Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
The reading from Isaiah is from the section called the Book of Consolation. The prophet announces that the people will return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. They are still in exile so Isaiah wants to strengthen their hope in the midst of their hardships and backbreaking experiences. Better times are on the way.
God hears the cry of the poor and will respond to their prayers for deliverance. The prisoners will be set free, light will come into the darkness, water will be given to the thirsty and food to the hungry. No more will they have to labor as slaves in the harsh sun. The people, and all of creation, will soon rejoice…turning their weeping into cries of joy.
When we feel let down by others, defeated by life and its unfairness, when all our good efforts end in failure or misunderstanding, when we wonder if God is on our side or has God forgotten about my plight, that is precisely the time we are called to a "naked" faith (as St. Paul of the Cross describes it), a faith that does not depend on signs and wonders, a faith without props and guarantees. This is the faith that Isaiah encourages. In spite of darkness, harshness and impossible conditions, God is with us and will never forget us.
These are the experiences that bring us closer to Jesus Christ. They allow us, if we let them, to journey with Jesus in the desert for 40 days, to pray with Jesus during his agonizing prayer in the Garden, to be nailed with Jesus on the cross and cry with Jesus: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" It’s on the dark side of life that our faith is tested. When God seems so far away, do we have the faith that Isaiah describes, the resilient faith that Jesus possessed? The journey back to Jerusalem challenges us to be people of faith, to believe beyond what we can see and touch, beyond our experience of exile. At these moments, for however long they last, we confess in our hearts that God has not forgotten me. I’m not in Jerusalem yet; dawn has not arrived; resurrection seems like wishful thinking; still, I believe God is with me and act accordingly.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.