The other day, while running a bunch of errands in the car, I happened to hear a radio preacher telling his listeners that their sins would lead inevitably to God’s punishment. “Your sins will open wide the gates of hell,” he told us, “and there’s not much you can do about it.” My first reaction was, “Well if we can’t do anything about it, why are you even telling us?” Later on, though, he did soften his message a bit and mentioned the need for repentance. But even then he didn’t sound very hopeful.
By the time I’d arrived at the post office, I realized I’d been listening to him for about 15 minutes and not once did he mention the Good News of Jesus Christ. It caused me to wonder how many Christians think of God only in terms of judgment and punishment. I suspect, too many. And it’s certainly no way to evangelize.
Of course we must understand that we’ll all be judged. Indeed, in today’s Gospel passage Jesus tells us explicitly that the Father gave Him the power to exercise judgment [Jn 5:22]. Yes, we will be judged.
But we will be judged by a God of mercy, a God of forgiveness, a God who gave His life for us, and a God who gives us a lifetime in which to return to Him in repentance. What could be better than that? And so the Good News is truly good.
Realize, too, that this Good News, this Gospel, isn’t new to the New Testament. It’s the same news proclaimed throughout the Old Testament as well. The prophets, after all, were in the business of pointing exclusively to one thing: to the Good News. Perhaps more accurately, they pointed to one person: to Jesus Christ.
Turn again to today’s reading from Isaiah. Can’t you hear the prophet preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ? As he tells the prisoners to “Come out!” and pleads with those in darkness to “Show yourselves!” No longer shall you hunger and thirst, “For the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted” [Is 49:9-10,13].
And our passage ends with perhaps the most comforting words in all of Scripture:
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” [Is 49:15]Such prophetic, consoling words…and such fitting words for today when so many are without tenderness for the infants in the womb.
Yes, Isaiah preached the Good News 700 years before the Incarnation, and gave the world a taste of God’s love, God’s forgiveness. Like John the Baptist, whom he foretold, Isaiah also walked in the wilderness to “prepare the way of the LORD!” [Is 40:3] – to prepare the way for Jesus Christ.
For it is Jesus, Who forgives the sins of the repentant.
Jesus, Who heals bodies and minds and souls.
Jesus, Who offers eternal life to those who believe.
Jesus, Who preaches this Good News to all.
Jesus, Who gives us His Church, the sacramental font of God’s grace.
And He does it all out of love for the Father, and love for us.
Do we really hear and accept the Good News Jesus offers us? Or do we only pretend to hear, remaining closed to the Word of God because sharing it demands a changed heart?
Ask Christ to touch your heart today and bring you the gift of openness to His Word. And never doubt God’s love, but recall those words from Isaiah: "I will never forget you." -- words intended to strike the heart, words we all long to hear from those who love us.
Today, let’s just keep this simple truth in mind: God will never forget me.
I will go to Calvary in my prayer and pray: "God will never forget me."
I will go to the Empty Tomb in my prayer and pray: "God will never forget me."
I will bring my brokenness and worries, my problems and joys to God and pray "God will never forget me."
And then, filled with God’s love, let me then ask, “Who is God asking me to "never forget?"