Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The living word

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published April 6, 2017

“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: 55:11

Isaiah was writing about God’s gifts of water and snow, which water the earth and make it fertile, and seeds that grow and provide bread to nourish. God sends gifts to us that yield goodness in abundance. And the word of God—God speaks it with a power that will not fail. This word, too, will bear fruit, fulfilling the mission for which it was spoken.

This teaching of Isaiah may be hard for us to understand. We tend to engage the word of the prophet with our own ways of hearing, speaking and comprehending. We naively assume that we have the last word to say in the affairs of this world. As burdensome as this assumption might be, it is not at all uncommon to listen to the discourses of every day life—say, around dining room tables and in social gatherings, to come to the conclusion that the word of God is easily factored out of our daily concerns.

This same absence of the word moves many a government leader to fill in the void, assuming that it is best to leave God out of social and political scenarios.

Lent offers us a time to listen more deeply than usual, to pause and see more clearly, to hope for what God and God alone can give. When all our words are said and done, there exists a sense of emptiness to them. Our words and subsequent actions are incapable of solving the problems of this world. Our big and little plans fail. We are given times of joy but do not know how to hold onto them. We suffer through times of pain and darkness when relief and comfort are nowhere to be found, save for the words of a friend who speaks of hope, of patience, of God. And those words are perhaps the most lovingly human that we can speak to each other. They are words that resist offering a plan or a solution.

They are words that are born from an awareness that there is a God who is with us all the seasons of our life and who will bring light out of darkness, peace out of conflict, hope out of despair.

We are asked by the church these weeks to place our hearts into the hands of a God who is guiding every moment in history and who is patient with us when we find it difficult to discern his patterns in our lives.

A Christian way of life is not an answer to life’s complexities. It does not offer a plan, a grand design to fix the problems of our lives.

A Christian way of life invites us into the life of a God who is indeed within us, a God who has implanted his word in our hearts and that word is infallible. It has overcome death and is a living promise that there will come a time when joy will lastingly be known by us and a peace will be known that can never be marred by war, violence or poverty. The plan is in the works, for God has spoken to us.

Lent is a time to believe that God will give us what we cannot find for ourselves.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at