The response in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6) immediately brings to mind the prophetess and widow Anna who we learn about in the event of Jesus’ presentation to Simeon. We learn that Anna “never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” (Lk 2: 37) Considering that we have just entered into Advent, we are already reminded of the joy of the Christmas season. This is a happy thought as we want to keep focus on the Lord’s manifestation to the world not only in His birth but also in His being formally presented “to the Lord.” (Lk 2:22) Our anticipation grows.
But we should also note that the psalm in question comes immediately after Psalm 22, the one whose opening line Jesus cries out from the cross:
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (v. 2)
Thinking about the coming of Christ, and the delight we will feel at commemorating His birth, we also call to mind why the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity became incarnate. Shortly after entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus anticipates His imminent death:
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”
(Jn 12:27 emphasis added)
This should not temper our joy but rather complement it by increasing our gratitude for the gift of the only One who can save us. There is a unity in the life of the God-Man — all that He did was always focused on His ultimate mission: to provide the possibility of eternal life in glory for every person. It is a template for us. All that we do should be with the intention of going to heaven and bringing as many other souls with us as possible.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention in our considerations the other two readings from today’s Mass. First, Isaiah, whose prophecies are naturally prominent during Advent, says
“The LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” (25:6)
Then, in the Gospel from Matthew, we read of Jesus fulfilling this prophecy on the natural level by feeding the four thousand with the miraculous event happening here:
“Then he took the seven loaves […], gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied.” (15:36-37a)
One does not have to be particularly attentive to recall that Jesus uses this same formula at the Last Supper to satisfy us supernaturally and most effectively:
“Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.'” (Mt 26:26)
What a particularly rich harvest for us to cultivate in these three excerpts from the Bible! We look forward to Christ’s birth, recall His mission (and ours), and are reminded of our primary spiritual sustenance on the journey.
What a blessing we have in the Church!