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Isaiah 2

Canticle - The mountain of the house of the Lord
"All the peoples will come and worship you" (Apoc 15, 4)

It shall come to pass in the latter days
  that the mountain of the house of the Lord
  shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
  and all the nations shall flow to it,

And many peoples shall come, and say:
  ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
  to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
  and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Sion shall go forth the law,
  and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,
  and shall decide for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
  and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
  neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob, come,
  let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II on the Canticle of Isaiah 33, 13-16
General Audience, Wednesday 30 October 2002 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Week 3, Monday Lauds - God will judge with justice

"1. We find the brief text proclaimed today among the biblical Canticles that are interwoven with the Psalms in the Liturgy of Lauds. It is taken from the 33rd chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, his extensive and wonderful collection of divine oracles.

In the verses that precede those quoted (cf. vv. 10-12), the canticle begins by proclaiming God's powerful and glorious entry onto the stage of human history: ""Now I will arise', says the Lord, "now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted'" (v. 10). God's words are addressed to those who are "far off" and to those who are "near", that is, to all the nations of the earth, even the most remote, and to Israel, the people "close" to the Lord, because of the Covenant (cf. v. 13).

Another passage of the Book of Isaiah says: "I will place on my lips: Peace, peace, to the far and to the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them" (Is 57,19). Now, instead, the Lord's words grow harsh and acquire the tone of judgement on the evil of both the "far off" and the "near".

2. In fact see how immediately after, fear spreads among the inhabitants of Zion in whom sin and wickedness have taken root (Is 33,14). They are conscious of living alongside the Lord who dwells in the temple, who has chosen to walk with them through history and has transformed himself into the "Emmanuel", "God-with-us" (cf. Is 7,14). But the just and holy Lord cannot tolerate unholiness, corruption, injustice. As a "consuming fire" and "everlasting flame" (Is 33,14), he lashes out against evil to destroy it.

Isaiah had already warned in chapter 10: "The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame; and it will burn and devour" (v. 17). The psalmist also sang: "As wax melts before fire, so the wicked will perish before God" (Ps 67,3). In the context of the economy of the Old Testament, this means that God is not indifferent to good and evil and shows himself to be indignant and angry in the face of wickedness.

3. Our Canticle does not end with this dark scene of judgement. On the contrary, its principal and most intense part is devoted to holiness, received and lived as a sign of the conversion and of reconciliation brought about with God. In continuity with some Psalms, such as 14 and 23, that bring to light the conditions the Lord requires for living in joyful communion with him in the liturgy of the temple, Isaiah lists six moral duties for the true believer who is faithful and just (cf. Is 33,15) and can dwell unharmed in the divine fire, that is for him a source of benefits.

The first duty consists of "walking in justice", that is, of seeing divine law as the lamp that lights the path of life. The second one coincides with loyal and sincere speech, the sign of correct and genuine social relations. As the third duty, Isaiah suggests "spurning what is gained by oppression", thus combatting the oppression of the poor, as well as unjust riches. The believer then is determined to condemn political and judicial corruption, "brushing his hands free of contact with a bribe", a provocative image that illustrates the refusal of gifts made to deflect the application of the law and the course of justice.

4. The fifth moral duty is expressed with the meaningful gesture of "stopping your ears", when acts of bloodshed or of violence to be performed are proposed. The sixth and last commitment is expressed with an image which at first sight we find disconcerting. When we speak of "turning a blind eye", we want to say "to pretend not to see so as not to have to intervene"; instead, the prophet says that the honest person "closes his eyes in order not to see evil" as a sign of his complete refusal to have anything to do with evil.

In his commentary on Isaiah, St Jerome develops this concept with a reflection that takes in the entire passage: "Every iniquity, oppression and injustice is a decision for bloodshed: if one does not kill with the sword, one kills by intention "and shuts one's eyes, to blot out the evil': happy the conscience that does not listen to nor contemplate evil! Whoever is like this will dwell "on high", that is, in the Kingdom of Heaven, or in the highest cavern of the soundest Rock, in Christ Jesus" (In Isaiam prophetam, 10,33: PL 24, 437, p. 367).

Thus Jerome introduces us to a correct understanding of that "closing of the eyes" referred to by the Prophet: it is an invitation to reject absolutely any complicity with evil. As it is easy to perceive, the principal senses of the body are challenged: indeed, the hands, feet, eyes, ears and tongue are involved in human moral behaviour.

5. Whoever chooses to follow this path of honesty and justice will have access to the temple of the Lord where he will receive the security of the exterior and interior well-being which God gives to those who are in communion with Him. The Prophet uses two images to describe this happy ending (cf. v. 16): security in impregnable fortresses and the abundance of bread and water, symbols of the prosperous and happy life.

