The First Reading (Isaiah 55: 10-11) always takes me back to childhood, when I first learned about the water cycle. I remember the chart with big arrows showing how water falls from the sky, then collects, then evaporates, then goes back up into the sky to form clouds . . . a process that repeats itself over and over again, supporting life on Earth.
That’s how the word of God is, says the Prophet Isaiah. It doesn’t fall once on human ears and stay there. It becomes part of a larger process, a cycle, enriching those who receive it as well as those who pass it on.
In other words, this life of faith is not just about getting but about giving. What we receive from God doesn’t end with us; it is a generative force in its own right. As Christians, we are part of a larger cycle of goodness, and we are key players in keeping that goodness flowing.
In the Gospel (Matthew 6:7-15), Jesus teaches to pray the Our Father, and gently reminds us that we are not just passive receivers but also givers. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (emphasis added) We are not receptacles collecting God’s mercy and keeping it to ourselves; if we let ourselves become that, we’ll bring the cycle to a halt. We’re called to forgive others, constantly and freely, as we ourselves are forgiven.
So what would it look like, a diagram of the Christian life? I picture arrows coming from Heaven, arrows of forgiveness and grace and gifts. The arrows point to Earth, where we receive the gifts. Then more arrows point to others as we take the fruits of God’s goodness and pass it on. We forgive others; we welcome the stranger; we advocate for justice; we encourage the downtrodden. And they do the same, and the Earth is a glorious swirl of arrows, so many going in so many directions that you couldn’t possibly capture them all.
When we really live this Christian life, it’s a cycle. We receive and we give, in a beautifully dynamic process that never ends.
Draw a diagram of the “goodness cycle” in your own life. Identify what you’ve received from God, what you pass on to others, and what they pass on to you.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author three books, including Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses and Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos. You can find out more about her here.