Tuesday in the First Week of Lent

Isaiah 55:10ff. God’s word comes down from heaven like rain, to make the earth fruitful

Matthew 6:7ff. Guidance about prayer and the spirit of forgiveness.

Safe In His Hands

Year after year, one Lent after another, we hear and ponder God’s word. The process is a long one, of listening to the word of God, of appreciating and absorbing it, of responding to it obediently, so that the word begins to take possession of us, transforms our thoughts and values, and allows our mind and heart to resonate the thoughts and loves of God Himself. This cycle of life is symbolized by rain and snow, falling gently from the sky and soaking the earth with nourishment, then returning towards heaven as bushes and trees. Divine inspiration is the rain and snow, our inspired lives are the bushes and trees. This image concludes chapters forty to fifty-five of Isaiah, some of the most enthusiastic and tragic literature of the Old Testament.

The lines of this exalted poetry show all the hallmarks of human genius, well trained and carefully exercised. The poems, moreover, seethe with hopes and ideals, with courage and persistency, superceding normal human power. As we today contemplate chapters forty to fifty-five, we sense the divine word reaching through our human words back to God in superhuman ways.

We do not know the name of the author of this sublime poetry; sometimes the author is called “Second Isaiah” or even the “Great Unknown.” So thoroughly did his message clothe his personality, that his name is lost; the word becomes translucently God’s word! Yet, the lines redound with tender and exquisite human compassion; they pulse with the flesh and blood, the breath and heart of our life.

“See!” God says through this prophet, “upon the palms of my hands I have written your name” (Is 49:16). Again we read God’s explanation: “because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you” (43:4). In order that this tender growth reach towards God over a long period of time, God’s interior life within ourselves and within others must be delicately nourished and gently loved. Such love is best expressed by bestowing great hopes and unconditional forgiveness. And this is exactly the type of love which Jesus teaches us when he taught us to pray the Our Father. Hope, confidence and security are planted in our hearts and genuinely confessed, when we say: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, forgive us … and deliver usThese beautiful words – of bursting sunrise, of kingdom come, of sweet smelling fresh bread, of gentle forgiveness from depths of understanding, of deliverance from all anxiety, of soothing every wrong – allow a delicate new life with warmth, hope and love to develop, from a new embryo into a fully formed man and woman of God.

A gentle, persistent concern reaches us through the penance and prayer of Lent. This year is not just another Lent, but a fuller divine word, within us, “achieving the end for which I sent it.”

From all their afflictions God will deliver the just. Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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