Whenever I come across readings like the one from Isaiah today, I realize how important it is to go beyond the literal meaning! If we were to limit our understanding of that passage to God's promise to defend Jerusalem and the People of God from foreign invaders, we would be sadly disappointed! Think of how many times Jerusalem, the Holy City, would be conquered and eventually destroyed! Look what's going on there today! No, we must recognize that when Scripture says confidently and boldly, "God upholds his city forever," we are not talking about the city of Jerusalem, we are talking about the peaceful reign of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Creation, what Augustine describes so masterfully in his classic, The City of God.
Psalm 48 also calls us to be totally confident of God's protection and completely unafraid of the powers of this world. We are not to be "stunned, terrified, routed," not to be "quaking and in anguish," because God is always with us and we really have nothing to fear -- ever!
And when Jesus reproaches cities like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even his chosen city, Capernaum, for failing to believe and repent even in the face of his miracles ("mighty deeds"), he is speaking to all people like ourselves who are blessed by the presence and promises and works of Jesus, but nonetheless do not put our faith into practice, do not trust in God alone, but continue to fear and follow the false gods of power, security, force -- the City of Man, rather than the City of God.
So, all three of our readings call us to utter faith that God is in charge. "Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear, do not let your courage fail," says Isaiah. For of all those things that make us tremble, God says, "This shall not stand, it shall not be!" If only we could remember that in times of trouble or woe! Faith in God is a power stronger than all other forces put together. "Unless your faith is firm," says Isaiah, "you shall not be firm!" And over and over and over again, Jesus proclaimed, "Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me!"
Today we pray passionately, longingly, confidently, and humbly, "Lord, increase our faith."
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