Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 33; Matthew 6:7-15
The passage from Isaiah is one of the shortest but also one of the most beautiful used in the Church's liturgy. The word that goes forth from the mouth of God does not return to Him empty. So the word is to return to its source. The word is therefore on a mission. It is spoken not simply in order to reverberate through the heavens in ever widening circles. It is spoken, like rain and snow, to make contact with creation, to water the earth and make it fruitful, providing seed and food.
The word that is spoken, how will it return, with what fruit, having generated what kind of life? It seems that it will return with other words, that it will return with the echoes it has generated, that it will return with the changes it has brought about, that it will return with the relationships it has established. Words do all these things, they echo, they invite other words in response, they change things, they establish and confirm relationships.
Reading this passage, as we do today, along with the passage from Matthew where Jesus teaches his disciples the Our Father, leads us into a deeper meditation on the word, words, and the Word. For in the Our Father we are given the best possible human words with which to echo the Father's address to us. Any word we utter that is in any way true or good is an echo of the word of truth and goodness that establishes creation and speaks to us through it. But now He has spoken to us through His Word, and that Word, the Incarnate Lord, gives us human words that enable us not just to echo God's truth and goodness but to participate in His conversation with the Father.
'Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him'. Prayer is one of the works of Lent not because it is meant to be penitential and tedious but because it is the heart of what we are about as Christian believers. Prayer is the way in which we participate in the exchange, the conversation, taking place between the Father and the Son. The Father speaks and the Word is spoken. The Father is the source of all being and life and understanding and is only adequately received and understood by the eternal Son, is only adequately appreciated and loved by the Son in the Spirit.
The Our Father is the translation of the Word into words. Here is the rain and snow that will water the earth, softening our hearts, focusing our minds, generating life and love in us. We are invited to enter the great circling that is the mission of the Word, spoken from all eternity in creation, sent in time to redeem creation, returning to the Father having accomplished what He was sent to do. We 'jump onto' this great movement by saying the Our Father, making those words our own. When they have become the truthful expression of our minds and wills then we have found our place as adopted children of the Father. In Jesus Christ we hear the Father's Word. In speaking the words He taught us we become the loving servants of the Word of God. We enter into the mind and will of Christ, we join the chorus of praise and intercession of which He is the leader, we are converted and return home to the Father in whom we come home also to ourselves.