Saturday First Week of Advent
Today’s passage is part of the first coming, setting the stage for the next coming, and prefiguring the final coming. These are the three senses of Advent and of our Lord’s coming: first, current, and final.
Jesus had been born and baptized, and in today’s Gospel reading, he was in the midst of ministry. He had 12 disciples and many other followers. This is the first coming. What we commonly call the second coming is pictured in the Isaiah passage; all things being set right and unimaginable abundance prevailing as a sign of God’s blessing.
Then there is the current coming. The individual realization that the Kingdom is at hand; the receiving of the Holy Spirit into individual hearts. This is what Jesus instructs the disciples to proclaim. As proof of their message, they are to heal the sick and cast out unclean spirits.
Christ looks upon the crowds with compassion because he sees their needs. Not just their illnesses and their unpaid bills. Not only strained relationships and limited opportunities. He sees their deep, eternal needs. They are lost and need a shepherd. He is that shepherd, though they don’t realize it. They understand he can heal and cleanse, but that he can set them in right relationship with the Father seems to be beyond their grasp.
He instructs his disciples, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest.” He is pointing to himself. “Just ask me, and I’ll send you to them.” Which is exactly what he does.
This is not yet the Apostles’ great ministry. They are still in training. They have not yet received the Holy Spirit in full. They are being sent out to act under the authority of Christ. The Spirit will come later, fulfilling the words we read in Isaiah, “While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it,’ when you would turn to the right or to the left.”
The teacher had come, they were listening, watching, and now they were given a chance to imitate. But this is not just an injunction to the Apostles. Jesus calls all of us to be his disciples. A disciple is just another word for an apprentice, a student. Someone who learns from a master and seeks to imitate their craft and skill.
Without cost we have received, without cost we are to give. The Kingdom of heaven. It is at hand, in stock, available for immediate delivery, no prime membership required.
The teacher appeared. Jesus was among the disciples leading them. Now we are instructed through the Church, through the testimony of the Apostles in the Scriptures, and through the examples of the saints who have gone before us.
The road lies before each one of us. Shall we move forward? Are we in tune to the Spirit so we’ll turn left or right when he prods us? This is our charge in order to be prepared for Christ’s final coming.