First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21
Look to the Future
16 Thus says YHWH, who makes a way in the sea,
and a path in the mighty waters;
17 who brings forth the chariot and horse,
the army and the mighty man
(they lie down together, they shall not rise;
they are extinct, they are quenched like a wick):
18 "Don't remember the former things,
and don't consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing.
It springs forth now.
Don't you know it?
I will even make a way in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert.
20 The animals of the field shall honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
because I give water in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people which I formed for myself,
that they might set forth my praise."
World English Bible
Tradition is important. It proclaims our past and defines our roots. But tradition for tradition's sake is as problematic as change for change's sake. Faith demands that we cling to the wisdom of tradition, while being open to possibilities change brings.
To a people that defined itself by the events of the Exodus [16-17], God called Israel to a new openness. "Forget the past," God chided the people. "Look what I am about to do."
Why did the savior of the Exodus tell the people to forget about the past and look to the future? Through the prophecy of Second Isaiah, God spoke to the exiles in Babylon, the descendants of those who were taken before the destruction of Jerusalem. The exiles clung to the stories of God's power in order to maintain their faith and their national identity. But, without a capitol or a nation or a temple for their God, the Jews in exile were without hope. Only tradition gave them a sense of who they were.
But God reminded his faithful that tradition alone does not make faith come alive. Faith means trust in God. God would create a way home through the desert with all necessary provisions (i.e., water from a river); the return home would be peaceful (i.e., wild animals honor the Lord) [19-21]. Just as God acted in the Exodus, he would act in the exiles' lives. What seemed impossible would come about; the exiles would return home.
Faith without hope clings to a religion stuck in the past. Faith that tries to be "relevant" to the present by rejecting the past drifts away without roots. Both need focus upon God, his will, and his power. Trust in God brings the past alive, gives the present meaning, and the future hope.
How are you trying to make tradition come alive in your life? How have you tried to pass a living tradition along to others?