With this hot weather scorching many parts of the globe, it’s not hard to appreciate the metaphor the prophet Isaiah offers as a picture of how it is between ourselves and God — more specifically, between ourselves and the Word of God.
As Isaiah construes it, we humans are the earth, but an earth that’s very dry, barren as a desert. Then he goes on to name the falling rain and snow that moisturizes our dryness as God’s Word. That downpour is God’s own Self, arriving as His Word. This Word of God showers the water of life onto the aridity that’s within us and all around us.
Isaiah prompts us to consider how well we are drinking in this Word, how widely we are opening ourselves to this streaming vitality. Picturing myself as a stretch of dry land, how eager am I to soak up this lifegiving liquid, how disposed to take in this Divine Presence?
As we know, God’s presence permeates all creation. But in an especially focused way, it comes to us in the Mass. Certainly at the Eucharist proper, but also before that at the liturgy of the Word as the Bible is proclaimed and heard.
How thoroughly do I absorb these Divine words? How deeply do I drink in this nourishment flowing from the Word of God in the Scriptures? It’s a question addressed in any number of settings.
Closest at hand is attendance at Mass. Every Sunday, there are the 3 readings from the Bible, not including the responsorial psalm and the Alleluia verse.
What degree of attention do I give these? They are words of the writers but moreso the words of God, the thoughts and instincts and passions coming up from God’s own Self. Through them, God wishes not just to communicate, but to nourish, inspire and refresh, to have His own Person take sounder root in our hearts.
And therefore, the challenge. How can I listen more attentively, with awareness that these stories and proverbs and life-lessons are echoing God’s own voice? How can I get past the repetition, the feeling I’ve heard it all before? How can I perk up my ears not just to listen to these words but more radically to hear them, to take in the saving wisdom pulsing through them? Listening from that deeper place requires extra attention on any Sunday morning.
God’s Word in other settings? Things like picking up the Bible or some spiritual reading in the course of the week. Approaching it not so much as a checklist of do’s and don’ts, but as a conversation partner, a voice that mixes in with the ups and downs of my life and the pulsations of the wider world. Another possibility is joining a Scripture based prayer group, an activity frequently organized in parish settings.
The basic lesson is to take Isaiah’s imagery closer to heart. All by myself, I’m dry soil, spiritually parched and thirsty. It’s God’s saving Word that comes to quench. In the Bible, but also in the Lord Jesus, in the suffering and goodness of the people around us, in the splendors of creation, in all of these does God’s soul-quenching relief come as unending nourishment.
St. John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A modern commentator adds to that, “And that Word moved into our neighborhood!” This underscores Isaiah’s point: the all sustaining Word of God is near at hand if we would drink it in.
In an intervention Vincent made at a meeting of his confreres, we hear a riff on Isaiah’s metaphor.
God give us His graces according to our needs. God is a fountain from which each of us draws water according to the need we have of it. Just as a person who needs six buckets of water draws six, and someone who needs three draws three, a bird, who needs only a billful, just dips in his beak and a pilgrim scoops up a handful to slake his Thirst. That’s how God acts with us. (Volume: 11 | Page#: 102) Recommendations at Chapter added on 6/28/2011