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2 posted on 02/09/2013 8:45:32 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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From: Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8

The Lord calls Isaiah

[1] In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high
and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. [2a] Above him stood the seraphim.
[3] And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

[4] And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called,
and the house was filled with smoke. [5] And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost;
for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean
lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

[6] Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which
he had taken with tongs from the altar. [7] And he touched my mouth, and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgi-
ven.” [8] And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who
will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”


6:1-13. As an introduction to what is called the “Book of Immanuel” (7:1-12:6)
we get this account of how the Lord called Isaiah to be a prophet, sending him
to his people at the time of the Syrian-Ephraimite coalition to explain to them
what is going on and how they should act.

The account begins with a theophany (vv. 1-4), which is one of the key points
in this book’s message. God manifests himself seated in the manner of eastern
kings, surrounded by his angelic court (the “seraphim”), who extol the holiness
of the Lord: he clearly is Lord of all. In this vision, God is depicted as the thrice
holy (v. 3), the highest form of superlative available in Hebrew. Being holy im-
plies standing apart — standing above everything else. God stands far above all
other beings and he is their creator. In Hebrew “holy includes the idea of “sa-
cred”. It means that God has none of the limitations and imperfections that cre-
ated beings have.

The holiness and majesty of God fill Isaiah with a sense of his own uncleanness
and that of his people (v. 5). Typically, visions of God in biblical history induce
feelings of fear in the seer; we even see this in the angel’s announcement to
Mary (cf. Lk 1:30): “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.”

“Faced with God’s fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own
insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils
his face (cf. Ex 3:5-6) in the presence of God’s holiness. Before the glory of the
thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: ‘Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean
lips’ (Is 6:5). Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: ‘Depart
from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Lk 5:8). But because God is holy, he can
forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: ‘I will not execute my
fierce anger . . . for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst (Hos 11:
9)’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 208).

Isaiah is cleansed and consoled as soon as he humbly acknowledges his un-
worthiness and insignificance before God (vv. 6-7). His instinctive sense of fear is
immediately replaced by a generous and trusting response on the prophet’s part:
he is ready to do what God wants (v. 8). “In their ‘one to one’ encounters with
God the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not
flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to the Word of God. At
times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession
that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Saviour God, the Lord of histo-
ry (cf. Amos 7:2, 5; Is 6:5, 8, 11; Jer 1:6; 15:15-18; 20:7-18)” (Catechism of the
Catholic Church, 2584).

Finally, the Lord entrusts him with his mission. The message he is to deliver is
hard-hitting and full of paradoxes (vv. 9-10). The task given him is not, as one
might at first think, to render the people incapable of hearing and understanding
the word of God that could move their hearts. It is, rather, to tell them that if they
fail to listen to the word of God, their hearts will be blinded: they will not be able
to see things right and, because of that, the sinner will feel no need to take
stock of his position and be converted. The Synoptic Gospels interpret Jesus’
preaching as a fulfillment of what is said here in vv. 9-10 (Mt 13:13-15; Mk 4:11-
12). The Gospel of St John sees these same words as anticipating what will hap-
pen to those who reject Jesus’ message: “Therefore they could not believe. For
Isaiah again said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they
should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal
them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him” (Jn 12:27-
41). And St Paul also uses vv. 9-10 to reproach the Jews of Rome for rejecting
the Good News of salvation in Christ which he is proclaiming to them (cf. Acts

The people’s hardness of heart will merit severe punishment; cities and houses
will he laid waste, but all will not be lost: a holy seed will remain and from it the
tree will grow back again (v. 11-13). These verses carry a message for people in
all ages. Isaiah approaches God in all humility, showing him every reverence,
and at the same time he puts his trust in God. For his part, the Lord cleanses
his chosen ones and sends them out to help in his work of salvation. Origen,
who commented on this passage a number of times, points out: “May burning
coals he brought from the altar of heaven to burn my lips. If the burning coals
of the Lord touch my lips, they will he purified; and when they are purified and
cleansed of all sin, […] my mouth will he opened to the Word of God and I will
not utter another impure word [...]. The seraphim who was sent to purify the pro-
phet’s lips did not purify the lips of the people […]; therefore, they continued to
live in sin, and now they deny the Lord Jesus Christ and curse him from their
unclean mouths. For my part, I pray that the seraphim will come to cleanse my
lips (Homiliae in Isaiam, 1, 4). All we need is the same humble docility that Isai-
ah had: “Having received the grace God, he did not want it to be a gift granted to
him to no avail, without being put to work in everything that needed to be done.
Seeing the seraphim and the Lord of hosts seated on high, on his throne of glory,
he said: ‘Woe me ...’. By speaking thus and making himself ‘unworthy’, he re-
ceived the help of God because He took in account his humility” (ibid., 6:2).
And St John Chrysostom, commenting on Isaiah’s response to God, says that
the prophet shows readiness to carry out his mission to the people because
“since the saints are friends of God, they, too, love all men dearly” (In Isaiam,
6, 5).

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

3 posted on 02/09/2013 8:51:20 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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