A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Sometimes in a moment of anger or frustration, we often say something to another person which can be very hurtful.  As soon as we see the reaction, we realize that we have “crossed the line.”  But it is too late, the deed is done.

How can you take back the awful thing that you have said?  The fact is, we don’t really understand the power of the spoken word.

The first of the biblical readings for the fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is from the book of the prophet Isaiah (55:10-11).  The reading is only a couple of verses long, but it does say something about the power of the word.

Isaiah draws a distinction between the word when it is spoken and when it is fulfilled–the secondary action is the automatic fulfillment of the first. That is to say,  that when a word is spoken, it will be automatically fulfilled.  For example:

“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55:10-11 RSV)

The point of comparison (“as,” “so”) is the fulfillment of the spoken word.  As the rain and the snow make the earth fruitful, so the word of God will be completed.  In Isaiah, the Hebrew equivalent of “word” is DABAR, which has the sense of the spoken word which will be fulfilled.  It is an automatic process.

What can we learn from this reading of Isaiah?  First of all, we learn that the word of God has power.  Secondly, we as disciples of Jesus are committed to proclaim (preach, speak) the message of Jesus, which is one of justice, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding.  Fulfillment of the message (“words”) is not just verbal, but comes to completion only by our behavior.

So, it is good to watch what we say.  Because if we believe what we say, only our behavior will be the proof.

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