Today’s readings are among the most beautiful to me. Just yesterday I thought of the Isaiah reading, and then boom – earlier today, as I sat in the dim lamp light aided by one flickering Advent candle, I opened Give Us This Day and there it was.
The imagery in Isaiah is so powerful:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
God is not fooling around. The is for ALL peoples, a feast, not some little energy bar type snack that tastes like cardboard, one that is meant only for a certain few who have somehow “earned” it, and includes “juicy, rich food” and more. What a reminder of God’s boundless generosity and astonishing hospitality. God takes no joy in suffering or hunger of any sort, God’s desire to tear down the curtain that separates us from such extraordinary abundance is powerful.
So then why doesn’t God, who can do anything, just tear the curtain away?
A look at the Gospel might reveal a bit of what is going on in that regard. Perhaps God is trying to rip what divides us from the feast, but we are the problem to our own solution. Matthew begins
At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
Stop right there – the lame, blind, deformed, mute? It is worth noting that every untouchable of society at that time were not only present, but they were placed at Jesus’ feet. Think of that if you are ever inclined to believe that someone who may be LGBTQ, or divorced, or immoral in some way that you have decided, approaches the altar. As we have been reminded many times, including Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
We often forget that, don’t we?
Jesus is up on the mountain (think Isaiah again!) with the misfits of society at his feet. What does he do? Lecture them? Wag a finger in their face reminding them that God’s going to get them for whatever they have done wrong? Is he showing them who the boss is? No – he heals them. And then…
Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.”
The apostles’ response? The typical short-sighted earthbound notion of “there is not enough.” Not to get political, but we have been reminded about how there is not enough to continue to help people who won’t help themselves. As someone who serves the poor on a nearly daily basis, I disagree, but that would be getting political, so let me move on with the reminder that we have no clue about God’s abundance. We are veritable apostles in the worst sense of the word.
But thankfully we have Jesus to remind us otherwise. And empower us if we so choose to do so.
We all know what happens next – seven loaves and a few fish feed the multitudes, with seven baskets of fragments of leftovers. Imagine that…
What a great gift we have been given in these early days of Advent, the reminder that God’s promise is available, but that God invites us to cooperate, not just wait passively. (What was that about people who never lift a finger? Oops, did I say that?) This does not mean that we can just squeeze our eyes tightly closed and grasp our hands in urgent prayer, but that if we continue to focus on Jesus’ we might find ways to believe in things that do not seem possible. And those very things are not only possible, they are necessary, because in the end there will indeed be bread – and so much more.
The question remains – are we interested in being a part of it? Something to pray with as we watch and wait during this Advent season.
***If you are not familiar with Give Us This Day, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Small, compact, but like God’s feast, overflowing with “juicy, rich food” for your soul. They are offering a short term trial subscription, a great idea for yourself or for a gift. And yes, I *do* write for them, but long before I ever did, I was a charter subscriber!***