On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, Look, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.
After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." The disciples said to him, "Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?" Jesus asked them, "How many loaves have you?" They said, "Seven, and a few small fish." Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.
Isaiah had a great feeling of hope for the future, when the Messiah would bring in God’s new age and the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food. For the early Christians, this vision must have seemed on the verge of fulfilment in the work of Jesus – and especially in his miracles of feeding the people. They knew him as one who nurtured others, and wanted them to enjoy the fullness of life.
In our church at times we seem too caught up in enforcing laws and discipline, however well intended, so that some are excluded from the joy of eucharistic communion on account of their lapses from matrimonial fidelity. In our time, clergy and laity are re-thinking what Our Lord would want by way of disposition, in order to be allowed receive this gift of the Bread of Life. "Lord, I am not worthy… But only say the word!"
Dear, nurturing Lord Jesus, grant us the strength to dream our hopes aloud and to share them with others, the courage to persevere through apparent failure, and the childlike hope to be reborn anew so that the mystery of your promises may be manifest in our lives.
Elevated ground features in both the Readings today. Isaiah speaks of a mountain where the Lord will be the host at a great banquet, of rich food and fine wines, far from all mourning, sadness and shame, and where even death itself will no longer hold us in fear. This is a vision which lifts us beyond the world as we know it towards another world where all is as God wants it to be. In the gospel, Jesus goes up into the hills and large crowds go up the hills after him. There in the hills of Galilee, Jesus gives speech to the dumb, mobility to the lame, sight to the blind. He goes on to feed the hungry with very limited resources. He feeds them so well that all ate as much as they wanted, and, even then, there were seven baskets full left over.
The Isaiah vision becomes partially realised in the gospel, showing how God wants us to have life and to have it to the full. Saint Irenaeus famously said that the glory of God is the human person fully alive. In the gospel, the Lord needed others to bring the sick to him; he needed the disciples to help him feed the crowd. He continues to need us if his life-giving work is to get done. Advent calls on all of us to be instruments of the Lord’s life-giving and healing presence in the world. In Advent we pray, "Come Lord Jesus." We also offer ourselves as channels for the Lord’s coming.