Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Daily Mass Reflection: The "Long View" of God's Word Accomplishing All that God Wills

Thus says the LORD: 
Just as from the heavens 
the rain and snow come down
 and do not return there
 till they have watered the earth,
 making it fertile and fruitful,
 giving seed to the one who sows
 and bread to the one who eats,
 so shall my word be
 that goes forth from my mouth; 
it shall not return to me void, 
but shall do my will,
 achieving the end for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).

This beautiful verse from the prophet Isaiah is a tribute to the potent Word of God, spoken from the beginning of time and through which all things came into being (John 1:1-3). As wondrous as this passage is, how do we understand and appreciate its truthfulness given the fact that the Word of God has been spoken in many and varied ways, and, above all in Jesus, and yet there is still so much evil and sin that prevails? How can we "discern" the possibility that this word will, in fact, achieve the end for which God sent it? My suggestion is that we take a "long view" approach to this dilemma.

By "long view" I mean looking back and forward in time, speculatively piercing through the mists of what we know about the beginning of all things and also what we believe will be the destiny of all things. The long view, in short, means imagining the role of the Word as the means or motor through which all things came into being and by which all things will come into their final, Resurrected fullness. When we look back in time to the beginning of all things through the lens of faith, we see a God who creates through what Irenaeus, an early Church Father, referred to as "the two hands of the Father", the Word and the Holy Spirit. This doesn't mean that the Word and Spirit "physically" fashioned and formed each creature (this occurred through evolutionary unfolding over billions of years), rather, the Word and Spirit can be discerned through the lens of faith as inherent in the "relational dynamism" that draws, attracts, and bonds creatures at an "elemental" level and a relational level. Hence, insofar as this pattern of drawing, attracting, and bonding continues, the Word can, in fact, be said to "achieve the end for which God sent it."

More important to appreciating how the Word will accomplish all that God wills, however, is the speculative "long view" with regard to all things "being gathered up" in Christ (Ephesians, 1:10). Yesterday I gave a talk on "caring for creation" to a group of young adults and spoke about how, in order to make the Christian faith compelling, we need to RADICALLY re-envision our expectations about the after life. For many centuries, the prevailing notion of heaven is that it would consist of the saints and angels gathered before God's throne, singing God's praises for eternity. This doesn't do justice to God's total plan for creation in Christ, and, furthermore, is a relatively boring conception of heaven! The metaphor that captures a more accurate depiction of the after life is a "New Heavens and New Earth." This metaphor is found in Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:1 and refers to God's plan to "conserve" and utterly transform our present world into a "resurrected" one in which Heaven and Earth come together in perfect communion and form the "place" where we will dwell in eternity. It is through the Word, Spirit, and the Resurrected Son that God will gather up all things and give them final, glorified, and everlasting permanence. Quite an exciting prospect if you ask me! Through the "long view" of what God is doing in God's Word and in Christ, we can come to appreciate the truth of Isaiah's notion that God's Word is accomplishing, and will accomplish, all that God has willed. Pat, TOR