Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 2, 2015 — Our abundance comes from God

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 177

Reading 1 IS 25:6-10A

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.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R. (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 15:29-37

At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there.
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.Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.”
The disciples said to him,
“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?”
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.
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Art: Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (2001) by Vasili Nesterenko
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Commentary on Matthew 15:29-37 From Living Space
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The readings are about the abundance that comes from God. This is what salvation means – the fulfilling of all our needs: spiritual, emotional, social and physical. In the Gospel, full of trust and confidence, people bring their lame, the crippled, the blind and dumb. Jesus healed them all and the crowds were amazed. There then comes a scene which is a kind of parable of what Jesus stands for: the compassion of God and his desire that the needs of all be supplied. They have been with him for three days and are hungry. They must be fed. There’s not much to feed them with – seven loaves of bread and a few fish. It is enough for Jesus. And again and again people who have dedicated themselves to caring for the hungry and homeless have found what they needed turning up on their doorstep.
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At the end seven (a perfect number) baskets are still left uneaten. All this symbolises the care God takes of his people. And yet, where is it happening in so many parts of the world today? There is a crucial element in today’s Gospel we cannot overlook. It was not Jesus but his disciples who distributed the food. In our world there is an abundance. Food production outpaces population growth. 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 work.
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Christmas is a time of giving. We could ask ourselves: To whom are we giving? With whom are we sharing what we have or can afford to buy? Perhaps we could widen the circle this Christmas with gifts that mean life or death for the receivers. Beneficiaries who will never know who their benefactors are and who will not be able to give anything back. Did Jesus not say something about giving so quietly that the left hand will not know what the right hand is doing?
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 DECEMBER 2015, Wednesday, 1st Week of Advent
CHRIST THE HOPE OF OUR SALVATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: IS 25:6-10; PS 22:1-6; MT 15:29-37

What the world needs most today is hope.  Truly, many people live without much hope for tomorrow.  They do not have a future.  Some are just dragging their feet each day, going through the drudgery of life, and drifting through life.  They live without purpose and without meaning.  At the same time, we have to contend with life’s challenges, pain and sicknesses, division, injustices, betrayals, addictions, work and financial difficulties.  Indeed, when you are left alone, because your spouse has left you and even your children, upon growing up, have abandoned you, life becomes empty and meaningless.

If we are in this situation, then the scripture readings present Jesus as our Hope.  Advent is a season of Hope.  We are asked to look forward to the New Year with hope and confidence.  This hope is not an imaginary paradise but based on Christ who is the Hope of humanity.  Indeed, He is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah who said: “That day, it will be said: See, this is our salvation; the Lord is the one in whom we hoped. We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us; for the hand of the Lord rests on this mountain.”

How is Jesus the fulfillment of the Hope of Israel and that of humanity?

Firstly, Jesus is the New Moses who will shepherd His people, the One who will ascend the Mountain of Jerusalem. St Matthew deliberately mentioned at the beginning of the gospel that when “Jesus reached the shores of the Sea of Galilee… he went up into the hills.”  Going up to the hill to teach reminds us of Moses who went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Commandments from God.  Jesus is the teacher of the New Covenant, just as Moses was the teacher of the Old Covenant.   That is why we sing in the responsorial psalm.  “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.”   In fact, in the gospel, we have Jesus who sat down like a teacher and taught the crowd for three days and they listened to Him attentively, almost as if they were on a retreat with the Lord.

Secondly, Jesus is the fulfillment of the One who gives hope to us by leading us out of darkness into His wonderful light.   To underscore this as well, St Matthew began by saying that He “reached the shores of the Sea of Galilee.”  This is a reference to his earlier citation in Mt 4:15f from the prophet Isaiah 9:1f who said, “The land of Zeb′ulun and the land of Naph′tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”  Again the responsorial psalm reiterates this message when it says, “He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.”

Thirdly, not only is Jesus our shepherd who gives us hope, but He fulfills our hopes.  We read in the gospel how in His compassion, like a shepherd for His sheep, He healed all those who were sick, crippled in life, blind, whether physically or spiritually, possessed and wounded. St Matthew noted, “large crowds came to him bringing the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb and many others; these they put down at his feet, and he cured them.  The crowds were astonished to see the dumb speaking, the crippled whole again, the lame walking and the blind with their sight, and they praised the God of Israel.”  He is our healer.

