JULY 31, 2011: ISAIAH 55:1-3; MATTHEW 14; 13-21


In recent times we have all been made aware of a series of disasters of one kind or another that involve human suffering from various causes. Some is more distant, such as the destructive tsunami in Japan in which thousands of persons going about daily life unsuspectingly, were suddenly overwhelmed by a powerful force that destroyed their home and killed them. Every day there is published the list of fresh casualties of men killed in one of the three wars that our own country is waging at present.  We are informed that other thousands of our work force are unemployed and that many businesses have closed down. Floods and hurricanes in our own country have lately destroyed entire towns, leaving death and ruin in their wake. We readily identify with the victims for the brief time they occupy the news but soon they are replaced by still others, often enough by victims of their own human folly. We are forced by events to admit that life on earth is precarious, subject to suffering, even in the most advanced of countries.


 If we study history we soon are made aware that this state of affairs is not of recent origin. In fact, we have been living in relatively stable, peaceful times in comparison with many epochs of the known world cultures. The first reading today speaks to us from a period when God's people, after losing a war were carried off in exile as slaves.  ALL YOU WHO ARE THIRSTY, COME TO THE WATER! The brief reading we heard a little while ago from the prophet known in modern times as Second Isaiah, is a direct invitation to enter into a more committed life of faith.  The prophet invites us still today by his enthusiastic words to join our self with those whose thirst for a spiritual union with God can be satisfied at the banquet table he prepares for those who come to him with desire. Desire and faith are sufficient, for the Lord offers to provide the food and drink. He continues: “Buy corn without money and eat; without cost wine and milk.” Isaiah then makes it clear that it is a spiritual banquet to which we are invited and assures us that it will prove satisfying. The condition he sets for sitting at this heavenly table is one that each of us has the power to realize. The prophet states it in these terms: “Listen attentively to me, and you will eat well. Finding enjoyment in richly appetizing dishes; bend your ear and come after me; heed my words and you will find life.”


This prophetic exhortation was necessary because the people in general had become insensitive to spiritual realities. As a result they had come to desire material advantages and possessions that cannot provide satisfaction for the inner person.  This same materialist focus that Isaiah encountered remains a problem today in our society. Consumer society has a way of stifling the longing of the spirit for that life which transcends the limit of this world. No matter how successful one might be in exterior matters, such realities, whether sensible in nature or social, prove too limited for any lasting satisfaction of the human heart. In many the longing for a fulfillment of more lasting, spiritual kind is dulled, even quenched. Spiritual desire must be nourished and stimulated or it dries up. Our times are far from unique in this withering of the more spiritual aspirations of the inner person. This was the problem Isaiah faced and so he gave out his urgent message to rekindle desire for the bread of the spirit. Centuries later, Jesus encountered the same lack of responsiveness to his words and so felt he could not speak openly of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. In giving the cause for his reticence he quotes Isaiah: “This people's heart has grown dull and their ears are hard of hearing.” Even the miracles Jesus performed were perceived not as opening up the vision of another world where God is all in all, but rather as stimulus for material satisfaction. Our Lord said as much after multiplying the loaves and fish. “You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you are your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”(John 6:26, 27)


This same message is preached to us here today in the words of the prophet: “Come buy wine and milk offered free, no price to pay” save that of sharpening spiritual desire for the heavenly food. This is the function of our faith and of prayer, to make us more conscious of the things of the inner person, so that we come increasingly to appreciate them. By entering into the deep places of the heart we experience the invitation to give a more solid and permanent meaning to our passing life. We hear with the ears of the spirit Isaiah's words “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” By using our energy and time in seeking for knowledge of God in meditation and prayerful reading redeem the time and prepare our senses to respond to the beauty and truth revealed to us in Christ Jesus, our redeemer, the eternal Son of God. ?   

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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