‘Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd’ (Matthew 15: 33) ... fresh bread in Hindley’s Bakery in Tamworth Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Church of Ireland Theological Institute,
Wednesday, 4 December 2013,
8 a.m., The Eucharist (Holy Communion 2).
Isaiah 25: 6-10a; Psalm 23; Matthew 15: 29-37.
May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In both our readings this morning, the people are waiting on the mountain in expectation for their Lord.
The Lord is coming. And their expectations are met by this compassionate Lord providing them with food and drink in abundance.
In abundance … and beyond all their expectations, beyond all our expectations.
In our Old Testament reading, the banquet is not just for the Children of Israel, but for all the nations (verse 7), for people who were outsiders, considered outside the covenant.
In our Gospel reading, those who come to see Jesus, travelling across water and up mountainside, are outsiders too: the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. The senseless, the outsiders, the marginalised and the stereotyped.
The imagery could not have been lost on those who saw and those who listened. The Children of Israel came through water and to the side of the mountain at Mount Sinai to be brought into the covenant. Now the marginalised and the stereotype are being called into the new covenant, into a perfect relationship with the Lord God.
And for these who protest, those who claim the covenant is restricted, to one people, or one type, or one category – when we want to restrict God’s love to those who are most like ourselves – Jesus responds with a response that is pure compassion and that overflows with generosity.
I like to imagine it like this: every time we try to act as a lid on God’s compassion and grace and love, we behave just like the lid on a pressure cooker, and it bubbles up and pushes away our lid, and flows over the sides in uncontrollable abundance.
In the bidding prayer at the Advent Procession in Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday afternoon [1 December 2013, the First Sunday of Advent], we were called to pray first of all for those among whom Christ was born: “the cold, the hungry and the homeless; the victims of poverty, injustice and oppression, the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved; those in despair or in the shadow of death.”
Since Monday morning’s “Spirituality Hour” [2 December 2013], we have been reflecting in this chapel all this week on the meaning of Advent. But in our readings this morning, the Lord God not only reminds us of the meaning of Advent, in his compassion he also puts it into action.
I hope in this season of Advent, our reflections on the spirituality and meaning of Advent bear fruit in action, in action that is a sacramental pointer to what the promised and coming Kingdom is going to be like.
And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This reflection was shared at the Eucharist in the institute chapel on 4 December 2013.