Wednesday, December 02, 2015

On This Mountain

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.  Isaiah 25:6-8A

The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?”  Matthew 15:33

Jesus, we know that we can never have enough to feed everyone who is hungry.  Help us work together in a spirit of collaboration so that we can do more as a community with your spirit and guidance than we can ever do alone. Amen.

The difference between what we can do alone and what we can do with the help of Jesus is portrayed in its richest detail by Matthew telling this story.

The disciples know that they have “seven loaves and a few fish.”  What they fail to recognize is that they also have Jesus.  The disciples have no idea what is about to happen despite the string of miracles that they have seen in recent days:
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. Matthew 15:30-31

The notes to the New American Bible remind us that the feeding of the four thousand is the only miracle of Jesus that is recounted in all four gospels.  Clearly this foreshadows and anticipates the Eucharist and the final banquet in the kingdom.  However, the story also looks backwards and builds off historical “food” narratives such as the feeding of Israel with manna in the desert at the time of the Exodus. 

Why?  Eating is one of the basic needs in the Maslow hierarchy.  If we are hungry, then we do not have the energy for any higher purpose (corporal works of mercy) that Jesus calls us to do.  If we are hungry, then we do not have the energy to pursue piety, study, action or hospitality to others.  Jesus takes care of these needs (as well as the needs of the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute and many others) not as an end in themselves but as a means of removing the obstacles so that we will grow in our faith and do something more. 

To underscore the point, Jesus makes this miracle happen by helping us serve out of our scarcity, not out of our excess or abundance.  Just like the lesson of the poor widow giving up her last mite, the disciples give up their last few loaves and fishes for the good of all.

Whether serving a feast on a mountaintop in the Book of the prophet Isaiah or on a hillside in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord is there to provide for us so that we can, in turn, provide for him through service to others.
Last Saturday, I was on a shift to sell Christmas trees at the Historic St. Mary’s Church.  It was only two days after Thanksgiving and I thought that no one would be out buying a fresh tree so early in the season.  Was I ever wrong!  

Starting at 9 a.m., we had a steady stream of shoppers who drove away with all variety, sizes, and shapes of Christmas trees tied to the roof of their car, SUV or in the back of their pick-up truck.  These people could have gone to any nursery to buy a tree.  Yet they chose to come and buy a tree from the Knights of Columbus Council 8600.  The council's Christmas tree sales program is one of the largest contributors to the many charities supported by the council such as Marian Homes (, an organization that has three current homes for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

These customers and the 750 others who will buy a tree from the Knights have a choice.  They choose to get a tree that not only helps to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace but also will bring his spirit into the community and build the kingdom long after the decorations are packed away and the tree sits in a compost pile.

How has the Lord provided for you?  How can you build in added service and action to your daily, weekly and other tasks to do more?  How can you leverage what you do every day in order to put Catholic Social Teaching into practice?  It can be through something as simple as where you buy your Christmas tree or buying Christmas gifts for others in need.  

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