Advent Week 1 – Wednesday
Isaiah 25:6ff. “Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces” – another glorious Messianic vision of the final age.
Matthew 15:29ff. Jesus , out of compassion for the crowd, multiplies the loaves and fishes, so that all eat their fill.
First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.
Gospel: Matthew 15:29-37
After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way. ” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish. ” Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
A Paradise created by the Spirit
Isaiah announced the work of the Spirit and Jesus rejoiced in it. This Spirit seems fragile and tender. If we judge from these two passages of Isaiah and Luke, the Spirit leads to a scene of paradise where “the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. ” Such seeming fairy-tales are hidden from the learned and the clever, and revealed to the merest children.
The passage from Isaiah may seem as innocent as a fairy-tale, yet beneath its simple images a terrifying truth is hidden. The image of “the stump of Jesse and . . . his roots” tells us that the mighty Davidic dynasty has been cut down like a tree to the ground. Nothing remains but a dry stump and some hidden roots. When this tree had been cut down by the Babylonians in 587 B. C. the people were shocked into the realization that the Davidic dynasty was really not eternal. Yet, through the prophet Nathan God has assured David: “your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sam 7:16). What they had believed from the obvious meaning of these words was not what God intended. In shock the author of Psalm 89 cried out: “You have rejected and spurned . . . your anointed. . . . You have hurled his throne to the ground. How long, O Lord? (Ps 89:39, 45, 47).
The prophet could not repudiate the tradition of the Davidic dynasty. God must always be true to his word. The dynasty in some way will revive. The spirit of the Lord will rest upon the stump and the roots of Jesse. That same Holy Spirit is now resting upon us and especially upon those parts of ourselves which seem dead and maybe betrayed. We must believe that God inspires no honourable desire nor offers any promise that will not be fulfilled. Yet the accomplishment of these divinely placed ideals will often enough come about in ways that we can never imagine. We should never restrict God by our understanding of his promises.
Right here we see the reason behind the fairy-tale that follows in Chapter 11 of Isaiah. Perhaps the calf and the young lion will never browse together. Perhaps babies should never be allowed to play by the cobra’s den. Yet the dream of universal peace and gentle trust is so wonderful that not even our fairy-tales adequately measure up to it! When our faith dreams in these fantastic ways, Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit and says: “I offer you praise, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children. ”
Only strong and dedicated adults can remain persons of faith when their “Davidic dynasty” is cut down and nothing seems to remain of their hopes. All of us have lived through such harrowing experiences. What we were convinced was very good and inspired by God turned out to torture us with frustration. All of us who have dreamed our best dreams have felt betrayed by what we considered our very best! People who hope for little, lose little and suffer less. Our best and most unselfish hopes, which provide every evidence of being from God, let us down the hardest.
When we are “hoping against hope” (Rom 4:18) then we glimpse what kings and prophets longed to see but did not see. Somehow or other by faith we secretly realize that deeply imbedded in our losses there abides a potential for goodness beyond our imagination.
When married people are unable to have their own children or when they lose their only child in death, they must believe that their divinely inspired ideals of a family will be fulfilled in ways beyond the seeming powers of nature. When women and men follow God’s call into consecrated celibacy, their ability and desire for intimate love and for their own children are not simply sacrificed like innocent lambs before a strange deity who asks the denial of what he creates and blesses.
It seems that when we have done our best, that best must collapse so that God’s dreams for us may be fulfilled. Only when we offer to God our best spontaneously with full risk of not knowing the consequences, can God transform us beyond our fairy-tales and wildest imagination. At the heart of our existence then lies a mystery which no one knows except Jesus and the heavenly Fa- ther – “and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal” it. This mystery is Jesus himself, a child stripped of divinity to communicate God to us, a human being destined to be stripped of humanity on the cross of death to reveal how we ought to live. Isaiah declared that “the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as the water covers the sea. ” The mystery of who we are teems all around us. Like a child – like Jesus – we must rejoice in the Holy Spirit.
Lord, grant us the strength to dream out our best thoughts, the heroism to persevere through their collapse, the childlikeness to be reborn anew so that the mystery of your hopes be manifest in our lives. No life, lost in you, is ever lost, only transformed into its most mysterious possibility.