Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent | Readings: Isaiah 49:8-15; John 5:17-30
The First Reading is one of the most lovely in all of Isaiah, and its metaphors make some think that Second Isaiah might well have been a woman. It has a delicacy of expression that feels more like Julian of Norwich or Thérèse of Lisieux than any bearded prophet. She invites those imprisoned to “come out” and makes it safe for those in dark interiors to “show themselves.” By the end, we are surely ready to be held by God in the way that a mother remembers “tenderly” what was once in her womb. Again, as yesterday, we have healing images and imaging going on in both texts.
It continues in John’s Gospel. In fact we have several mirrorings going on here, and one false one that is warned against: (1) Jesus feels himself mirrored by God, “The Father goes on working, and so do I,” and he even “dares to speak of God as his own Father” and “equal,” which deeply upsets the religious establishment. (2) Then we have “the Son” mirroring us, the readers, and “granting life to those he wishes.” He is the two-way mirror looking in both directions, as it were. (3) We also have God refusing to mirror us negatively, “The Father judges no one,” and the Son passing it on and allowing the reader to “bypass condemnation” and “pass from death to life” now. The message has met its mark and its mirror. The transformative imaging has been passed to us, and now we must not condemn because we have not been condemned.
I know there are several passages in this text that appear to be threatening us with judgment or condemnation, and unfortunately that is all that fear types will hear or remember. But if you read the entire text as a whole, and in the light of the primal and positive mirroring of God, Jesus being the two-way mirror in between (to “honor the Son” is to receive his passing on of the divine image), you will see that the real import is that each of us is our own truthful judge and our own best friend if we but look honestly into the perfect and compassionate Divine Mirror, mirrored to us by Jesus, the Son. (A bit of advice: Use the word mirrored every time you read the word judgment in the Bible, and you will come much closer to the truth.)
“He who pities them, leads them, and guides them beside springs of water. . . . Can a mother forget her infant, or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she could, I will never forget you.” —Isaiah 49:10, 15
“I do not do anything of myself. I judge as I hear, and my judgment is true, because I am not seeking my own will, but the will of the One who sent me.”
“God of the judgment I once feared, you have now drawn close to me like a mother. As a child does at the breast, I find myself delighting in your own delighting and delightful face.”