Mystery of Conversion

Prophet Isaiah, Russian icon from the first quarter of the 18th century (Public Domain)

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday (Year II)

Isaiah 7:1-9; Matthew 11:20-24

When word came to the house of David that Aram was encamped in Ephraim, the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind (Isaiah 7:2).

Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! (Isaiah 7:9)

Isaiah advised King Ahaz to put his trust in the Lord alone. His enemies, Rezin and Pekah, were no more than “two stumps of smoldering brands” ready to fizzle out. Ahaz needed to silence his trembling heart, “remain tranquil,” and transform fear into courage. Instead of turning to prayer and faith, Ahaz was tempted to seek the aid of the powerful Assyrians. 

With compassion, the prophet brought his son Shear-jashub, whose name meant “A remnant shall return,” as a sign for Ahaz. God cherished Judah and guaranteed a remnant for himself. Ahaz had every reason to hope in divine protection. His enemies were weak, and Ephraim (northern kingdom of Israel) had no more than sixty-five years left before being snuffed out. Isaiah laid the facts before the king.

In God’s dealings with his people, empirical facts and figures seemed to have had limited effect. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum witnessed some of Jesus’ greatest miracles and prodigies, yet their hearts remained unmoved. Had the wonders been performed in the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, Jesus declared, repentance would have followed. 

Perhaps the religious status quo had become too comfortable and staid; Jesus met resistance and indifference among the chosen people, especially those in his native Galilee. The freshness and beauty of the person of Christ sometimes had greater impact on foreigners (e.g., the Roman centurion, the Samaritan woman, and the Canaanite woman).

King Ahaz had the guidance of the holy prophet Isaiah, a man whose lips were set afire by the seraphim to deliver God’s word. The people of Galilee had the Son of God himself in their very midst, with hundreds of people cured from various diseases. 

Conversion of heart is a mystery. Who can understand it?

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