Faith Is Forever New

National Catholic Reporter, March 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Faith Is Forever New


MARCH 11, 2013, FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

Roger Vermalen Karban

Is 43:16-21; Ps 126; Phil 3:8-14; in 8:1-11

Our sacred Scriptures contain many stories about how God dealt with people thousands of years ago. Even before I actually picked up a real Bible, I learned about some of these awesome feats in Bible history class. Yahweh delivered the Israelites from a catastrophic flood, led them through the Red Sea "dry-shod," even stopped the sun's course so they could win battles. Someone would be out of his or her mind not to follow a God who regularly staged such dramatic events

But there was just one problem: I hadn't noticed God doing anything like that during my lifetime, or even in recent history. It seemed as though God had been on a 2,000-year-long vacation. The days of God's awesome actions were all past history, so long ago that no one even had photographs or movies of them.

Only when I began to study Scripture itself did I discover that the people to . whom Deutero-Isaiah prophesied 2,500 years ago shared my problem.

This unnamed prophet--responsible for Chapters 40-55 of the Book of Isaiah--was the conscience of his people during Israel's most trying biblical period: the Babylonian Exile. King Nebuchadnezzar, after destroying Jerusalem and its temple in 586 B.C., forcibly relocated a large number of Jews to Babylon.

During the exile's darkest days, Deutero-Isaiah brought a ray of hope to people who years before had given up any hope of ever returning to the Promised Land. The prophet reasoned Yahweh's best days weren't in the past. The same God who freed the Israelites from Egypt could also free them from Babylon.

One of the literary devices Deutero-Isaiah employed to convey his belief was the use of participles, verb forms that don't end but prolong the action they describe. A literal translation, for instance, of the first part of today's passage would read, "Thus says Yahweh, opening a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, leading out chariots and horsemen ..." What Yahweh did, Yahweh continues to do.

Even exiled Israelites could recite by heart the story of the Red Sea dividing, permitting their ancestors to cross from slavery into freedom. But somehow they never conceived of Yahweh continuing such freeing actions in their own day and age. …

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