The scripture readings at daily Mass during Lent are arranged differently than they are for the rest of the year. The first reading and the gospels for most of the year are read consecutively. Each reading takes its own path and there’s no attempt to harmonize them.
For Lent the first reading and the gospel are arranged to complement each other. Our first reading today from Isaiah is a commentary on Matthew’s gospel where Jesus teaches his disciples the Our Father. (Matthew 5: 14-17) It puts a certain light on Jesus’ teaching on prayer.
Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Isaiah says that God’s word comes from the heavens like rain and snow, watering the earth, making it fruitful, giving seed to the sower and bread to the one who eats. “It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
Prayer is God’s gift, our reading says. God in heaven, whom Jesus tells us to pray to, wants to speak to us, to communicate with us, to share divine life with us, as “our Father.” The gift is like rain and snow. Mysterious in the way it’s given, yet in some way sure to come and effective. Prayer begins, not with us, but with God desire for friendship with us.
It’s a gift that, like rain and snow, falls upon the whole earth. It falls on all people, on the publican who wonders if he belongs in the temple at all, on Queen Esther, the fallen-away Jewess whom we remember on Thursday’s reading this week in Lent. It falls on the just and the unjust. Prayer is a gift given to all.
Lent is a time for renewing our intimacy with God in prayer. It’s an intimacy that draws us to be like him. Prayer is a seed we’re given to cultivate, a valuable gift of God, our Father in heaven. Let’s care for it:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.