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,
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.
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 shows a powerful premonition of God's energising presence: "No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher." Jesus' words in the gospel also point to a better future. He sends out the twelve to cure sickness and disease in his name. But where Isaiah's vision has a universal tone, sweeping across the heavens where "the light of the moon will be like that of the sun," Jesus seems to confine the mission of the twelve to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But as his ministry developed, the vision of Jesus was no less adventurous than that of Isaiah. This son of Nazareth was well aware of Isaiah whom he quoted in his inaugural sermon in the hometown synagogue (Luke 4:16-22). His vision of how his life would end was: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.(John 12). Even in our own time this spirit of universal compassion stirs in the generous hearts of some of our fellow-Christians, who are prompted to go on mission to foreign lands. Others are drawn to a life of prayer and seek the contemplative life. The call to mission and ministry still out there, for people to ponder and perhaps to follow.
Though Jesus worked only with the house of Israel, he gave hints of his heart's desire to embrace the world. The missionaries help to keep these hopes and desires alive in our church. Staying in the comfort of home we could become selfish and complacent, were it not for these others who go to out the harvest areas of the world. They need our support. "What you have freely received, freely give." This Advent we prepare to celebrate a new surge of Christ-life in ourselves and our parishes. May our good gifts be shared with those who go out on mission in the name of Jesus.
The Gospels rarely refer to the emotions of Jesus. But today, Matthew notes how Jesus had compassion for the crowds because they were 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. 1) 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. 2) Then he appointed 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.[MH]