The imagery in the reading from Isaiah evokes one of the central Lenten themes: Lent as a time to plant the word of God deep within you—water it, make it fertile and fruitful. For the word of God never returns to its source void; it achieves the end for which it is sent.
Words! We cannot live without them, yet we cannot live with too many of them. With too many we babble, with too few we are mute. Words empower and words destroy. Words praise and words condemn; words reward and words punish. Words can express love and they can be the tools of hatred. Words make peace and words declare war. Words can hurt and words can pronounce forgiveness. And with words we craft our prayer – “from your lips to God’s ears,” the saying goes.
When the disciples of Jesus asked Him how best to pray He admonished them not to pile up words. The prayer He taught them was spare of word, disciplined of word. Yet in this economy of words resides a richness and an expansiveness that has captivated, consoled and nurtured Christians for over two millennia.
When we pray the Our Father, as we reflect on each word, we should be mindful of the instruction in the first reading: “It (my word) shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Let these words embrace you today. I cannot improve upon any of the commentaries written about the Lord’s Prayer that would be new or insightful. I have no new interpretation that would adjust the way we approach this seminal prayer of our religious tradition. So I suggest today we simply read slowly and quietly these very familiar words. Let them wash over you, let them grow deep within you; let them fulfill within you “the end for which they were sent.”
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
And do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Yes. These words of Jesus are so familiar, even routine; but have you reflected afresh on their meaning for you during THIS Lenten season? If the words of God are not to return to God void, but rather achieve the end for which they were intended, have you asked yourself WHAT IS THAT END, THE INTENT, FOR WHICH JESUS SENT THESE WORDS TO ME? The words sent to you – on this day, at this time, where you are, in whatever circumstance you experience – have a purpose! Pray to discern that purpose. Lent is a time to plant God’s word deep within you. WHAT do you plant and water and nurture this Lenten season?
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