29th Sunday Ordinary Time – Isaiah and the Undiscovered Country

Meet & Greet after Masses on 10/21

Enjoy fellowship with each other after each Mass this Sunday – coffee and pastries will be served. See flyer attached.


Update on Church Exterior Renovation

Work presence has picked up now. Mock-ups and samples are being presented to both the architect and Landmarks for approval, so materials can be ordered. Brick repair work is in progress. You will see the work gradually increase over the next several weeks until all materials are approved. That will continue in the exterior until Winter fully sets in and masonry work cannot continue. At that point other select work will take place until the weather warms enough for the masonry repairs to be completed. More detail will be provided as materials and samples are approved and work is in full swing.


Reading Matters:

A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — what gospel is that?

Preaching series of Catholic Social Teaching resource.

In 2004 at the request of Pope St John Paul 2nd, the Vatican press published the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church”. The link below will connect you to the full text in English and in a very searchable format. This will allow you to explore any of the issues we have been discussing in some depth.


Note on Infant Baptisms:

There will not be Baptisms at Mass during Advent. Should this be the only time your family can attend we will make other provisions for you. Please note that the Solemnity of the Epiphany, Jan 6, falls on Sunday next Year and only Easter is a more appropriate day to be baptized.


First Reading

The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 53: 10-11


This week’s reading is from Isaiah 53 and is part of one of the “suffering servant songs”. We encountered them before when discussing Isaiah and found that they were written in Jerusalem after the return of the exiles around 520 BC. It was time of spiritual vertigo. Their temple – indeed most of Jerusalem – was destroyed by the Babylonians. An objective spectator would have thought Judaism dead and urged the Jewish leaders now in Babylon to make the best of it. Yet God though Cyrus, Prince of Persia, gave them an opportunity to start again. Enough returned to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding.

This was a great demonstration of God’s power, but the returning exiles were obviously disappointed. They expected not only the opportunity to once again offer sacrifice, but to be rewarded in more tangible ways. Yet there was no wealth to be found and they lived as homesteaders. How are they better off? What is God doing? In this reading, Isaiah gives a profound answer and one especially important for the present situation of our time and place.

This song begins with

1 Who would believe what we have heard?

To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up like a sapling before him,

like a shoot from the parched earth;

There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,

nor appearance that would attract us to him. Isaiah 53:1–2


It is important to note that the “we” here are the princes of foreign nations. This is the frame that Isaiah has decided to use, and it accomplishes two aims. It gives this an immediate international framework, prepares the reader for the conclusion, and teaches by irony. Insights which the Jews should have had first, come through foreigners and pagans.

Note as well that in the context of the Book of Isaiah the suffering servant is the people of Israel. Christians see Jesus in the suffering servant, and the New Testament makes this connection over 40 times but we will stick to the immediate context.

At first the kings look at Israel in the same way the Jews themselves did. As a defeated people Israel was “avoided by men” and “held in no esteem” 53:3.

Striking then is the change in attitude:

4 Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,

our sufferings that he endured,

While we thought of him as stricken,

as one smitten by God and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our offenses,

crushed for our sins,

Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,

by his stripes we were healed. Isaiah 53:4–5


That one person or nation could suffer for another is a new idea, but it has roots in Judaism itself with the scapegoat. The high priest places the sins of the people on the head of a goat and then

:2 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness. (Lev, 16;2)

The kings are asking the Jewish people to look at their recent history:

8 Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,

and who would have thought any more of his destiny?

When he was cut off from the land of the living,

and smitten for the sin of his people, Isaiah 53:8


They truly died as a nation; yet, even while they were in exile, prophets reminded them of their unbreakable connection with God. Recall the vision of Ezekiel:

4 Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life. 6 I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD. 11 Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.” 12 Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37:4-6, 11-12)

Isaiah is using the device of foreign kings to tell the people not only that they have been resurrected, but why. The speaker changes in verse 10, and Isaiah is speaking for God himself.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,

he shall see his descendants in a long life,

and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him. Isaiah 53:10


The purpose of Israel is not power, but presence: to be of God in the world and to accomplish God’s will. Isaiah famously says


It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,

to raise up the tribes of Jacob,

and restore the survivors of Israel;

I will make you a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6)


Israel’s task is international: to bring all to the knowledge of God by living lives of righteousness. This any adult knows requires purification; although Israel was no guiltier than others because of the knowledge she has received and the task for which she is being prepared, she required punishment that was literally death and rebirth. Isaiah makes this clear at the very beginning of this section of the book:


 Comfort, comfort my people

      says your God.

     2    Speak tenderly to Jerusalem

      and declare to her

     that her term of service is over,

      that her iniquity has been pardoned,

     that she has received from the LORD’s hand

      double for all her sins. (40:1-2)


Given the events of this last summer the message of Isiah to the Church is loud, clear and painful.


The cover ups particularly concerning the rise of former Cardinal Mc Carrick reveal that we need revolution, not reform. This is not in doctrine or moral teaching. The change needs to be in pastoral practice and accountability in many areas. As this means a change in power, we can expect it to be bitterly fought.


We need to recognize what the Church is. We are not a club or self-help group. We do not exist for ourselves but for the world. Our job is not to save our souls but to be a light of the nations by bringing the good news to the poor. If we do that, we will know God here and now and live with him forever.


This is difficult and painful, and we will be taught how to do it by saints. In his homily last week for the newly canonized saints including Oscar Romero and Pope Paul the sixth, Pope Francis reflects this reality perfectly. The emphasis is mine, but the words are his:


“Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, the yearning for status and power, structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world. Without a leap forward in love, our life and our Church become sick from ‘complacency and self-indulgence.

“All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without being lukewarm, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind …. May the Lord help us to imitate their example.”