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(Part 18)


December 3, 2014

Today’s readings:
Isaiah 25:6-10
Psalm 23:1-6
Matthew 15:29-37

Today’s reading from Isaiah is about the celebration of the Lord’s banquet in Zion. It is a prophecy about the ultimate expression of our salvation, to be with the Lord forever in heaven.

“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 shall 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.” (Is 25:6-8).

That will be then. But how about now? Most people are poor and not only have no rich food and choice wines but many have hardly any food at all. The whole world is under the veil of darkness and evil imposed by the enemy. There is death everywhere, from the millions aborted to those killed in armed conflicts and crimes to those devastated by natural calamities and unnatural lifestyles (giving rise to HIV/AIDS and STDs). We are in a valley of tears. We are a people under reproach.

How about now? Well, in his time Jesus ministered to those in desperate need, also “up on the mountain” (Mt 15:29). “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.” (Mt 15:30).

Now Jesus not only healed them of their physical infirmities, but more importantly, he preached the gospel and healed their souls. Social action without spiritual conversion is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of humankind. After all, it is not just about liberation in this life, but the ultimate liberation in heaven.

Jesus also is not just concerned about extraordinary physical infirmities, but also about the ordinary bodily needs of people as they go from day to day. He wants to provide for their needs. “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.” (Mt 15:32a). Jesus is not only concerned about providing food for the soul, but also about food for the body. “I do not want to send them away hungry” (Mt 15:32b).

But how can the many who are in need be provided for? “The disciples said to him, ‘Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?’” (Mt 15:33). Where could we ever get enough food in the world to feed all those who are hungry? Well, there is enough food in the world, but the problem is selfishness and a lack of sharing. The first Christian community after Pentecost shared, with the result that there was no one in need.

So who will provide? God provides. God already provided, in the bountiful world we live in, and in the knowledge He gives man with which to make use of and build on such bounty. As such, as God’s stewards and instruments, we are to provide. We are the ones to minister to the poor.

How? First, we are to look to what we have and we are to share that. “Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ ‘Seven,’ they replied, ‘and a few fish.’” (Mt 15:34). Second, we are to look to God to multiply our resources. We are, again, not just to look to do social work, but inherent in such work is the spiritual dimension. This is God’s work, and not just man’s. “Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves” (Mt 15:36a). God will provide as we turn to Him in our need. Third, we are to allow God to use us as His instruments in His care for the poor. Jesus “gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.” (Mt 15:36b). God’s mercy is upon the poor, He hears their cry, He will attend to their needs, but He uses us to act on His behalf.

What happens when God and His human instruments become one in ministering to the poor? “They all ate and were satisfied.” (Mt 15:37a). There will be no one who is hungry, and there will be no one in need. But there is more. Love and caring generates more love and caring. Generosity breeds generosity. Those who are cared for become carers for others. The poor evolve from being just objects of charity to becoming subjects in the work with other poor. This is the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and its aftermath. “They picked up the fragments left over­seven baskets full.” (Mt 15:37b).

Is this not what salvation is all about? Has not God, from creation, provided richly for His creatures? Has not God sent us His Son to bring us salvation? Has not God desired to provide bountifully for His people? “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” (Ps 23:1). God will provide for our food and drink. “In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me” (Ps 23:2). God will provide for our spiritual nourishment; “he restores my soul.” (Ps 23:3a).

God provides for the here and now, and will provide for the hereafter. Our good and merciful God earnestly desires to provide for us, now and forever. “Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for endless days.” (Ps 23:6).

God’s salvation is about the soul and also the body. It is about total human liberation. We just need to go up the mountain to listen to Jesus and be ministered to by him. We just need to strive to go up to Mount Zion, the city of the living God. “For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain” (Is 25:10a).

We need to look to Jesus and accept him as Savior and Lord. “Indeed, this is our God; we looked to him, and he saved us! This is the Lord to whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” (Is 25:9).

When we look to Jesus, we also look to the poor. Jesus cares for the poor. Jesus identifies with the poor. What we do to the least of our brethren we do to Jesus.

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