“Streams Will Burst Forth…”, by Brian Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time

As I write this, it is the day after the incredible flooding that New Jersey and the surrounding area experienced from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Maybe some of you were up a good portion of the night with your family trying to take care of water in the basement. Maybe this morning you spent some time texting around to your friends and family to see how they made out with the storm. You might even know someone who had something more tragic happen than a few inches of water, giving their “floating floor” a new meaning. Personally, I know someone who was involved in a water rescue, and also a friend of a friend who sadly died in the flooding. So, we can acknowledge that there is quite the range of experiences of suffering, but even if all you got was some water in the basement, it was still a rough night all around.

I jokingly said to my wife this morning, “Hey it would be great if this Sunday’s First Reading were from Isaiah 35 where it talks about “streams will burst forth in the desert” and we could call the blog “streams will burst forth in the basement.” Then we pulled up the readings for Sunday, and those few verses from Isaiah were literally the First Reading for this Sunday.

There’s much more to pull from this Reading though than just a coincidence and/or a knowing nod from the Holy Spirit for this week. This is one of my favorite passages from Scripture actually. “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God”. God is with us in our sufferings, and we can take courage, even if it seems like an impossible situation. God is in the business of making good come from suffering. Specifically in Jesus as the Messiah, which this passage from the Old Testament is pointing toward, God comes into our suffering to heal what couldn’t be healed, to bring living water to the deserts of our hearts. To bring life where there is none.

In the Gospel, we see Jesus healing a deaf man with a speech impediment. And we of course know all sorts of other stories of Jesus healing people, pointing to the fact that he is indeed the promised Messiah that God would send to his people.

But the thing is, when we’re in the midst of suffering, it doesn’t feel like we’re standing back and watching God do all these incredible things. Maybe we’re still waiting for him to act. But that’s precisely what’s going on in the First Reading. There are no streams bursting forth in the desert yet for the original audience. The eyes of the blind aren’t opened yet. The people are still in a place of waiting and longing for the Messiah to come. But they have God’s promise to cling to, that eventually those streams WILL burst forth. It might not be right now, and sometimes not even on this side of eternity.

Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, things have dried out a bit, and of course we continue to pray for those who had a rougher experience of it all. Next time suffering comes your way, wait on God, and wait in expectant hope. He’s with you in it, and whether he makes all things new for you in this life or ultimately in heaven, it will certainly be more amazing than you thought possible.

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