I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this. (Is. 45)
The Irish Jesuits have web sites called Sacred Space (http://www.sacredspace.ie/) and Living Space (http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/). Living Space is a repository of commentaries on the daily scripture readings from the Catholic lectionary. In my opinion, these commentaries have much more substance than many of the sites we encounter when we want to pray the daily scriptures.
Living Space reminds us that this reading comes from Isaiah’s Book of Consolation where God will use Cyrus, a foreign king, to liberate God’s people. Cyrus will bring the justice and right order promised by God. Poetically speaking, justice will descend like dew. The dew comes down as it did in these mountains this morning and it surrounds, embraces, and envelops everything.
The commentator says:
Taking this beautiful passage as a whole, we are asked to see in Cyrus the work of God being fulfilled in the world by people who do not even know him. This has always been the case and Christ continues to act through people who do not believe in him and may even reject him. The Church is not by any means the whole of the Kingdom reality but its sacrament and visible sign.
How Christ acts in the world is a powerful statement about a non-tribal God who wants the best for us in the new order heralded by Jesus the Christ.
How does the Christ act? Reflecting back on their scriptures and their Christ experience the NT writers saw Jesus as the One promised by Isaiah. John the Baptizer’ sends his disciples to Jesus to ask who he is. Jesus answers:
At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits;
he also granted sight to many who were blind.
And Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me. (Lk 7)
We know the Christ when people are being healed and made whole. Healing, wholeness, wellness and shalom all work together for those who love the Christ. I sometimes hear Christians rail against New Age stuff. I was once removed from leadership in a charismatic prayer group because I was teaching an adult education course at the church on the enneagram. I admit that some New Age stuff is bunk; however, in the arena of health and wholeness, there are many paths to healing. The enneagram, guided meditation, the use of imagery are among the tools which can help restore right relationships and right order. If God can use Cyrus to heal and restore the people of Israel, certainly we can use what we have learned from other cultures about chakras, meditation, acupuncture and the like to bring wholeness, health and shalom to people.
More importantly, God can use people to bring justice to earth. I think of how God used Gandhi, a Hindu, to bring the justice of nonviolence to a world starved for right relationships and right order. At times justice will roll down like a mighty stream and, at other times, it will fall gently like the dew. Regardless, the Kin-dom proclaimed by Jesus is all about justice. Jesus came to re-establish right order and right relationships. Right relationships and right order enable the “blind” to see and the “lame” to leap like stags. Right relationships and right order heal the “leprosy” of exclusion and bring inclusion. Right relationships and right order enable the “deaf” to heart he good news and to bring it to others.
When I think of right order and right relationships, I think of Nigel Mumford, an Episcopal priest who once served as a royal marine in Northern Ireland. In a wonderful book, After the Trauma the Healing Begins, Mumford uses his near death experiences in Northern Ireland and his encounter with the Swine Flu to show how healing occurs. We often think of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, formerly known as shell shock) as something that happens to combat veterans. Mumford skillfully expands our awareness to included trauma of any kind. In Christian healing it is often necessary to delve back into family history in order to find the roots of PTSD. Through a process of generational healing, people are brought to new wholeness, right relationships are re-established and new order reigns. God’s healing touch “sets captive free” and “liberates” those imprisoned and held captive by their own bad memories.
Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” Justice and peace are intimately related. Right order and right relationships bring shalom—peace, wholeness, and wellness. This is the season of peace on earth—peace among nations but also peace within our hearts. This is the peace that comes from restoring right order and right relationships.
This is the feast day of St. John of the Cross who has had a tremendous influence on mystics of all ages, including Thomas Merton. In the darkness of long winter nights and in a world darkened by the powers and principalities, John reminds us that we find God in darkness. We bring the Christ light to bear on this darkness. We restore right order, right relationships, health, wholeness and shalom peace when we are light to the world. Our light is the Christ’s light—mercy, justice, love, compassion, forgiveness, and nonviolence.
The Living Space commentator says it well:
Cyrus is only a forerunner of the real Saviour who will break into our world, a Jew born of Jews, truly one of us and yet sharing the very being of God. And, as Cyrus carried out the work of God, so we too are called to do the work that Jesus initiated. Justice and Salvation need still to be brought to huge numbers of people in our world. This is the building of the Kingdom and among its chief agents are those who form the Body of the Risen Christ.
Shalom, salaam, peace, paz!