Nourished by God’s Word

08-02-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

The Business Community knows very well that nothing is for free, even when they announce “it is free!” They know, and we should know that somehow or somewhere along the chain of buying and selling, someone, usually we the buyers, will have to pay. The bald truth is that the ways of God are very different. Grace is free. God’s life is freely given. What this truth means for us is found in this weekend’s readings. The prophet Isaiah and the gospel writer Mat-thew tell us so much. The readings today reiterate this revelation. We are told this in the poetry of Isaiah, a letter from Paul, and a story from Matthew.

Scripture scholars know that the book of Isaiah is the work of at least three writers. This weekend we read and learn from “Second Isaiah,” the prophet and author of “the Book of Consolation.” The first Isaiah, called “Isaiah of Jerusalem,” had the painful job of warning Israel of impending disaster. Our Isaiah of this weekend wrote 150 years later. His role was easier than the first Isaiah. The foretold disaster of the first Isaiah did happen and Israel had gone into exile in Babylon. Second Isaiah picks up at this point and writes his Book of Consolation, which comprises chapters 40 through 55. We learn that the exile was ending and Isaiah is now announcing the good news of God’s deliverance. Isaiah proclaims that the Lord’s chosen remnant is indeed the blessed ones. They are in fact the beginning of a new creation, a new age, a new social order. Isaiah tells one and all that the Lord promises them refreshing water, ample enriching food for body and spirit, a renewal of the covenant once made with David.

Our Gospel passage has images and echoes similar to the second Isaiah. Like Isaiah, Jesus would have seen a motley and worn out gathering who were so hungry for deliverance that they followed Jesus “… on foot.” They had sought him out and then begged for personal deliverance. They listened intently to his every word. They did not pay attention to the day, the hour, or their distance from home. They also were hungry for food and water. The compassion Jesus felt for the crowds readily translated into his action for their physical well-being. Note that this came first.

We know the story of the loaves and fishes as well as the people of this story. They also knew the Jewish Scriptures very well. They knew of manna in the desert, first recorded in Exodus. They sang of this in many of the psalms—for example, 16, 78, 145. In the Jewish Scriptures banquets and suppers were constant images of the fullness of God. The crowds knew the verses from Isaiah: “You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come …” (55:1).The words once composed by Isaiah were a reality in Jesus. The promises had come true.

Jesus invites us to come to the holy banquet table at Mass and be fully fed and then go and take up our lives. Our Catholic vision of our Mass is that we are sent from Mass, nourished by God’s Word, and by the Bread of Life to proclaim the Good News.