SATURDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK OF ADVENT GOSPEL REFLECTION. “HIS HEART WAS MOVED WITH PITY” (Mt 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6–8).
THE NEED FOR GOOD SHEPHERDS
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
THE MISSION OF THE APOSTLES
Then he summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
COMMENTARY FROM THE NAVARRE BIBLE, GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW (with permission)
THE NEED FOR GOOD SHEPHERDS
- 35 The Second Vatican Council uses this passage when teaching about the message of Christian charity which the Church should always be spreading:
- “Christian charity is extended to all without distinction of race, social condition or religion, and seeks neither gain nor gratitude. Just as God loves us with a gratuitous love, so too the faithful, in their charity, should be concerned for mankind, loving it with that same love with which God sought man. As Christ went about all the towns and villages healing every sickness and infirmity, as a sign that the Kingdom of God had come, so the Church, through its children, joins itself with men of every condition, but especially with the poor and afflicted, and willingly spends herself for them (Ad gentes, 12)”.
- 36 “He had compassion for them”: the Greek verb is very expressive; it means “he was deeply moved”.
- Jesus was moved when he saw the people, because their pastors, instead of guiding them and tending them, led them astray, behaving more like wolves than genuine shepherds of their flock.
- Jesus sees the prophecy of Ezek 34 as now being fulfilled; in that passage God, through the prophet, upbraids the false shepherds of Israel and promises to send them the Messiah to be their new leader.
- “If we were consistent with our faith when we looked around us and contemplated the world and its history, we would be unable to avoid feeling in our own hearts the same sentiments that filled the heart of our Lord” (St. Josemaria, Christ is passing by, 133). Reflexion on the spiritual needs of the world should lead us to be tirelessly apostolic.
- 37-38 After contemplating the crowds neglected by their shepherds, Jesus uses the image of the harvest to show us that that same crowd is ready to receive the effects of Redemption: “I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see now the fields are already white for harvest” (Jn 4:35).
- The field of the Jewish people cultivated by the prophets – most recently by John the Baptist – is full of ripe wheat. In farmwork, the harvest is lost if the farmer does not reap at the right time; down the centuries the Church feels a similar need to be out harvesting because there is a big harvest ready to be won.
- However, as in the time of Jesus, there is a shortage of labourers. Our Lord tells us how to deal with this: we should pray God, the Lord of the harvest, to send the necessary labourers. If a Christian prays hard, it is difficult to imagine his not feeling urged to play his part in this apostolate. In obeying this commandment to pray for labourers, we should pray especially for there to be no lack of good shepherds, who will be able to equip others with the necessary means of sanctification needed to back up the apostolate.
- In this connexion Paul VI reminds us: “the responsibility for spreading the Gospel that saves belongs to everyone — to all those who have received it! The missionary duty concerns the whole body of the Church; in different ways and to different degrees, it is true, but we must all, all, be united in carrying out this duty. Now let the conscience of every believer ask himself: Have I carried out my missionary duty? Prayer for the Missions is the first way of fulfilling this duty” (Angelus Address, 23 October 1977).
THE MISSION OF THE APOSTLES
- 5-6 In his plan of salvation God gave certain promises (to Abraham and the patriarchs), a Covenant and a Law (the Law of Moses), and sent the prophets.
- The Messiah would be born into this chosen people: which explains why the Messiah and the Kingdom of God were to be preached, first, to the house of Israel, before being preached to Gentiles.
- Therefore, in their early apprenticeship, Jesus restricts the Apostles’ area of activity to the Jews, without this taking from the world-wide scope of the Church’s mission. As we will see, much later on he charges them to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19); “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:16)
- The Apostles also, in the early days of the spread of the Church, usually sought out the Jewish community in any new city they entered, and preached first to them (cf. Acts 13:46).
- 7-8 Previously, the prophets, when speaking of the messianic times, had used imagery suited to the people’s spiritual immaturity. Now, Jesus, in sending his Apostles to proclaim that the promised Kingdom of God is imminent, lays stress on its spiritual dimension.
- The powers mentioned in v. 8 are the very sign of the Kingdom of God or the reign of the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets. At first (chaps. 8 and 9) it is Jesus who exercises these messianic powers; now he gives them to his disciples as proof that his mission is divine (Is 35:5-6; 40:9; 52:7; 6 1:1).
DEC. 10, 2023, 2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B, CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING INTERESTING LINKS
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“ADVENT 2: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS?”
Topic: ARE YOU MAKING STEADY PROGRESS IN ENTERING THE NARROW GATE TO HOLINESS?
Today’s gospel reading (Matthew 9:35 – 10:1,5-8) opens with these verses: “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for thembecause they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”From this gospel passage, Jesus is filled with compassion for those people He teaches. He knows He doesn’t have enough time left before He is offered as a sacrifice for them. He works double time but, humanly, He is limited, and He respects the freedom of everyone to make their own choices.
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