“As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth and making it yield...so the word does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do” (Isaiah 55:10–11).
Isaiah is writing in the fullness of the Babylonian exile, Jerusalem has fallen, no end in sight, and still he (some say “she”!) can speak with totally calm inevitability, kind certainty, and even joyful trust. (Treat yourself and open your Bible to 55:12–13 to see the final exclamation point, which is not included in the Lectionary reading.)
Then we have Matthew’s version of the “Our Father,” preceded by a warning against “rattling on” with too many prayers, and ending with a promise of a perfect and fair equivalence between how you forgive and how you will be forgiven. Jesus made the essential requirement for the forgiveness of sin rather clear and definitive here: As you do it, it will be done to you. If you do not do it, it cannot be done to you.
We are merely and forever inside of the divine flow, just like Isaiah’s “rain and snow.” Forgiveness is not some churchy technique or formula. Forgiveness is constant from God’s side, which should become a calm, joyous certainty on our side. Mercy received will be mercy passed on, and “will not return to me empty, until it has succeeded in what it was sent to do.”
—from the book Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent
by Richard Rohr, OFM