Fourthly, as the hope of humanity, He fulfills our hunger.  The prophet Isaiah says, “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wine, of food rich and juicy, of wine strained wines.”  This prophecy is fulfilled in Christ when we read in the gospel how He multiplied bread and fish to feed the crowd of four thousand.  As if it was not marvelous enough that He could feed all with only seven loaves and a few small fish, after eating as much as they wanted, “they collected what was left of the scraps, seven baskets full.”   Of course, we know that the multiplication of loaves anticipates the Eucharist, His own body and blood that He gave to us at the Last Supper.  Indeed, today we still continue this feast whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, when He comes to feed us with His Word and nourish us with the Bread of Life and allow us to touch Him sacramentally in the Eucharist. That is why with the psalmist, we sing, “In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.  You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.”   With Jesus, our spiritual hunger is filled by His love and by His Word.

Fifthly, Jesus is the Hope of humanity because He takes away all our sins and guilt.  Many of us are not able to forgive ourselves, especially the mistakes that we have made in life.  At times, we cannot forgive the mistakes of others and those who have hurt us or have been unfaithful to us.  Jesus comes to assure us that our sins are forgiven.  Through the sacrament of baptism, He has restored our dignity as the children of God by forgiving us our sins.  As the prophet said, “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every cheek; he will take away his peoples shame everywhere on earth, for the Lord has said so.”  Even when we sin today, let us remember that no sin is too difficult for the Lord to forgive.  All sins can be forgiven unless we do not want to be forgiven.  The Lord does not want us to live in shame.  He invites us to come and seek forgiveness and healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Finally, Jesus is our Hope, indeed, the last and the fullness of Hope because by His death and resurrection, He has taken away our fear of death and our attachment to this earthly life.  Indeed, Isaiah had already prophesied, “On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations, he will destroy Death for ever.”  As the psalmist says, “Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.  In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever. ”   With Jesus, we no longer need to fear death because we will live with the Lord forever in His dwelling where there is eternal rest, peace, love and reunion with God and with our loved ones.

Having recognized that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, the Hope of humanity, what must we do?  We must respond to His invitation to find hope.  Advent therefore is an invitation to take the step of coming to Jesus to find hope in life again by connecting with Jesus.  If we want to renew our hope in life and refresh ourselves, we must listen to Him attentively by praying the Word of God daily, receiving Him in Holy Communion, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation for healing and reconciliation. Indeed, Jesus our Good Shepherd is full of compassion for us.  He cares for us more than we think.  He knows our needs as He told His disciples, “I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them off hungry, they might collapse on the way.”  He wants to strengthen us in our journey of life.

Secondly, we must also be like the disciples who supplied Jesus with the seven loaves and a few small fishes.  For those who have been blessed by Him, we are called to be the channels of His hope to humanity.  We are called to play our part by reaching out to others in compassion and service.  We should take the initiative of reconciling with those whom we have hurt, or with those who have hurt us.  We can visit our elderly who are lonely or sick.  We could give encouragement to our colleagues or children or friends who need our support because they feel so alone in their struggles and pains.   We can also reach out to the poor and those who are hungry and without support.  Most of all, let us be a light and hope to others by enlightening them, by giving them a smile, or reaching out to them in service and love.  In this way, we become the hope of Christ for others.   Only then will others truly believe that Christ is the Hope of humanity because they can see that our hope in Christ has transformed us to be people of Hope as well.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Look at the words: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given.
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This is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus did with the loaves and the fish — and this is what Jesus does again at The Last Supper.
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Jesus does this over and over again in the Mass — and with us in our lives.
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Whenever we are broken we can return to Him. We can be taken, blessed, broken and given back to Him.
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Archbishop Goh has said, “Without hope, everything will end in nihilism.”
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Nihilism says that life is without objective meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth if we follow Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
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Related:
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Our thanks and prayers go out to Fr. Henri Nouwen who has been my excellent teacher.
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Fr. Henri Nouwen

In Henri Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved” he outlines four words that he believes are central to the spiritual lives of Christians,

“To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use for words: taken, blessed, broken and given. These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it and give it. These words also summarize my life as a Christian, because, as a Christian, I am called to become bread for the world: break that is taken, blessed, broken and given. Most importantly, however, they summarize my life as a human being because in every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessings, the breaking and the giving are happening.” (Life of the Beloved, 41-42)

The radical difference between the way God works and the way the world works is that the world only uses 2 of the four. The world takes and breaks with no idea of how to bless and give. Praise God that we have a Father who knows us and loves us enough to give us exactly what we need and then turn right around and use us to be a blessing to others through the experiences we have walking with God…being taken by him, blessed by him, experiencing brokenness through him and with him and then being given for others.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26

Nouwen says, we are now that bread….

http://mattdabbs.com/2014/07/28/taken-blessed-broken-given-we-are-the-bread/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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ONLY THE BREAD OF LIFE CAN SATISFY US

SCRIPTURE READINGS: NUM 11:4-15; MT 14:13-21

We see a parallel between the incidents presented in today’s scripture readings.  Both groups of people were at the desert and they were hungry.  Moses and the disciples of Jesus were also challenged to feed the crowd.  In the end, both groups were given the Bread of Heaven.  But the similarities between them go only as far as these.   The contrast between them is more remarkable.

