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Isaiah’s Beginnings

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today's reading from the prophets introduces us to Isaiah, perhaps the most well known of all the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. Isaiah is different from all the other prophets in one aspect of his vocation; namely, Isaiah is the only prophet who actually wanted to be a prophet. All the others were chosen by God after they had chosen some other vocation. Today's reading comes from chapter six and describes how, when and where Isaiah was called.

From the details of the vision that Isaiah records, we can draw certain conclusions. First of all, the vision and call take place in the Temple while Isaiah is in an altered state of consciousness. The description of God enthroned mirrors the Ark of the Covenant enthroned in the Holy of Holies. Because Isaiah seems to be in the Temple himself and ministering in the Holy of Holies, we can conclude that Isaiah was one of the priests of the Temple. Perhaps this is why he so eagerly volunteers to be a prophet when God asks "Whom shall I send?" (Isaiah 6:9b) He is already in the service of the Lord by virtue of his priestly ministry. When Isaiah recognizes that he is in the presence of God, he also realizes how inadequate and unworthy he is. He tells of a ritual purification preparing him for his service as a prophet.

As is the case with most of the prophets, Isaiah was hounded and persecuted by his enemies throughout his years of service to the Lord. However, he perseveres in his ministry and is recognized today as an important figure in the history of Israel. His book of sixty-six chapters explores what God meant when God promised that an offspring of King David would sit on the throne of Israel forever. That exploration and that discussion result in some of the most beautiful of the Messianic prophecies in the entire Bible. His oracles about the restoration and renewal of Israel are a clear voice expounding the compassionate, forgiving love of God for the people of Israel.

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