19 February. Tuesday in the First Week of Lent
Isa 55:10ff. God’s word comes down from heaven like rain, making the earth fruitful.
Mt 6:7ff. Guidance about prayer and the spirit of forgiveness.
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.
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, until the word takes possession of us, transforms our thoughts and values, and our hearts 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 falling fruitfully from heaven, an image that concludes this section of Isaiah, among the finest literature of the Old Testament. We do not know the name of the author of this sublime poetry; sometimes the author is called “Second Isaiah.” So thoroughly did his message clothe his personality, his name is lost while his message becomes translucently God’s word! “See!” God says through this prophet, “upon the palms of my hands I have written your name” (Is 49:16). Again we read the explanation: “because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you” (43:4). Such love bestows great hopes and unconditional forgiveness.
This is the type of love which Jesus teaches us in the Our Father. Confidence and security are planted in our hearts 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 us..” These beautiful words – of sunrise, of kingdom come, of sweet smelling fresh bread, of gentle forgiveness, of deliverance from anxiety – allow us to grow from a new embryo into a fully formed man and woman of God. This year is not just another Lent, but a new divine word to us, within us, “achieving the end for which I sent it.”