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4/12/2001
WORD OF FAITH
Holding on to Word
REV. ROGER KARBAN


 

 

It's significant that among the readings we hear on the most important night of the Easter Vigil, there's only one author totally responsible for two selections and who also created the theological basis for another: Deutero-Isaiah.

Those familiar with this unnamed prophet of the Babylonian Exile aren't surprised that the primitive Christian community gave him this unique honor. The faith-insights which he shares in his short 16 chapters (Isaiah 40-55) have helped people understand their experiences of God for more than 2,500 years, even when those experiences revolve around a manifestation of God whom the prophet never knew: Jesus of Nazareth.

Though Deutero-Isaiah is basically responsible for all the oracles in his work, he, like most prophets, had little to do with the order in which they're placed. His disciples lovingly completed that task.

Significance

That's why it's significant that, after having reflected on their martyred leader's ministry and words, they decided to put the sayings contained in the fifth reading (Is 55: 1-11) in the last chapter of their collection. They intended these particular words of the prophet to be an affirmation of everything that went before.

Like the author of the Genesis reading, one of the biblical writers influenced by Deutero-Isaiah, they found deep meaning in their mentor's emphasis on the power of God's word. It didn't matter that the proclaimer of that word was dead. Once proclaimed, Yahweh's word continued to have an effect. It was the most important part of their lives.

In this selection, the word first forces on to deal with the contradiction of God's nearness and remoteness, then it opens the door to experiences no one could have anticipated. "Like the rain and snow," Yahweh's word waters the earth, "making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating." Yahweh promises that "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."

Notice how the power of God's word underlies the other readings Moses has no security except Yahweh's word when he commands the Hebrews to "march on" into the sea (Ex 14:15-15:1). But if the Chosen People have the courage to act on that word, they'll reach freedom.

Luke's angel

Scholars often remind us that Luke defines the perfect disciple as someone who "hears God's word and carries it out." That's why Luke's angel at the tomb (Lk 24: 1-12) utters the famous statement, "Remember what He said to you." Then the evangelist follows with the remark that the women finally "remembered His words."

God's word is everything for people of faith. Paul believes it even gives followers of Jesus the power to imitate His death in their everyday lives (Rom 6: 3-11). It opens the door through which Christians step into the freeing experience of dying and rising. "For if we have grown into a union with Him through a death like His," the Apostle writes, "we shall also be united with Him through a resurrection!"

Only those who courageously welcome God's word to break into their lives will share in the power that continually come from that word.

Scripture scholars believe that it was the historical Jesus' determination to first absorb God's word and them proclaim it to the best of His ability to others which gave Him the strength to die for that word. He knew the word He announced would still be achieving its effect not only on Good Friday night, but long after His personal demise.

Faith in God's word is the reason we celebrate the Easter vigil. We believe that the word which Jesus proclaimed is not only still with us, we also believe that Jesus who proclaimed it still lives among us!


(04-12-01)










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