Our first reading today introduces us to Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets. For our convenience he lets us know that he had his introductory vision in 752 B.C., the year King Uzziah died.
The vision adjusted itself to Isaiah’s preconceived views of what heaven was like. The Jews, musing over the heaven-sent precise dimensions for building their temple, had concluded that their temple had to be an exact copy of the temple where God lived in heaven.
In the vision God went along with what Isaiah considered to be God’s dominant characteristic, namely that he was remote from everything created. So, the angels had to avoid looking at him, and the words we translate as “holy, holy, holy,” really meant, “Aloof, aloof, aloof.”
Isaiah’s reaction to the vision tells us that although we can go along, living happily with our mediocre ways, if we are thrust into the presence of God’s perfection, then our awareness of our imperfection would send us scurrying to hide our filth. While needing to utter words of praise to God, we would be overcome by all the filth our lips have uttered. We would need to have our lips cleansed
The angel’s searing the lips of Isaiah should put us in mind of the calls of Jeremiah and Ezekiel to their roles as prophets. For Jeremiah the Lord touched his lips. With Ezekiel the angel had him eat a scroll with God’s words.
The name the Jews had for a prophet was “nabi” which was the same as a child’s name for is or her mouth. They thought of their prophets as men who lent their mouths to God to speak his words.
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