15th Week, Wednesday, Jul 15

Isaiah 10:5-7, 13-16 / Matthew 11:25-27 
Isaiah rebukes Assyria: “Can an ax be greater than its user?”

The nation of Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. Now it threatened to destroy the southern kingdom of Judah, as well. Isaiah portrays Assyria as an ax in the hand of a woodsman (God) who was grubbing out the undergrowth from his vineyard (Judah). God was using Assyria to purify Judah. Meanwhile, Assyria grew arrogant, thinking that it alone was responsible for its power and its victories. This led Isaiah to remind Assyria that without the power of the woodsman’s arms the ax is useless.

In other words, it was as foolish for Assyria to take credit for its victories as it is for an echo to take credit for sound.
How aware are we that all we are and all we have comes from God? “Whoever remains in me . . . will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.’ John 15:5
The gospels portray Jesus as loving and merciful. He is compassionate and He heals the sick and cares for the poor and the outcasts. He may have some harsh words for the elders, the scribes and the Pharisees, but He did not call down fire from heaven to destroy those who are against Him or against God.
On the hand, the Old Testament portrays God as a God who punishes His people for their unfaithfulness, though He is also portrayed as slow to anger and rich in mercy.

The 1st reading recounts how God "commissioned" Assyria against His people who had provoked Him by their unfaithfulness. God allowed Assyria to pillage and plunder freely and to stamp on His people freely so that they would learn their lesson. Yet when Assyria got out of hand and became like the axe that wants to claim more credit than the man who wields it or the saw that wants to claim more strength than the man who handles it, God's justice and mercy arose to stop Assyria and to protect His people.

Though we are God's people, we have to admit that there are times when we also get out of hand and sin against God. In order to wake us up and make us learn our lesson, God may also let our enemies get the better of us. But let us also know that when our enemies get out of hand and think they can do whatever they like, then God's justice and mercy will also arise to save us from our enemies, and God will also forgive us when we repent for He is merciful and compassionate.

So the Bible has revealed to us who God truly is, that He will punish us but it will be for our good. And that He is also loving and merciful and compassionate, as how Jesus has shown us.

So let us walk in the ways of the Lord and be faithful to Him, and turn to Him in repentance when we sin, so that we can avoid the punishment due to sin and continue to experience the tender love and mercy of our God.
Wednesday July 15

Wednesday of 15th Week in Ordinary Time


God uses Assyria as an instrument to punish God’s people for their infidelity. Isaiah scolds the king of Assyria, a mere instrument, for acting and thinking as if he were God himself; he will be punished for this presumption.
To see God, to know that he is with us, to hear the message of the gospel, one must have the openness and receptivity of a child and be aware of one’s poverty. Salvation is given. Those who are filled with their own wisdom cannot hear or welcome him, for they try to conform God and the gospel to their own ideas, not theirs to God’s.

Opening Prayer
Lord of heaven and earth
from whom all good things come,
we bless you with Jesus your Son
for revealing to us how much you love us.
Make us humble and receptive of your gifts,
that we may be open to the good news
for you show yourself to those
who are aware of their poverty.
Fill that poverty with your tenderness
and with the certainty that you care for us
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A gift that is much discussed today but often lacking is discernment. In looking for answers to serious questions, we often settle for surface answers. We are not interested in getting to the root of the question. In looking at war in the Middle East, we often find superficial answers for why the West is so disliked.
Isaiah dealt only with the fundamental questions. Assyria certainly was a power to be reckoned with, and its anger was directed against Israel and Judah. Yet Yahweh does not hesitate to call it his rod of anger.
Israel is paying the price for its sins. In the face of great tragedy, we are often reluctant to acknowledge our own possible fault. Yet the scriptures are clear. A wanton disregard for God’s law will lead to unfortunate consequences.
When we read today’s Gospel, we are led to ask, Are we too self-inflated to see where we fail? Are we more concerned about victory than we are about life? How important is it for Americans to be the only world superpower?
There is such a thing as social sin. As Christians we ignore it at our own peril. It is the childlike who hear and receive God’s saving word.

Points to Ponder
Discerning our national sins
Seeking justice in an unjust world
Living a childlike spirit

– For the clever and the learned, that Jesus may teach them to become little and humble, so that Jesus may teach them the Father’s love, we pray:
– For all of us, that God make his Son known to us deeply and lovingly, we pray:
For those who serve the poorest, that they may not get discouraged and through their service come to know God better, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Our mighty God,
you are partial to the poor.
From your own gifts
we bring before you bread and wine.
Make us as genuine and simple
as these offerings,
that we may understand readily
the simple story of your forgiveness and love,
which you tell us through your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion
Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
we thank you in the poverty of our hearts
that you have let us eat from Jesus’ table
notwithstanding our little faith
and our lukewarm love.
Keep accepting us the way we are,
help us to be and do better
and to render wholehearted service
to our brothers and sisters in need.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All is grace. God’s love is given gratuitously. Let us thank God for all that we owe him and for all that we owe to people. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.