The Perils of Isaiah 66 for the Lay Reader

On Sunday (7th July 2019) I went to evening mass and arranged a swap with the reader at that mass so he would do my reading on the 21st.  I then had a look at the readings for that evening in the Church bulletin and saw that it was from Isaiah 66, probably my least favourite reading as a lay-reader.

Here it is.

Isaiah 66; 10-14

Rejoice , Jerusalem, be glad for her, all you who love her!  Rejoice, rejoice for her all you who mourned her.

That you may be suckled, filled, from her consoling breast,  that you may savour with delight her glorious breasts.

For thus says the Lord:  Now towards her I send flowing peace, like a river, and like a stream in spate the glory of the nations.

At her breast will her nurslings be carried and fondled in her lap.  Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you.  And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.

At the sight your heart will rejoice, and your bones flourish like the grass.  To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.

 

Yes, it’s the reading with all the breasts.  So then how to read it.  Do I go for deadpan?  Do I try to avoid either undue emphasis by a rise in volume or a sense of embarrassment by going quiet on the problematic word?  I opt for a straight reading in the same manner to the way I always read with an emphasis on peace, like a river.

The Psalm was Psalm 65 with the response, Cry out to God all the earth and the second reading was from Galatians 6:14-18, The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…

I return to my seat with a sense of relief.  That won’t come around again for another three years and hopefully it won’t be my turn then.

The Gospel was from Luke 10:1-12,17-20 and about the sending out of the 72.  The sermon was preached on this and not, noticeably, the reading from Isaiah.  The study on the Word on the front page of bulletin was also about the sending out of the 72.

 

So what then to make of the reading from Isaiah 66.  Here, Jerusalem, the holy city whose very name means “City of Peace”, is personified as a women, a nursing mother from whom we receive comfort and nurture, rest and peace, teaching and instruction..  The name Jerusalem can also be expanded to mean God’s dwelling place from which peace flows.

This could take us to other scriptures such as Isaiah 2;3;

People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.

And Revelation 21:2-4

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Then as we come to mass we see Jesus Christ, Emmanuel “God with us”, dwelling among us.  We receive him in the Blessed Sacrament and he is housed in the tabernacle.  Peace flowing like a river, from the Church out into the world just as the 72 took the message out into their world.

So there we are, Isaiah 66:10-14, a problematic reading no longer problematic.

Praise God!

 

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