Is 7:1-9 ; Ps 48:2-8; Mt 11:20-24
The joy of all the earth is not a great city or even a wilderness paradise. The joy of all the earth is the LORD God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. The Great King’s city is a threat to any assembly of kings who come together to conquer and destroy. They behold the LORD’s glory and are at once stunned, terrified, and routed. Indeed, the east wind shatters all the enemies who attack from the sea. Isaiah challenges his king to find his security only in the LORD and in his power to save his holy city, the joy of all the earth. The Lord Jesus is also very challenging in today’s gospel; he holds not back; he lets the cities, who have witnessed his power and glory and have not repented, receive the full brunt of his challenge. The same gospel pain could bring us to new birth and great growth. It could refashion us into the joy of all the earth.
No joy filled the heart of King Ahaz. Rather, the heart of the king and the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind. Their hearts were filled with fear, not faith. They were ready to abandon the God who was their salvation, again and again. King Ahaz was ready to immolate his son. He was ready to offer worship to no-god-at-all; he was willing to offer up in holocaust the most precious thing he had. This may have won points among the people, who had themselves turned to false gods frequently. However, the LORD was not impressed. He was quick to send his prophet to the king with this message: “Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands.” King Ahaz knows that Isaiah knows what he is about to do at the conduit of the upper pool. The king is about to sacrifice his son for the sake of his kingdom, for the sake of the people. However, there is the lie. The people will not learn the truth of God’s favor and love for them; they will only learn about the silence of surrender and the feast of fear. False gods only teach us about death, and they have no life to give us because they are not alive. Isaiah holds not back. He warns the king, “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!”
The Lord Jesus has a severe warning for the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. The Lord did not perform signs and wonders to become popular in the sight of the people. He revealed the arrival of the Kingdom of God by fulfilling the prophesies about healing and feeding and casting out demons. However, the mighty cities of the day, even the enemies of Israel were held up as more reasonable and more open than Chorazin and Bethsaida. Even these pagan towns would have recognized the arrival of mercy, justice, and peace. Indeed, his own people are still the most blind. As they were at the time of Abraham so they are in the days of the Children of Abraham. Even Sodom was bound for more mercy than places familiar with the Lord and his disciples; even Capernaum will not be exalted to heaven, rather it will go down into the nether world. So many people complain that they see no signs or wonders so they justify their lack of growth. If only the Lord would show us what he has shown to the people of his time, then things would be different. All we need to grow in holiness; all we need to become saints is already here and now—grace upon grace, love upon love, glory upon glory. We have brothers and sisters in the Church. We have the seven great signs called Sacraments. We have the Sacred Scriptures and the Oral Tradition. What more do we need?