In the first place, the Israelites during the time of Moses were always grumbling and complaining.  They were never satisfied.  They complained that they did not have the basic necessities, that is, they had no bread.  After God had showered the manna on them; they complained about not having meat.  Then God sent them the quails.  But the demands of the Israelites did not end here.  Yes, the desires of the people could not be satisfied.   In exasperation, Moses, burdened by his responsibility of leading the people from Egypt, complained to God and wanted to end his life.  He felt he could no longer lead the people whom God asked him to deliver from the hands of the Egyptians.

In contrast, the Jews during the time of Jesus never complained.  They were hungry undoubtedly.  But it was the disciples of Jesus who were sensitive to their predicament.  They proposed to Jesus that He dismiss the crowd so that they could buy food for themselves.  However, Jesus responded by telling His disciples that they feed the people themselves.  And in the end, the people were fed with just five loaves and two fish and they had leftovers.

The question is, why did the people during the time of Jesus not complain and could easily be satisfied with a few loaves and two fish whereas the Israelites in the desert were dissatisfied even though they had manna and meat?   The real problem lies in this – they did not receive the Bread of Life before they received the bread for their physical needs.  That is to say, because they had not received the heart of God, they remained restless and discontented.  Furthermore, because they failed to listen to God’s word, they began to lack trust in God’s love and providential care.

On the other hand, the disciples and the Jews listened to the preaching of Jesus first.  Thus, after receiving the Bread of Life from Jesus, they began to understand the essentials of life.  Firstly, they understood the Father’s love and His providence.  They did not doubt that God would look after their needs.  The disciples trusted in Jesus when He told them to bring the five loaves and two fish so that these could be shared by all.

Secondly, after listening to Jesus, the disciples and the Jews realized thatmore than physical food, love and service are even more important.  And it is not improbable that the five loaves and two fish symbolized each person taking out what little he or she had to share with the others.  In this way, the food was multiplied and there were leftovers at the end of the meal.  Whatever it is, the fact remains that all of them were truly satisfied even if they had not much to eat.

Hence, we can see that people who have no spiritual life and who have no desire for the deeper things of life will always live on the peripheral level, pursuing mundane things which do not give them real and lasting satisfaction.  Inevitably, they will always remain dissatisfied.  But when a person has been touched by the love of God; or when he comes to understand the deeper realities of life as he comes to know God, then he would realize that all that he has in life are insignificant, compared to the greater joy he has found in being with God and his fellow human beings.  Why is that so?  As scripture says “Man does not live by bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” Because man is a spiritual being, he constantly searches to be united with His Creator. St Augustine understood this when he exclaimed in revelation “Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee.” When we have found true joy and love in the Lord, there is very little else that we need.

Consequently, if we want lasting fulfillment, we should “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be given as well.” How then, do we seek God and His Kingdom? It is by getting to know Jesus, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; No one can come to the Father except through me.” We have thus to be nourished by the Lord in prayer, the Word and the Eucharist. We are told that when the people heard that Jesus had left with his disciples in the boat, “leaving the towns, they went after him on foot.” Are we hungry for God? Do we make time in the hustle and bustle of our lives to be nourished by the Lord? Are spiritual retreats or holidays more a priority for us? More often than not, it is only when we are in crisis that we turn to the Lord, even blaming Him as the Israelites did.

Hence, unless we have received Jesus as the Bread of Life, the manna from Heaven, the Word of God, we can never be contented in life and our cravings will never cease.  But once we have the Life of God in us, everything else will be accepted gratefully; and even if we do not have them, we will not really miss them nor desire them. So today, let us not be afraid to bring our meager desire and efforts at spiritual growth to the Lord. “Bring them here to me” He said. “Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, raised His eyes to heaven and said the blessing. They all ate as much as they wanted.” Let us therefore take the first step to the Lord, and surely in His infinite mercy and love, He will not only satisfy our needs but will multiply the blessings abundantly, so that they will be shared joyfully with others.

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2 Responses to “Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 2, 2015 — Our abundance comes from God”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

  2. Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 2, 2015 — Our abundance comes from God | World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum. Says:

    […] Source: Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 2, 2015 — Our abundance comes from God […]

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