As we often do during Advent, we hear again from the prophet Isaiah (Is 25:6-10a). We are told of the wondrous feast waiting at the top of the mountain when death will be destroyed, tears will end, and reproach will be removed. Two thoughts come to mind in reading this passage:
- Climbing a mountain is difficult. Along the way there will be some or all of these challenges: aches, pains, discomfort, boredom, frustration, exhaustion, fear, sadness, loss, and so on. But finally reaching the summit is greatly rewarding: a sense of accomplishment in overcoming many obstacles to reach a difficult goal — we’d like to stay there forever and bask in that feeling.
It is an apt metaphor for the life of a follower of Christ. We are not promised ease and comfort in this world. Staying on the narrow path is difficult. When we stray we certainly run into problems eventually if not immediately. But even if we remain faithful we are not guaranteed an easy go of it (I recall Teresa of Avila’s lament to Jesus during a particularly rough journey: “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder why You have so few of them!”). Yet we must continue to strive for the eternal reward that will make these brief moments on earth seem like nothing in eternity. It is heartening to contemplate this, especially when going through particular difficulties in life.
- Today’s gospel (Mt 15:29-37) has Jesus ascending a mountain to teach. This served the practical aspect of being able to more easily address a large crowd which in turn could better see and hear Him. Also, it represented Jesus’ authority. Great declarations were made from places of prominence (remember the giving to Moses of the Ten Commandments — Ex 20?). Or in more recent times, climbing into the pulpit on the altar. Anyway, Jesus not only feeds the crowd (and us) with the Word, but also has pity on the crowd and sustains them physically with a feast. Still today we get this banquet at each Mass upon hearing Scripture and consuming the Eucharist, this “rich food and choice wine” Isaiah talks about.
As we with eager anticipation await the coming of our Lord in history, mystery, and majesty, let us never forget the eternal banquet prepared for us if we remain faithful to our calling as Christians.