Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Shall Live In The House Of The Lord All The Days Of My Life.

First Reading                      
Isaiah 25:6-10a

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.

On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.

The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Psalm 23

R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Matthew 15:29-37

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.
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.

The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

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 disciples said to him,
“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?”
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”

He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over – seven baskets full.

+++ +++ +++ +++

Freedom from want is a theme for these three readings. The Lord in Isaiah will provide us a rich feast; for the psalmist the Lord is a shepherd that shields us from want; Jesus both heals the hurting and feeds the hungry. And although the theme is expressed in terms of easing hunger, it also resonates with satisfying our spiritual needs – Isaiah says the Lord will destroy death forever, and the psalmist indicates we will live in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives. This promise of freedom from want is for a time yet to come, since we know that all of us are still in some need in our world, and that the gifts of freedom from physical and spiritual want fall unevenly, with many of us more fortunate in receiving material well-being far beyond our needs.

How ought we, the fortunate, respond to this largesse from the Lord? We could simply take and enjoy our good fortune. In doing so we would keep our focus on ourselves, or as Hopkins said in As Kingfishers Catch Fire, “What I do is me: for that I came.” But another response is to model the actions of the Lord by giving to others. Hopkins says later, “I say more: the just man justices.”

How do we model the Lord’s actions? How do we “justice” as Hopkins suggests?

• Where there is hatred we sow love
• Where there is injury, we pardon
• Where there is doubt, we deepen faith
• Where there is despair, we offer hope
• Where there is darkness, we offer light
• Where there is sadness, we generate joy
• Where there is hunger, we feed
• Where there is sickness, we treat
• Where there is material want, we clothe and shelter

We can easily be insensitive to the many opportunities to make these responses, paralyzed by the sheer magnitude of the want that exists in our world today. Infant mortality, starving people, disease, poverty of spirit, and other wants abound in our local and international communities. But I think it is important to remember the words of Dr. Jonas Salk in this regard. In his acceptance speech upon receiving the Congressional Medal of Distinguished Civilian Achievement in 1956, Dr. Salk said, “The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” Positive responses result in more positive responses. Saying yes makes it easier to say yes to the next request. Taking satisfaction in doing rather than receiving keeps us focused on the other, not self.

As we deepen our awareness of our personal freedom from want that comes from God, our gratitude will grow. The deeper our gratitude, the greater will be our joy of being one with the Lord. And from this joy will spring a deep and abiding love for the God who frees us from all our wants.

And so my prayer today is for the strength to say yes more times than no and to be sensitive to where I can share God’s great gift of freedom from want with my sisters and brothers who are in need.

Tom Purcell
Creighton University's Online Ministries


Sarah in the tent said...

'I do not want to send them off hungry, or they might collapse on the way.'
The same concern Jesus shows here has given us the Eucharist.

But ... what were they planning to do with all those scraps? What do the baskets of scraps mean?

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Q: What were planning to do with all those scraps?
Q: What do the baskets of scraps mean?

Sarah, in the nearly forty years since I was ordained, this is the first time someone has asked these very good questions.

On the level of the event itself, I believe that the baskets of scraps were distributed to poor folks in the town of Caphernaum and the neighboring villages.

On the level of divine revelation, I am quite certain that the message is: God will provide His children with whatever they need,in material and spiritual gifts -- and more besides!

Sarah in the tent said...

Perhaps the disciples kept the baskets of scraps for a time as a relic, to prove the miracle - there were more scraps than the original amount of food - in the same way as the Israelites saved some of the manna. Maybe one day there will be a show on the History Channel about the discovery of seven baskets of ancient scraps in an Egyptian monastery!

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah, to the best of my knowledge, the Israelites saved manna only on the sixth day of the week, so that they could keep the Sabbath on the seventh day.

Exodus 16:

22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers for each person. When all the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses,
23 he told them, "That is what the LORD prescribed. Tomorrow is a day of complete rest, the sabbath, sacred to the LORD. You may either bake or boil the manna, as you please; but whatever is left put away and keep for the morrow."


As for the disciples, it is possible that they kept some of the bread from the multiplication of the loaves as a "relic". But, after the Last Supper, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus, it seems to me that the loaves left over from the multiplication at Capharnaum would pale in value compared to the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ which they -- and we -- receive in the Eucharist.

Sarah in the tent said...

I agree. I was thinking of the individual portion of manna kept in the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:32 -34 and Hebrews 9:4). Maybe Our Lord intended the disciples to use the scraps of bread as a temporary sign, like Lazarus (who was so convincing, the Pharisees pondered killing him again!)until He gave Himself as the Bread of Life and the Resurrection.

While checking this, I came across a curious verse that reminded me of the idea that perhaps fear of God was once like fear of a lion. In Exodus 23:33-35 Aaron's robe has bells, because "the tinkling will be heard when he goes into the sanctuary into Yahweh's presence, or leaves it, and so he will not incur death." This reminded me of some friends who lived in Alaska. Whenever they went hiking, they had to wear bear bells. The noise, apparently, protected them from bears.

Maybe the tinkling bells at the consecration should remind us of God's presence, of real danger, and of God's promise that 'he will not incur death'.

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah, there was a typographical error in your comment earlier this morning. Exodus 23 ends with verse 33; there is no verse 35.

The vestments and ornaments of the High Priest (Aaron and his successors) are described in Chapter 28. The commentators I've read to verify the meaning of Verse 35 are of one mind:

There must be bells on the vestments of the High Priest, so that when he is performing his ministry, the sound may be heard, both when he enters and leaves the sanctuary where the LORD is present. If the sound of the bells is not heard, that might mean that the High Priest has died.