The theme of today’s Readings is the abundance that comes from God.
Let’s start with the 1st Reading. The 1st Reading describes the mountain of the Lord. There are 2 details, I would like to emphasize.
The 1st detail is: “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines”. With the Lord, there is only extravagant generosity and excessive plenty.
The 2nd detail is: On this mountain, the Lord “will swallow up death forever”. In other words, pain, sorrow, suffering, grief and death will be destroyed. Having put death to death, what else is left for the Lord to give us? What else could we possibly need? With the Lord, we lack nothing. With the Lord, there is perfect abundance.
This theme of perfect abundance that comes from God is also reinforced in the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”. This passage ought to be more than just words recited at a Funeral.
In one of his talks, Fr. Henri Nouwen encourages us to take this 1st sentence of the 23rd Psalm and repeat it and repeat it every day until it penetrates the core of our being. The goal is to repeat “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” until this truth is planted deep within us. There are no improvements that God can make in sharing his abundance and plenty with us.
Today’s liturgy is inviting us to make the mindset of Psalm 23 an integral part of our daily living. When discouragement, frustration and disappointment come, with great trust and confidence, let us pray, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want”. When pain, sorrow, suffering and grief arrive, with great confidence and trust, let us pray, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want”. In the midst of anxiety and uncertainty caused by this pandemic, with great confidence and trust, let us pray, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want”.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Gospel. Notice in the Gospel that Jesus “went up the mountain”. This wording is not an accident. Matthew wants us to realize that Jesus is here to make the day of the Lord promised in the 1st Reading a reality among us. I would like to highlight 3 actions of Jesus on the mountain.
The 1st action is that Jesus shows genuine care and concern about the crowd. Not only does Jesus cure the sick. When he notices the people are tired, hungry and worn out, he wants to deal with it. Jesus is unwilling to send them away with such needs. God’s compassion is unconditional, unlimited and unending. God desperately wants to supply all our needs.
Jesus’ 2nd act deals with the multiplication of the loaves and fish. We are all very familiar with the account of the multiplication of the loaves and fish found in John. In John’s Gospel, there are 5 loaves and 2 fish. Afterwards, there are 12 baskets full of leftovers. We are less familiar with the account from Matthew, which is the one we heard today. There are significant differences between the 2 accounts for very important reasons.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus multiplies 7 loaves and a few small fish. After everyone in the enormous crowd has been satisfied, there are 7 baskets full of leftovers.
The number “seven” in the Bible stands for perfection. The Bible begins and ends with the number “seven”. Genesis, the 1st Book of the Bible describes the 7 days of creation. Revelation, the last book of the Bible, describes 7 churches, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls of plagues leading to the final victory in heaven.
Therefore, the fact that there are 7 loaves before the miracle and 7 full baskets after the miracle is not a coincidence.
The message is that with the Lord, we lack nothing. God loves and takes care of his people. All needs, all hungers are fully satisfied in a great and perfect abundance. With God, there is even plenty in the leftovers. God fills all emptiness and lack – at the bodily, mental, emotional, psychological, relational, moral and spiritual levels.
Jesus’ 3rd act is that he does not give out the food himself; he asks his disciples to distribute the food.
One of the authors on the web page “Sacred Space” wrote this commentary on today’s Gospel: “If there is hunger, malnutrition and other unmet needs, it is because we, God’s stewards, are failing in our task of distribution. If there is hunger and suffering and death, it is not the work of God. It is our failure to do God’s work”.
Matthew West, is an American Christian musician. One of his hit songs is titled, “Do Something”. Here are some of the lyrics from the song.
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
God said, “I did do something. I created you”
As Christians, we are not just the recipients of God’s extravagant and perfect abundance. Our call is to be agents of distribution of this abundance in our lives. We are called to collaborate with God in meeting the needs of others.
Pope Francis made these remarks in his message for the World Day of the Poor on November 15: “We cannot feel all right when any member of the human family is left behind in the shadows”. What the Pope is saying is that what we have received, we, in turn, are called to give to others.
As we continue to journey through this Advent season, let us offer 2 prayers to God.
First, with joyful praise, let us thank God for his perfect abundance in our lives. May we rely on this saving abundance. In the depths of our hearts, may we be convinced that we lack nothing.
Second, having received abundance, may God help us to sharers of abundance. May we respond in generous service to the needs of those we meet in our daily lives.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
December 2, 2020