Reflections

Saturday in the 1st Week of Advent, December 7, 2019

Jesus Christ, Compassionate God Made Manifest
Introduction
God is compassionate. He cannot let his people suffer. This compassion of God has become visible in the person of Christ.
The Old Testament text, perhaps an elaboration on Isaiah’s thoughts by a later author, promises restoration to God’s people after their conversion. God will take pity on his people. He promises freedom from evil, sickness, famine, violence, and injustice, provided that people will realize their own poverty and inability to live as they should by their own powers. God will work these things in people and with people.
In the New Testament, Jesus will go out to encounter us and to help us out. He sends out his Church, even today, to encounter people in their miseries and to alleviate all suffering.

1 Reading: Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
Thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, no more will you weep; He will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you. The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or to the left. He will give rain for the seed that you sow in the ground, And the wheat that the soil produces will be rich and abundant. On that day your flock will be given pasture and the lamb will graze in spacious meadows; The oxen and the asses that till the ground will eat silage tossed to them with shovel and pitchfork. Upon every high mountain and lofty hill there will be streams of running water. On the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall, The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater like the light of seven days. On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people, he will heal the bruises left by his blows.

Responsorial Psalm: 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (see Isaiah 30:18d) Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers. R.

Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name. R.

Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Great is our LORD and mighty in power:
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground. R.

Alleluia: Isaiah 33:22
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The LORD is our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King;
he it is who will save us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Matthew 9:35–10:1, 5A, 6-8
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for his harvest.” Then he summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Commentary
The Matthean Jesus had an earthly mission to the Jewish people. The disciples today are sent exclusively to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is only after his resurrection in Matthew that Jesus commissions his disciples to the world at large.
The Jews are closer to Christians than any other believers. While we lack agreement on certain basic issues, we share a common scriptural heritage and other shared beliefs. Unfortunately, our parallel histories carry many scars. Christian attitudes toward the Jews historically made a contribution to anti-Semitism, even though, as Pius XI stated, we are spiritually Semites. Advent is a time for some honest soul searching. What strains of anti-Jewish feelings are present in our lives?
The lament of today’s Gospel that the harvest is ripe but the harvesters few has a sobering ring in our time. In fact, it is a wake-up call. Certainly, we must beg the master for more workers but also draw on our own resources to work toward a solution. In many countries, the number of Catholics increases each year by the thousands, while the number of priests continually decreases. In some parts of Europe and Americas “Priestless Sunday” has become an all-too-common expression where this was never the case before. It is very likely that some important adjustments will have to be made in the future if we are to remain Eucharistic communities.
But there is a bright sign to the “harvest question” as well. The word ministry was long applied only to clerics, but today its meaning has expanded extensively. Ministers of varied descriptions populate our parishes today. With ever-greater clarity we see ourselves as “one body with many members,” all making their contribution to the whole.
Surely, the needs of the harvest are not being completely met, but new labourers, now performing various functions, are rising to the challenge.

Blessing
Jesus had compassion on the leaderless crowd. May God give us compassionate hearts that care for people with patience and in the spirit of service. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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