JESUS IS THE FULFILLMENT OF HUMAN HOPE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 25:6-10; Ps 23:1-6; Mt 15:29-37 ]
The season of Advent is a season of Hope. The first week of Advent particularly focuses on this theme of hope. Hope is what pulls faith and charity along. Without hope, there is no faith to believe in God. Without hope, we give up doing all good, especially when evil seems stronger. So hope is necessary for one to put his faith in God and have the perseverance in love. But what is the basis of Christian hope? Our hope is in Christ. (cf 1 Tim 1:1)
What are our hopes in this life? We all seek freedom from pain and suffering. All of us are fearful of pain, especially physical pain. Those of us who are elderly are worried about who will look after us when we are demented or unable to take care of ourselves. The tragedy is that many of us do not take care of our health until when we get sick. Then we become desperate when medicine can no longer cure us even if we can afford the medical bill. This explains why when Jesus sat down to teach, “large crowds came to him bringing the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb and many others; these they put down at his feet.”
Secondly, we fear hunger and we hope that we always have abundance. Even if we are healthy, we are anxious about our material needs, whether we have enough food to eat, clothes to wear and place to stay. Perhaps, some of us have never gone hungry in life unless we have fasted. Hunger is an unbearable thing. We feel weak and unable to think, much less to work. It is because of our fear of the lack of material wants, that we pursue wealth like the rest of humanity. We are so anxious that we might never have enough and so we hoard our money and things in case we need them one day. We live in anxiety that we might not have enough money to give us a comfortable life till the day we die.
Thirdly, we fear loneliness and the departure of our loved ones. We all need friends and company. We are afraid to be alone, especially elderly people and those who are sick. There is nothing more assuring than to have someone with us when life is not certain. Even the very young feel secure only when their parents are with them to protect them from all harm and evil. We all desire friendship and companionship. There are many who are so fearful of loneliness that they would seek to get a partner at all costs. Some are not ready for marriage or for a relationship but because of desperation, they cling to the other person thinking that the person could take away their loneliness and fear. The truth is that no one can take away our loneliness.
Finally, we hope for fullness of life and eternal life. We fear death. For many, death is the end of everything. Those who do not believe in God cannot live fully because they know that life is temporary. Whatever they do or have will be taken away upon death, which could come any time. Moreover, when it comes unexpectedly, all the things we accumulate and build will have to be left behind. Then as St Paul said, “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (1 Cor 15:32) Indeed, life is meaningless when everything ends upon death. There is no reason to work hard, to build anything for the future because there is no future, there is only the present. Then we just live for today without any thought of tomorrow. This is what the world is doing. Many are just trying to grab as much as they can, enjoy all that is available to them. Who cares for the ecology? Who cares for the aging population? Most of us will be dead and gone before the crises set in. Therefore, if we do not have hope for tomorrow, then everyone would just live for himself or herself.
In response to the hopes of the world, the scripture readings provide us a certain hope. Our life will not end in futility. Pain, suffering, hunger and death will not be the last word. The prophet Isaiah says, “On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wine, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines. On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations, he will destroy Death for ever.” Indeed, this is the promise of God for all of us, Jews and Gentiles. “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every cheek; he will take away his peoples shame everywhere on earth, for the Lord has said so.”
How will He do this if not by giving us Christ as the fulfillment of our Hope. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in the responsorial psalm. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Jn 10:10f) Indeed, because Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He will lead us to fresh and green pastures where He gives us repose. He will revive our drooping spirit. He guides us along the right path. And if we should walk in the valley of darkness He is there with His crook and your staff.”
In the gospel, Jesus showed Himself to be our healer, taking away all our illnesses and sufferings. All those who were brought to Him, “He cured them. The crowds were astonished to see the dumb speaking, the cripples whole again, the lame walking and the blind with their sight, and they praised the God of Israel.” Today, Jesus continues to heal those who have faith in Him. Many have been miraculously healed through prayer, healing services and most of all, through the Eucharist. Jesus continues to heal through the Church and her ministers, especially in the Sacraments of the Sick and Reconciliation.
Jesus also showed Himself to be the one who feeds our hunger. In the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 thousand, St Matthew underscores that Jesus came not just to satisfy the hunger of the Jews but for all Gentiles as well. (cf Mt 14:13-21) When He multiplied the bread this time, he was in Gentile territory in the region of the Genneraset where He healed the sick. (cf Mt 14:34-36) Earlier on, He delivered the daughter of a Canaanite woman from the Evil One. Indeed, with Jesus, we can be assured of His divine providence for He will give us more than we need. At the end of the miracle, we note, “They all ate as much as they wanted and they collected what was left of the scraps, seven baskets full.” Not only does He feed our physical hunger, but Jesus as the Bread of Life gives us our daily bread so that we can live on the Word of God, find inspiration, encouragement and direction in life.
Jesus comes to take away our loneliness too. As the Bread of life, He comes to gather us together as one family to celebrate the banquet of life and love. The multiplication of loaves is but a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic celebration. Whenever we come together as the family of God, to worship and fellowship with each other, we receive support from the community. As Christians, we are never alone but we have each other to care for one another. Sharing in the Eucharistic banquet, we celebrate the Sacrament of unity and love. So not only are we blessed with rich food but also with loving and caring company.
Finally, Jesus comes to take away the fear of death. St Paul said, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor 15:19) In His incarnation, Jesus died so that He could help us conquer the fear of death. The letter to the Hebrews says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Heb 2:14f) With death overcome by Jesus’ death and resurrection, our life is complete. We know for certain that death is not the last word but eternal life with Christ.
This is what Vatican II in the Constitution of the Modern Church says, “The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved. She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history.” (GS 3) Truly, Jesus is the hope of every individual and every nation. “Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father.” (GS 22)
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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