Isaiah 55:11-12 speaks beautifully of how Jesus is sent on His mission by the Father:
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
Yes, in joy you shall go forth,
in peace you shall be brought home;
Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you,
all trees of the field shall clap their hands.
The prophecy indicates that Jesus’ mission is twofold. He is not only sent to us. He is also commissioned to bring back something to the Father. As Isaiah puts it, the Word that is sent forth will ‘not return to me empty.’
In order to better understand what Isaiah is saying, we need to explore Jesus’ identity as the Word of God. The Church teaches that Jesus is the Word because He is God’s self-understanding of Himself. And because this self-understanding is total and complete we speak of Jesus as the Word in the singular, not plural. God has no need of many ‘words’ in order to know Himself. His self-knowledge reflects His unity and simplicity.
Moreover, because Jesus is God’s own self-understanding, the relation is one of Father to Son, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains in Light of Faith: The Compendium of Theology (see Section 39). Normally when the mind considers something it ‘conceives’ likeness of that thing in its mind. So if you are thinking about a tree, a rock, or a star you are bringing to mind an image of a tree, a rock, or a star.
In a way, there is a sort of union between the thinking mind and the thing that is being thought about that resemble the way a mother and a father come together to conceive a child. The image that appears in the mind is the ‘child’ of the mind and the thing it was thinking about. The mind becomes the passive recipient of the information outside of itself. The information is implanted in the mind, much as a father impregnates a mother. Or as Aquinas puts it,
Therefore, when the intellect understands something other than itself, the thing understood is, so to speak, the father of the word conceived in the intellect, and the intellect itself resembles rather a mother, whose function is such that conception takes place in her.
But when the mind understands itself it becomes the source of what is known. That is, it becomes like a father:
But when the intellect understands itself, the word conceived is related to the understanding person as offspring to father.
This is why Jesus, as the Word of God, is also the Son of the Father.
In this context, the significance of what Isaiah is saying becomes apparent. Jesus, as the Word, did not just come to bring God to us. He also came so that He might bring us God. Specifically: Jesus both came to give us the Word of God and is returning to bring word of us to God, bringing us deep into the interior dialogue of the Trinity.
Jesus repeatedly speaks of this second aspect of His mission — His return — throughout the Gospel of John. For example in John 14:2-3, He says,
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.
In the next chapter, Jesus is even more radical in His language:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing … As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:5, 9).
In other words, Jesus is extending to us the kind of intimate relationship that He enjoys with the Father. As God’s perfect self-knowledge, Jesus abides in the Father and the Father in Him. The relationship is also one of love: God sees Himself reflected in the Word and responds in love.
In John 17, we are, at last, granted a glimpse of the interior dialogue between the Son and the Father, in which the Son intercedes on our behalf for the Father:
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are (verses 6-11).
Jesus, as the Word of God, revealed the ‘Father’ to us. Now, knowing this name, we can approach God addressing Him as Father, which we do in the Our Father, for example. (Of course we can also speak to God as the Son since the Father and the Son are one!)
As the Word of God — His own self-knowledge — everything of Jesus’ is the Father’s and vice versa. By abiding in Christ, then, we also become the Father’s. We are thus drawn up into the interior dialogue between Father and Son. Every time we say the ‘Our Father’ we are uniting ourselves as adopted sons with Christ, entering into this everlasting exchange between the Son and the Father.
Later in the New Testament, St. Paul writes that we are ‘transformed’ into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). In fact, before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4), God destined us to be ‘conformed’ to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). The kind of transformation to which we are called is so radically complete that St. Paul is able to say that ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).
In this way, we are made ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ becoming both known and loved and God through the most intimate means possible — through the Word through whom He knows His very self. At last, confident that we are known and loved by God, we are now able respond in love to the God we have the privilege of knowing personally by crying out ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15).
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