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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
So what is a Messiah? Why do we need a Messiah? The season of Advent poses this question anew so that we see the importance of Jesus in our lives. The first reading is a prophecy from Isaiah about what the Messiah will bring: extravagant food, the end of barriers between peoples, the consolation of grief, and the destruction of death. In a word, the Messiah brings us salvation, and the Prophet Isaiah uses vivid language that manages to encompass the entire scope of that salvation that includes the entire human person: so not only the physical and material, but also emotional and spiritual dimensions.
Salvation brings life in every sense of the word. This salvation does much more than meet our needs, but blesses in abundance. It does not just feed, it gives a feast. It does not just console, it brings joy. It does not just forgive, it offers eternal life. In response to this incredible outpouring of goodness, the people exclaim: “This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
This messianic prophecy and the people’s response perfectly prefigure the Gospel reading. Jesus the Messiah goes up on a hill and heals every kind of sickness and then feeds the people abundantly. The people “were amazed . . . and glorified the God of Israel.” Jesus brings us salvation, the fulfillment in abundance of our every true need and desire. He feeds us with the bread of life, heals illness, comforts sorrow, forgives sin, and brings eternal life.
We need a Messiah because there is no other way to salvation. During this Advent season, we can take up the acclamation of the people in praise of our Lord Jesus Christ: “This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.
Lord, in this time of preparation, we look with anticipation upon our day. We believe if we are mindful, present to the moment, you will surprise us with joy, insight, friendship, and the clarification we seek. Lord, help us to move in a trust that is not hurried or impatient. Help us not to rush your unfolding plan or to skip over the gradual conversion that reflective suffering will bring us. Help us to be better people who cultivate a spirit of generosity for those we love and for those we sometimes find hard to love.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team