Trust in God's Providence

07-03-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Anthony Okolo, CSSp

The First Reading of today is taken from the Prophet Isaiah 66:10-14, among biblical scholars it is called the Third Isaiah. Some scholars claim that this part of Isaiah was not written by the original Isaiah, but maybe a disciple of Isaiah. It comes mainly from the period following the return of the people from the Babylonian exile. It was the work of the Deutero Isaiah and was written to instill faith among the people. The people had lost complete hope as a result of the deportation to Babylon, but their greatest heart-breaking experience was the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. In this passage, they were back to Israel and life was no longer the same. They became discouraged, heartbroken and depressed.

The great hope of the people for a glorious era has not materialized. The task of restoration was slow and difficult and the majority of the people lived in poverty. Because of the unfavorable conditions the peoples were weakened in faith. The Prophet was trying to revive the hopes of the people for the future and also introduce them to the pure worship of God, not based on externals. It is based on this that the Prophet comes to encourage them and give them hope to cheer up that God is coming to restore them. Thus, he tells them “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her.” He says, “Thus, says the Lord, Behold, I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nation like an overflowing stream”. These are very powerful words of consolation to a people who were discouraged and shattered as a result of the exile experience. God later restored them and even blessed them more.

In the same way a good number of us may be frustrated or discouraged by many things happening in the world today like inflation, gun shooting, broken homes, wars and on-going violence, the Lord is addressing us individually and collectively today to trust in Him that He is coming to restore things in our lives. As He tells the people through the Prophet Isaiah that He will extend prosperity flowing like a river so will He also send prosperity to us. We are to trust in Him despite how we feel about things now.

Similarly, in the Gospel we are told that Jesus sends His 70 or 72 disciples two by two to the places where He Himself was to visit. It is necessary we pay attention to the fact that He sends them two by two. Why does He send them in pairs? The simple reason is that they need the support of one another. He knows that He is sending them to a difficult project and they need the support and solidarity of each other in a crisis situation. In the same way, my dear friends, we need the support of one another in our own lives. We need the encouragement of each other especially when we are faced with trials and confusion.

However, these disciples are ordinary folk, many of them uneducated men with no great plan, no set or prepared speech, and no practical manual to tell them what to do. They brought only their faith, their trust and their experience of Jesus. These were the things that brought the transformation. Jesus also knew that they would make mistakes. In spite of this He called them to Himself, gave them His mission and gave them His authority, to heal, to rectify and bring people back to life. Then, He warns them not to take anything for the journey. It is a simple way of telling them to trust in the Providence of God to provide for them. He wants them to realize that He is the Lord of the vineyard and that He will provide for them. At times, in our lives we need to rely on God’s providence because He knows each and every one of us. Our God is a God of providence and surprises.

When they came back, they were so excited with what they were able to accomplish. He calls them “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” It is a warning against pride and overconfidence. It was true that they were given power, but their greatest Glory was that their names were written in heaven. Humility is the Passport to the Presence of God.

Fr. Tony Okolo