The first reading on Sunday, the feast of the baptism of the Lord, and the last day of Christmas, comes from the prophet Isaiah.
Thus says the Lord:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.
With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.
See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples,
a leader and a master of the nations.
See, you will summon a nation you never knew,
those unknown will come hurrying to you,
for the sake of the Lord your God,
of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.
Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.
Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.
The goodness of God is not for sale but is freely given.
We are invited to receive the word, the love, of God and let it bear fruit in us.
Most of us probably wish the signs of the fruitfulness of that word were more evident in us – even if we, at the same time, resist some of the word’s promptings for growth and conversion. But the prophet assures us, the Lord says his word will not return to him empty without succeeding in what it was sent to do. Maybe what it was sent to do is not the same as what we want. Maybe in brokenness and striving we are sometimes better able to serve than we would if already perfected (as we would understand it). Maybe…
Photograph of plaster cast of detail of bronze doors of Pisa Cathedral by Bonatus, c1180. (Cast Court, Victoria and Albert Museum. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.