1st Tuesday of Lent
In the earlier liturgy for today’s Mass, the first reading was also from Isaiah,
chapter 55, but with a few verses added before the reading which we just heard.
The Gospel for today was changed to St Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.
Evidently the Church would like us to see some connection between the last
verses from the prophet Isaiah and the Lord’s Prayer. I think the connection lies in
the sentence from Isaiah, It shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it,
and the phrase in the Gospel, Thy will be done.
It makes all the difference whether the first thing that comes to our mind when we
think of God is his name, or his will. If we begin with the will of God, then our
religion runs the risk of being slavish, a kind of grudging resignation, or a
depressing round of unwelcome duties and reluctant sacrifices – sort of a perpetual
Lent in the worst sense. The will of an unknown God will seem like an arbitrary
tyranny, a mysterious, inscrutable force, which rules by virtue of being stronger,
and demands only obedience. There is no more horrible conception of God than
one which makes him merely or mainly a sovereign will, and Pope Benedict XVI
was at pains to warn us about this idea in his lecture at Regensburg.
But when we think first of God as wishing that his name should be known, and for
that purpose mirroring himself in the rain and the snow that come down, giving
seed to the one who sows, and energizing through all the complexities of human
affairs, and gathering the scattered syllables of his name into one full and
articulate utterance in the word that goes forth from his mouth: then our thoughts
of his will become reverent and loving. We are sure that the will of the self-
revealing God must be intelligible; we are sure that the will of the loving God
must be good.
Then our obedience becomes different, and instead of being slavish, it is filial.
Instead of being reluctant submission to a more powerful force, it becomes a
joyful immersion in the fountain of love and goodness. Instead of being sullen
resignation, it is trustful reliance. And instead of being a painful carrying out of
unwelcome chores, obedience finds expression in deeds which are done out of
One who begins with Thy will be done is a slave, and never really does the will at
all. One who begins with Our Father, hallowed, is a son or daughter, and obeys
from the heart. That, then, seems to be the reason why Isaiah speaks of doing
God’s will, and Our Lord of calling him Our Father first.