The first reading at Mass on Sunday comes from Isaiah 63. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways and harden our hearts so we fear you not? …Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of your ways! There is none who rouses himself to cling to you. [Spanish]
The prophet speaks on our behalf, on behalf of the human race. As a sinful human being, Isaiah wrestles with his conscience. We experience this struggle within ourselves, too.
We have fallen away from God, and we know we have. We know the difference between how we are and how we should be. We’re in a bad situation, but it’s not entirely hopeless, because we see it for what it is. We are blind and lame. But not totally blind.
The passage from Isaiah expresses the way we wrestle with our consciences. If we give ourselves the chance, we can find enough of the truth within us to accuse ourselves of our own sins.
And we find that we have wandered off the path, not just as individuals, but as a people. We have lost our sense of purpose, the purity of our innocence, our discipline and ideals. Our institutions should guard the treasures of our identity as God’s children, but those institutions themselves have grown worldly and corrupt.
We have one thing left in common, one thing that binds us all together—all races, all political parties, both sexes, all regions and continents, all health plans—we are sinners. We are not what we should be, and we know it. Without divine intervention, we languish in a hopeless situation. We need a Savior. We need heavenly grace, so that we can find ourselves again and be ourselves again.
It’s humbling to recognize that we dwell in the valley of sinners. But it’s a comfort also, because getting taken down a notch is exactly what we need.
Our pride and grandiosity draw us into debilitating self-deception. We enshrine ourselves as the gods of our own little cosmoses. Then we have to lie to ourselves about our god skills. We try to convince ourselves that we know what we’re doing. Problem is: we stink as gods. The Lord did not cut us out for that. He cut us out for obedience—obedience to Him. There we find our peace; there we excel.
The passage from Isaiah continues: We human beings are the clay. God is the potter. The good Lord made each of us and gave us each our own endowments and our own path. He put the light of truth into our minds, to guide us in following His holy will. He gives us the gift of faith, which rouses us to cling to Him. He gives us holy hope to trust in His plan even though we don’t know what it is. We know that God’s design beats anything we could ever imagine. He pours out His divine love into our hearts, so that we can obey His demanding Law, out of devotion. The Lord gives these helps to the sinful human race, showering them down from Jesus’ Sacred Heart as interior gifts for us.
In Sunday’s gospel reading we encounter a little parable about the Second Coming of Christ. The master of the household leaves all the servants with their particular work and goes away. When he returns, he expects to find all the servants working diligently, each at his or her appointed task.
The gatekeeper has a special role, to keep watch. The gatekeeper must alert everyone to the imminent return of the master, when the time comes.
Maybe we could say that the gatekeeper in the parable represents the prophet. The passage from Isaiah has helped us like a gatekeeper, alerting us to the voice of conscience inside us, helping us to learn humility before God. Only religious humility can keep us focused on our true role.
We each have a unique, humble task in the household. If my job is to keep the fire burning in the hearth, then let me focus on that. If I’m supposed to knead the dough in the kitchen, let me do that, and not distract myself with extraneous matters. After all, I am not the lord of the manor. I am the butler at best.
Forgive us, Lord, for distracting ourselves with delusions of grandeur. Give us a fresh start. When You come in glory, in Your own good time, may You find us doing Your will, doing the good little task you have given each of us to do.