Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Lord is with you

Over in the West of Ireland, I was made welcome for a Rosary Novena by a wonderful woman who had organised the whole event. Each day we walked on the strand near Ballina, while we prayed and talked things over. At the end, she said: “I'll miss you when you're gone. Please write something in my autograph book so that I'll remember this Novena.” I thought of writing something lovely, like” God gave us memory, so that we might have roses in December”, but instead I jotted down: “Nan, the Lord is with you.”

Nan looked disappointed. The words were so few, and seemingly so uninspiring. So I added to the little message: “This is all our Lady knew, but it was enough. It is everything.”

The truth is, that these words: The Lord is with you, are covenant words. They are a summary of all God's promises throughout the sacred scriptures. These are the words God spoke to Joshua when he was frightened of leading the people of Israel into the promised land. It was feared that there were giants in the land and that the people would be devoured like grasshoppers before them. Not feeling up to the stature of the great Moses, Joshua needed to hear these words of the Lord:

“My servant Moses is dead. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread, I have given you, as I promised to Moses. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you, wherever you go.” (Joshua 1)

That is the very stuff of the covenant: I will be with you. You will never walk alone. Mary had to walk into an unknown land, an uncharted course. She had to walk in the darkness of faith. She had nothing but that word of the Angel: the Lord is with you.

This “being with his people” is not a mere physical presence, like the way the chair is present in the room. What we are talking about, is a living dynamic presence, that brings about a whole new relationship. The Lord is with us, backing us up, sending us forth into our own personal land of promise, and pledging protection every step of the way.

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