06Dec 6th December. Saturday of Advent, Week 1

Memorial of Saint Nicholas, bishop.

Nicholas (Nikolaos, 270-343) was bishop of Myra in Lycia, southern Turkey. Because of many miracles attributed to him, he was known as a Thaumaturgos (wonderworker). He was famous for secret gift-giving, and so became the model for Santa Claus, a contraction of “Saint Nicholas”. In 1087, some of the saint’s relics were taken to Bari, southern Italy; since then he is also known as Nicholas of Bari.

First Reading: Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26

The coming days of enlightenment, when the people turn aside from idolatry.

Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more.
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you.

Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction,
yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.

And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left,
your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Then you will defile your silver-covered idols and your gold-plated images.
You will scatter them like filthy rags; you will say to them, “Away with you!”

He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground,
and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous.
On that day your cattle will graze in broad pastures;
and the oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat silage,
which has been winnowed with shovel and fork.

On every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water
— on a day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
Moreover the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun,
and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days,
on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people,
and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

Gospel: Matthew 9:35 -10:1; 6-8

Jesus sends his twelve apostles to spread the gospelto the lost sheep of the house of Israel

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

He told them, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. ‘ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.


Widening horizons

Isaiah seems more adventurous than Jesus today. The prophet implies the immediate presence of God to his people: “No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher”; while Jesus sends out others to cure sickness and disease instead of doing so himself. Isaiah’s vision sweeps across the world, “over high mountains and lofty hill”, whereas Jesus confines the apostolate of the twelve to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel. ”

But in fact, Jesus was no less adventurous than Isaiah. The man from Nazareth had a profound grasp of the Scriptures, especially Isaiah whom he quotes in his inaugural address in the home synagogue (Luke 4:16-22). But Jesus obeyed the inspirations of his heavenly Father and this compliance called for a process of development. His saving work consisted in the transformation of people rather than in the accomplishment of mighty miracles. He had to adapt himself to the tempo of the gradual turning of our mind and heart toward God.

Although at first Jesus worked only with the house of Israel, he was continually giving hints and signals of his heart’s desire to embrace the world. The adventurous missionaries with Isaiah’s spirit keep alive similar hopes and desires in our hearts. At home we could become very selfish with all our good gifts, were it not for these labourers who go to the harvest areas of the world. “What you have freely received, give freely as a gift.” This Advent we prepare to celebrate the new birth of Jesus within our hearts and our church. May such good gifts close at home make us desire that our great Teacher no longer hide himself but enable all men and women to see him with their own eyes.