Isaiah was a prophet who lived in Jerusalem – the capital of the Kingdom of Judah - in the second half of the 8th century before Christ. He was born around 765 BC and is believed to have been sawed to death by Manasseh, King of Judah who reigned from 687-642 BC. Last Sunday’s reading for Mass from Isaiah 7: 10-14 recalls the prophecy for the birth of Jesus eight hundred years later.
At that time the kingdom of Judah (the Southern kingdom) was trapped by Israel (The Northern Kingdom) and powerful Assyria to the North East of Judah. Ahaz, King of Judah (764-710 BC) is in peril of losing his kingdom.
Isaiah counsels Ahaz to ask God for a sign that he will save Judah. Ahaz says he will not test the Lord. Isaiah says the Lord will give a sign anyway. The sign is that a virgin will give birth to a son and the threat of the enemy kings will be over by the time the child grows up. His name will be Emmanuel meaning God is with us. The prophecy was made in 734 BC.
The word ‘virgin’ emerges from the Greek translation of the original Hebrew. In Hebrew the word is ‘almah’ which means ‘young woman’. One literal interpretation is that the young wife of King Ahaz will bear another son to him and before he comes of age Judah would not have cause to fear the attackers. The gospel of Mathew in the New Testament quotes the Greek text to proclaim that the child referred to in the Old Testament is Jesus. He is the living sign that God will never abandon his people.
In the swirl of events in December in Goa – each push their own agenda. The Yule Tide Bazaar early December at Green Acres, Tonca; the Family Christmas Party at St. Andrew’s church, Vasco last week; and the Christmas Fair at Stonewater Eco-Resort, Bogmallo, last Sunday were some of the acts this year. In this revelry is easy to forget how remarkably Jesus came to be born.
How does one visualize the perplexity of Joseph, who was engaged to be married to Mary – when she was already with child? Fr. E. Miranda reflected on the dilemma at the anticipated Sunday Mass last Saturday at 7 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier church, Chicalim.
Jewish law decreed that such a woman would be stoned to death. But Joseph prefers not to bring this to the notice of the authorities and thinks of sending Mary quietly away. But the angel says ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid of taking Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.’ (Mathew 1:18-24)
In our own lives too we look for signs. Both Mary and Joseph implicitly trusted in the Lord. They offered their lives to be instruments of change. ‘Signs can be very ordinary events, but we need faith to recognize in them the finger of God.’*
*Commentary on Isaiah 7, New Community Bible. Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 25 December 2016. Pix by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese, courtesy dwellingintheword.wordpress.com