Tradition has spontaneously interpreted the symbol of water as an image of Baptism (cf. for example, the Letter of Barnabas, 11,5), whereas the bread is transfigured, for Christians, into the sign of the Eucharist. This is what we read, for example, in the commentary of St Justin the Martyr, who sees Isaiah's words as prophesying the Eucharistic "bread", the "memorial" of Christ's redeeming death (cf. Dialogo con Trifone, Paoline 1988, p. 242; Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 70, p. 262, CUA Press, 1948)."


"I extend a warm welcome to the priests of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College. I also greet the delegation from the Port Authority Police Department of New York and New Jersey, who honour their fellow officers who gave their lives in last year’s terrorist attack on New York City. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Canada and the United States, I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française et, parmi eux, tous les jeunes: en particulier, ceux de l’Aumônerie de Dax, du Collège Saint-Vincent du Mans et du Lycée Saint- Michel d’Annecy. Ouvrez vos cœurs à l’appel du Christ, à l’occasion de votre pèlerinage et n’ayez pas peur d’être ses témoins chaque jour!

Herzlich begrüße ich die Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Besonders heiße ich Journalisten aus dem Bistum Rottenburg-Stuttgart sowie eine Gruppe von Religionspädagogen aus der Erzdiözese Wien willkommen. Werdet zu überzeugten Mitarbeitern an Gottes Gerechtigkeit unter den Menschen nah und fern! Der Herr segne euch alle!

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, a minha saudação amiga para todos vós, com votos de um frutuoso empenho na caminhada quaresmal que estais fazendo. Que nada vos impeça de viver e crescer na amizade de Deus, e testemunhar a todos a sua bondade e misericórdia! Sobre vós e vossas famílias, desça a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a las Hermanas Misioneras Siervas del Espíritu Santo y al grupo mexicano del Instituto Montini. Saludo también a los demás peregrinos venidos de España, México y El Salvador. Invito a todos a tener una conducta honesta y justa en la propia vida. Muchas gracias.

Pozdravljam ovdje nazočne časnike Hrvatske vojske, koji su došli sa svojim kapelanom. Dobro došli! Predragi, želeći vam od srca da uvijek znadete biti branitelji istinskoga mira i pravde i promicatelji nade, povjeravam vas zagovoru Presvete Bogorodice, vaše posebne nebeske zaštitnice, te vam udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Srdečně zdravím poutníky z Čech a Moravy! Pozítří, o svátku Všech svatých, se budeme radovat společně s těmi našimi drahými, kteří nás předešli na věčnost, a kteří již nažívají plnosti blaženosti u Boha. Nechť jejich přímluva nás provází na naší pouti do nebeské slávy! Ze srdce vám žehnám! Chvála Kristu!

S láskou vítam slovenských pútnikov. Drahí bratia a sestry, želám vám aby vaša puť do večného mesta bola pre každého z vás obnovou a posilou vo viere. Rád žehnám vás i vašich príbuzných doma. Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

Witam i pozdrawiam pielgrzymów jźzyka polskiego. W tych dniach będziemy przeæywali uroczystość Wszystkich Świętych i liturgiczne wspomnienie Wiernych Zmarłych. Kiedy nawiedzamy groby bliskich i przyjaciół, w szczególny sposób przeæywamy katechizmową prawdę o „rzeczach ostatecznych człowieka": śmierć - sąd Boźy - niebo, albo piekło. Dzisiejsza katecheza poświęcona była Kantykowi z Księgi Izajasza, który właśnie zapowiada Boźy sąd. Prorok twierdzi, źe ten, kto postępuje sprawiedliwie i kto mówi uczciwie, kto odrzuca zyski bezprawne i nie jest skorumpowany, bez obawy moźe powierzyć siebie Boźej sprawiedliwości. Niech ta świadomość towarzyszy wszystkim moim rodakom i będzie źródłem eschatologicznej nadziei. Niech Wam Bóg błogosławi!

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare i diaconi della diocesi di Milano. Carissimi, vi esorto a fondare la vostra vita sulla Parola di Dio, per esserne coraggiosi annunciatori agli uomini del nostro tempo.

Saluto poi i volontari medici-dentisti, che collaborano con i Missionari Comboniani in favore degli emigranti e profughi, come pure i rappresentanti del Centro diocesano Socio-Politico di San Miniato, accompagnati dal Vescovo Mons. Edoardo Ricci. Carissimi, vi incoraggio a proseguire con rinnovato entusiasmo nelle rispettive attività apostoliche, ed auspico che la vostra testimonianza possa conquistare quanti sono lontani dai valori dello spirito.

Lastly I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. May the upcoming celebrations of the Solemnity of All-Saints and the Commemoration of All-Souls motivate the faithful to think about the final and decisive realities that await us.

Dear young people, pursue as your primary goal holiness of life in order to prepare a future filled with every good thing.

Dear sick people, may the example of virtue of the saints and their intercession help you face with courage the trials of life.

Dear newly-weds, may the thought of our heavenly homeland, to which we are called, direct your family to fidelity to Christ and to the full and mutual communion of love.