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Saturday, first week of Advent

December 6, 2008

Blessed St. Nicholas Day! (look for his story in the “saints of Advent” category)

Yes, this is the morning to check your stockings for treasures from the holy bishop of Myra (in modern-day Turkey).

Isaiah 30: 19-21, 23-26 (God will provide all the attention, nourishment, guidance, and healing that we need)
Psalm 147: 1-6 “Blessed are all who wait for the Lord”
+ Matthew 9:35-10: 1, 5, 6-8 (Jesus sees the needs and send His disciples to meet them)

When we see or hear of someone in need, we wish God would just wave His hand and fix the problem. The first reading makes it sound as if that’s what He has in mind. After all, He paints a word picture in which all needs are filled. “The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst…a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it’” But when Jesus is faced with the very real and overwhelming needs of the crowds, He turns to His disciples. “The harvest is good but laborers are scarce. Beg the harvest master to send out laborers to gather his harvest.”

Excuse me, Jesus, but aren’t You the harvest Master? Aren’t You the One who can just speak the Word and take care of all these problems? What does this have to do with me?!

Once again we see how much God values our participation in His work. Sometimes He even lets us think we’ve done it by ourselves (although that illusion doesn’t last long!). Of course He could do it all Himself–and that method would be a lot easier for Him! But He’s chosen to include us out of His sacrificial love for us. He wants us to ask Him for help and then put our own shoulders to the burden, devoting our energies to the only work that’s ultimately worth doing.

The Apostles (and their successors, the pope and bishops) have a special role of leadership in this work. First and foremost, we need to pray for vocations (“beg the harvest master to send out laborers”). But in addition to that, we all have a part to play. Just because we don’t have the specific responsibilities of a priest or bishop doesn’t mean we can just sit back & watch someone else do all the work. Each of us has received gifts from God. “The gift you have received, give as a gift” (Matthew 10:8).

Jesus said, “My Father is at work until now, and I am at work as well” (John 5:17). “I solemnly assure you, the Son cannot do anything by Himself–He can do only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). Guess what…we’re the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:27, Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 5:23, etc.)! If He’s at work, so are we. We participate in what the Son does, which is what the Father does, which is (at least in part) to meet the needs of His people. He said that He would feed us and give us to drink. Well, the first two corporal works of mercy are feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. The other works of mercy fill in the other needs God said He would meet. Here are the lists of the Corporal (bodily) and Spiritual works of mercy:

Corporal works of mercy:
1) Feeding the hungry (“The Lord will give you the bread you need”)
2) Giving drink to the thirsty (“The Lord will give you…the water for which you thirst”)
3) Clothing the naked
4) Sheltering the homeless
5) Visiting the sick
6) Ransoming captives/visiting prisoners
7) Burying the dead

Spiritual works of mercy:
1) Instructing the ignorant
2) Counseling the doubtful (“a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it’”)
3) Comforting the sorrowing
4) Reproving the sinner
5) Forgiving injuries
6) Bearing wrongs patiently
7) Praying for the living and the dead

Jesus asks us to do these things in His Name (as His representatives). Any one of may not be equipped to do all of these, but each of us can do some of them–probably more than we think. As we allow Christ to work in and through us–we who are His Body–He fulfills on earth the promise He made to provide for all, even before the ultimate fulfillment of heaven.

May we be found faithfully doing our Master’s will when He returns (see Matthew 24:46-51).

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