Monday, December 11, 2006

Evening Prayer Reflection: Dec 11th

“Pay back is hell,” is the expression we often hear when someone is vindictive and gets back at a person who wronged them. Often when we are wronged, or even when we think we have been wronged, we want to give the other person hell, to pay them back, to get even. We want revenge.

In today’s reading from the book of Isaiah, we hear “Here is your God, he comes with vindication, with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared. Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing” (Is 35:4-6). In its historical context, the author of these verses wanted to point out to the people of Israel God’s saving action in allowing the enemies of Israel to be defeated. God pays back those who harmed Israel. He gets even on others for the harm they did his people.

But what about those who harm God, those who sin? Interpreted in the spiritual sense these verses give us an insight into how God has paid back those who sin. If we keep in mind that in the Hebrew mindset illness was a result of sin, we see what kind of payback God gives sinners, what kind of revenge he gets on those who transgress his laws: he heals them, he saves, he gives them what they don’t deserve. In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus doing just that, healing the sick and the lame, first by forgiving their sins and then by healing them, restoring them to wholeness.

But he didn’t just forgive the sins of sinners and heal the illnesses of a people who had gone astray, rather, in the face of the sinner, in the face of those who did no longer deserved to be called “sons”, God ran after his people, embraced them, clothed them with new clothes, put a ring on their finger and held a big feast. Yes, instead of squashing sinners like bugs and paying them back what they deserved God was merciful to his people and, by becoming man, by taking on our human nature, he married them, giving them a gift that we could never deserve: his divine life in Jesus.

So, when we want to give someone hell for what they did to us, when we want to pay someone back, let us turn our thoughts to the payback God gave us, how he forgave us, how he shared himself with us, and how he was merciful in giving us what we did not deserve. Let us strive to imitate God, for one of the mysteries of the incarnation is that we can imitate his mercy and his love, precisely because he made himself man in Jesus.

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