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Double-Edged Sword: The Power of the Word

Isaiah 52:8—15

“Hark! Your watchmen raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, come forth from there, touch nothing unclean! Out from there! Purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. Yet not in fearful haste will you come out, nor leave in headlong flight, for the Lord comes before you, and your rear guard is the God of Israel. See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him—so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals—so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless.”

Weariness can be the lot of those who seek to live out our Lord's commandments in this world. War, lies, power-grappling, poverty, hunger, death, disease, and deceit—each constantly reminds us that the Kingdom of God has yet to arrive in its fullness, and that until it does, the people of God are called to persevere in faith, hope, and, most of all, love. But in this meantime, how are we to keep our chins up when the evils of this world—and our own sinful natures!—seem determined to force them down?

An answer is offered in the Lorica of St. Patrick (whose feast day is celebrated on March 17). A man surrounded by hostile pagans and kings, St. Patrick wrote this famous prayer both to call on God's protection and to remind himself that it was “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down.”

Likewise, Isaiah tells us that it is God who will protect us from evil. While we are called to touch nothing unclean, we do not bear the burden of eradicating evil. That job belongs to the Lord. Whatever frustration we feel in facing the challenges of war or poverty or heresy or deceit, it is the Lord who “has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations,” and his servant, the Crucified Christ—“so marred was his look beyond that of man”—who shall “startle many nations” in bringing about his kingdom.

How do we endure the powers of this world? Touch nothing unclean and turn to the one who shall leave kings speechless. Christ is our savior. Shout for joy.

And so the nation that would spring from the faith of Abraham would also serve as a springboard for the salvation of all nations. Christ's salvific work, from one nation and for all nations, means that all nations might become more fully themselves, just as it means all persons might become more fully themselves. And in the end, “a great multitude of every nation, race, people, and tongue” will cry out in a loud voice “Salvation comes from our God” (Rev. 7:9—10).