaiah’s Second Song.
The analogy uses a party of tourists who set out to climb some mountains. The members of this party show us three different attitudes towards setting out for a goal.
When the party reaches the half-way point on their hike the first third of the group say that they have seen enough, they are tired and they want to return to the inn where they stayed. They can look at the mountain peaks from there, but more likely they will just rest and read books. The second third of the group finds that they can see the mountain peaks from the point that they have reached. They don’t feel it necessary to go any further. They can look at the peaks from there and enjoy the view, and rest on the grass or explore the neighborhood. The last third of the group are real mountaineers and determine to complete the climb to the mountain which they can see. When they have succeeded in their climb they will have the pleasure of seeing a grand vista from the top of that mountain, and the satisfaction of having accomplished their goal.
In this season of Lent the words of this second song of Isaiah seem particularly applicable to us in our spiritual pilgrimage. The spirit of the season of Lent encourages us to “seek the Lord where he may be found, and call upon him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6). These words seem to describe the last third of our party of tourists.
The next verse could be applied to the first and second thirds of the group. “Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (v.7) This is the way in which those in the third group might pray for those in the first and second groups.
The next two verses might well reflect the thoughts of those in the first group who turned back and those in the second group who were satisfied to look at the goal from a distance. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (v. 8-9) We can imagine the thoughts of those in the first group as feeling that the thoughts of the Lord and the ways of the Lord as being beyond their understanding, and therefore they gave up and went back to the inn. And the thoughts of the second group might have been that it was good enough just to look at the goal from a distance and try to appreciate it from where they were.
But the last two verses of Isaiah’s song put God’s purposes before us. If we think on it and meditate on it we can see that there is a purpose to all that God gives us. “For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (v. 10-11)
When we think on these words we can receive inspiration and courage to persevere in seeking the Lord when he may be found, and calling upon him when he is near.
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