by Father Mike Stubbs
Success at past performance builds confidence for future efforts.
An athlete who wins in smaller competitions can progress to bigger events. That is one reason why youth are encouraged to take part in sports. Not only can it give them stronger bodies, it can build character.
Looking at what God has accomplished for us already can give us confidence that God will come through for us again. It can strengthen our hopes in God. That is the gist of Sunday’s first reading, Is 43:16-21.
The prophecy first reminisces about God’s wonderful favor to the Hebrew people in bringing them out of bondage in Egypt.
The God “who opens a way in the sea” brought them through the Red Sea. The God “who leads out chariots and horsemen, a powerful army” saved the Hebrew people from Pharaoh and his army which was pursuing them.
The prophecy reminds us of this long ago event, because it bears some resemblance to a more recent event: the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon.
Once again, they pass through the desert. Once again, God gives them water to drink: “In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.”
The prophecy first draws our attention to that first event, the freeing from bondage in Egypt, only to point out its similarities to the current event of redemption that God has in process for the Israelites. It switches gears.
We are to forget about the past, in order to focus upon the present: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” In other words, “If you think that was something, look at me now!”
For us living in the 21st century, both of these events — the freeing from bondage in Egypt and the return from exile in Babylon — are ancient history.
They both took place over 2,000 years ago. We consider them only insofar as they encourage us to believe in what God can do for us now. Just as God guided the Hebrew people through the desert long ago, God can guide us also through confusing times now.
Just as God freed the Hebrew people from bondage long ago, God can liberate us from destructive behavior now. Just as God gave them water in the desert to drink long ago, God can give us the life-giving waters of grace now.
We look at the past, only to find hope for the present.