Our readings for this Wednesday of the First Week of Advent are absolutely delicious! The Church provides for us this morning scrumptious Scriptures, delectable tidbits to munch on as we begin this Advent Season.
In Isaiah the Prophet, our responsorial psalm and in St. Matthew’s Gospel the focus today is on food. If you are hungry and thirsty for God then you have come to the right place!
Isaiah, who is our great prophet of hope every Advent, talks about the banquet of our salvation. He says that God will provide for us a delicious banquet “on this mountain” (Isaiah 25:6, 7, 10). What mountain is that? The one great mountain for the people of Israel to which Isaiah is referring is Mount Zion, Jerusalem:
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth.
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
Isaiah speaks of the "veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations" (Isaiah 25:7). He calls it by name: death. Death, in all its sorrow and despair, all its darkness and discouragement, God will destroy all of that “on this mountain.” And in its place He will provide for us a banquet:
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.
Yum! Isaiah reminds us that our salvation from death and the banquet of eternal life is not just a theological principle nor is it only a spiritual promise; it is something palpable, even physical. The God of heaven takes on human flesh and dwells among us. Isn’t that what we are celebrating here this Advent? Our salvation comes walking—quite literally—into our lives and takes His place “on this mountain.”
St. Matthew tells us this morning how Christ, the great King Himself, stands on the top of the mountain and breaks the bread that will be miraculously multiplied to feed the hungry crowd. It is a foreshadowing and a preparation for the gift of His body and blood to us in the Eucharist. Yet it is also a symbol for the sacrifice that He will make for our salvation on another mountain, Mount Calvary.
On that mountain Christ will allow His body to be broken on the altar of the cross and His blood to be poured out in love for the life of the world. That is the mountain where death is destroyed forever, the place where the veil which had veiled all peoples is lifted once and for all. Each time we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist we remember and truly make present that sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is re-presented to the Father and we come to recognize what the Psalmist meant this morning when he said:
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes…my cup overflows.
While the powers of darkness, the powers of Satan and of evil are constantly surrounding us and working so very hard to separate us from each other and separate us even from God, even then Christ the great King is spreading a table before us to nourish us and give us strength.
Have you thought of that lately? Has it occurred to you that in the midst of so many discouragements, so many disappointments and amidst all the tensions and difficulties that surround us all each day, God breaks into our lives to give us His strength? It is in the presence of those foes—whatever burdens we face each day—that God has set up His table on this mountain to give us His body and His blood; to provide a banquet of salvation even here, even now.
An important question we must ask ourselves this morning, though, is:
Am I prepared for that banquet?
Am I acquiring a taste for the things of God in my life?
Because the banquet of salvation and the things of God do not come automatically. They are indeed an acquired taste. We cannot drink deeply of the things of this world and eat richly from the table of this world and then also expect to be fully nourished at the banquet table of Christ.
Where are we being called to let go of the world and its pleasures a bit more this Advent? It might be a good thing, or even many good things that we are eating and drinking, but too much of a good thing can sometimes take us further away from the good God!
How is God challenging us to acquire a taste for the things of heaven and the drink deeply from this well and eat eagerly from this table where we are fed, nourished and strengthened with the bread of life and the cup of our eternal salvation?
How are we being called to acquire a taste for that heavenly banquet by being more attentive to the things we say to, or about, one another? Does our language and our speech build up the people around us or does it tear them down and devour?
Today let us be fed by Christ and strengthened in the Eucharist so that we may be all the more prepared to receive Him in the many ways He will come to us this Advent.