"We shall steer safely through every storm so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God." — St. Francis de Sales
(Is 49:8-15) Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene .
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
In today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, God makes a powerful statement about his love for humanity referring to the image of a mother’s love, which is perhaps the strongest commitment to care among humans: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” God’s love for us is like a mother’s love for her child, but at the same time also stronger and more permanent than a mother’s love could ever be.
This comparison is not only expressive of the permanence and strength of God’s love but also indicates the type of love God has towards us: it is not so much a mere emotional attachment but a caring love; it is love that provides comfort and mercy, guides, protects, and provides for basic needs. The reading states very clearly that God’s love is not only a sensation felt inside us but also experienced in very tangible and concrete, even material terms.
This gives us an idea of how our love towards others ought to be: tangible and concrete, triggering social and structural change in our world! Our Christian goal should be a society, in which none of us has to suffer hardship. Obviously, this is an ideal which cannot be easily reached, but this should not deter us from going one step at a time towards creating such a society, which will – hopefully – over time increasingly resemble the heavenly Jerusalem , where God’s love permeates every aspect of life.
The reading makes it also very clear that God’s Word cannot be locked within the walls of a church building or the confines of a prayerful home. God’s Word is highly political and its power will spill over from churches and homes into every corner of our society and world! God’s Word inspires action transforming the world.
Christ says in today’s reading from the Gospel of St. John (Jn 5,17-30) that “for just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life.” Raising the dead refers to the life in eternal bliss promised to all followers of Christ but also to our mission to raise up those among us, who are “dead” in one way or another, who are, for example, constrained in developing their potential because of being born into a household that cannot afford a decent education, whose health is threatened because of their inability to afford basic health care, and who are depressed because they cannot find work.
This, our mission, asks us to reflect not only about our individual ways of showing love but also about our collective mission as church to “raise the dead.” Those of us in parish leadership need to go beyond organizing meetings and events and must also reach out to one another. Priests need to seek out the lost and suffering and bishops need to courageously make statements about our Mission to show God's love to our fellow human beings.
Let us be inspired by Christ who said the following in today’s Gospel: “whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life.” Listening to and believing in Christ gives us eternal life and inspires us to give life to humanity, raising others from death by transforming our society and world!