St Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the Church (Memorial)
Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "this is the way; walk in it." Then you will defile your silver-covered idols and your gold-plated images. You will scatter them like filthy rags; you will say to them, "away with you!"
He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. On that day your cattle will graze in broad pastures; and the oxen and donkeys that till the ground will eat silage, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. On every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water -- on a day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. Moreover the light of the moon will be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, like the light of seven days, on the day when the Lord binds up the injuries of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.
Praise the Lord for he is good;
sing to our God for he is loving:
to him our praise is due.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem
and brings back Israel's exiles. (R./)
He heals the broken-hearted,
he binds up all their wounds.
He fixes the number of the stars;
he calls each one by its name. (R./)
Our Lord is great and almighty;
his wisdom can never be measured.
The Lord raises the lowly;
he humbles the wicked in the dust. (R./)
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
He told them, "Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
The Isaiah text seems more exciting than the gospel in today's liturgy. The prophet implies the immediate presence of God: "No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher." Jesus' words in the gospel seem more cautious. He sends out the twelve to cure sickness and disease instead of doing these works of mercy himself. And where Isaiah's vision sweeps universally across mountains and hills, across the heavens where "the light of the moon will be like that of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times greater," Jesus seems to confine the apostolate of the twelve to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But in fact, Jesus was no less adventurous than the prophecy. This son of Nazareth had a profound grasp of the Scriptures, especially Isaiah whom he quoted during his inaugural address in the hometown synagogue (Luke 4:16-22). We know from the temptation scene how anxious Jesus was to break loose as soon as possible and to fulfill all the promises. More than anything else, however, he was obedient to the will of his heavenly father. Even now the spirit of Isaiah stirs within the hearts of some of our fellow-disciples, whose generous hearts are prompted to go to foreign lands. Others are drawn to profound prayer and seek a contemplative way of life. Still others will be fired with hopes so adventurous as to seem impractical and unreal, as they see "the light of the moon . . . like that of the sun and the light of the sun . . . seven times greater!"
Although Jesus worked only with the house of Israel, he was continually giving hints and signals of his heart's desire to embrace the world. The adventurous missionaries help to keep alive similar hopes and desires in our hearts. At home we could become very selfish with all our good gifts, were it not for these labourers who go to the harvest areas of the world. "What you have freely received, give as a gift. " This Advent we prepare to celebrate the new birth of Jesus within our families and parishes. May such good gifts close at home make us desire that our great Teacher no longer hide himself but enable everyone to see with their own eyes.
The Gospels rarely refer to the emotions of Jesus. But today, Matthew notes that when Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. "Compassion" is a powerful emotion by which we identify with the situation of others and are moved to action. Jesus' compassion for the crowd expressed itself in two ways in the gospel. He told his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his harvest. These harassed and dejected people need workers to journey with them and to lead them. What he did was to appoint some workers himself. He summoned twelve from his disciples and empowered them to extend his own life-giving presence to others who may not meet Jesus personally. Where do we find ourselves in that gospel reading? Sometimes we may be among those who are harassed and dejected. If so, the gospel assures us that the Lord is with us in our valley of darkness; he is always drawing near to us in his compassion. At other times we may be among the workers whom the Lord wants to send into his harvest to journey with those who are harassed and dejected. If so, the gospel assures us that in sending us the Lord will also empower us for the work he is asking us to do.