"While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
Human beings need hope. We can get through so many difficulties with just the tiniest shred of hope. But there are times in our lives when it seems even the hope is gone. The blackness and numbness can overwhelm our days and we can feel completely isolated in our suffering, not knowing what the next step is.
For us and for the people of Israel, Isaiah wrote this message of hope. It was a message of encouragement and trust, of love and expectation. God will give us what we need. For an ancient people their needs were water and grass for pasturing sheep, rain for the crops and the Lord binding up the wounds of his people. For us it might be peace of mind, acceptance of a situation or the ability to see beyond our own great pain. And always, we are promised that God will be there to bind up our wounds because we are God's beloved people.
I am always waiting for God to be as explicit as Isaiah promises: "This is the way; walk in it." Instead I don't know where I am going and I fumble around in fear, searching the horizon for the end point that will be my destination. Which direction? How far? There is no one to tell me and sometimes I get frantic. It is only when I finally give up the struggle and really turn with my whole heart to God, that I begin to understand.
The writer Anne Lamott writes about a woman who, when she prays for guidance, imagines a circle of light a few steps ahead of her. As she prays, she feels moved to step forward into that light, and stays there. Then she senses the next right step - perhaps two feet off to the side. More prayer, more small steps into uneven circles of light, never knowing where she is going. At the end, Lamott writes, she can turn around and look back at the wobbly path behind her and realize she has been led to exactly where she is supposed to be.
In today's gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” We are being called in the midst of our own darkness and uncertainty to labor beside Jesus in helping others. It is healing for our own darkness and at the end of the day, we still have Isaiah's great promise: God will be there to bind up our wounds and to hold us close.
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