Today’s Gospel is characterized by helping the sick and the hungry, but is also characterized by help in abundance. When we are sick or in need we don’t hope for much more than an improvement in our condition and “our daily bread.” Sometime we eke out out existence, living one day at a time, balancing our budget to alleviate our complaints without starving. The crowds were in the same situation, and suddenly everyone who comes for healing is not only given a little relief, but completely restored to health. The crowds would have appreciated simply a piece of bread to fight off the hunger pangs before they went on their way, but they ended up having all the fish and bread they could eat, and leftovers in abundance.
Advent represents that period before Our Lord’s incarnation and birth where we could hope for no more than eking out a spiritual existence: all of mankind was crippled and starved for grace and mercy, and without help all they had to expect was spiritual starvation and death. The Lord did not just bless them with more help, he came in Person in order to bless us with a grace beyond a full stomach or a clean bill of health: salvation and eternal life, to never hunger again or suffer again.
Let’s continue preparing during Advent for Our Lord’s birth, thankful for the blessings in abundance that he has already bestowed upon us, but also showing our gratitude by helping those in spiritual or material need so that they too can experience Our Lord’s abundance through us.
Readings: Isaiah 25:6–10a; Psalm 23:1–6; Matthew 15:29–37. See also 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.