Daily Bread

Is 41:13-20; Ps 145:1, 9-13; Mt 11:11-15

The afflicted and needy seek water in vain. I, the Lord, will answer them.
When John the Baptist called people to repentance, it was to call them to change their lives, to be more in step with God’s will. Those who came to be baptized recognized their need for a greater purpose and meaning to their existence. The waters of baptism call us to embrace Christ. Will we allow the water of life to renew tired hearts, refresh our sense of purpose, and give new life to the wastelands within us? Following Christ, rather than the well-worn paths of a secular world, isn’t always easy, but it leads us to our truest self.
Refresh and renew our desire to do your will, O loving God.

Is 40:25-31; Ps 103:1-4, 8, 10; Mt 11:28-30

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.
My work as an interpreter in a historical village has influenced my interpretation of this line from Scripture. The village fields were plowed by a friendly pair of oxen for many years. While they both provided strength for the job at hand, when given directions by their handler only one of the oxen, Jack, took the lead and Beau followed in support. When we answer Jesus’ call to take his yoke upon our shoulders our problems don’t disappear. But we may find that the weight of their burden is eased and made manageable if we allow Jesus to lead us through our turmoil and guide us to a better understanding of God’s will.
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

Zec 2:14-17; Jdt 13:18-19; Lk 1:39-47

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.
Soon after the birth of our daughter, I was overwhelmed by doubt in my ability to be an able parent. What if I made mistakes that would eventually hamper her? Could I safely guide her through that big, scary world out there? My mother assured me that God had embedded amazing instincts within us. “Whatever you do,” she advised, “do it with love and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to guide you through it. You won’t go wrong.” I wonder: Did Mary and Elizabeth ever worry about their parenting ability? Did God’s promise to always be with them calm their fears?
Blessed are you, O Holy Mother, for your loving faithfulness and trust.

Is 35:1-10; Ps 85:9-14; Lk 5:17-26

Strengthen hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak.
Modern technology has brought improvements into our lives, but it has also nurtured a culture in which patience is no longer encouraged. Our world could benefit from the season of Advent now more than ever as it is a time of waiting, anticipating and encouraging patience and perseverance. In Isaiah, the Israelites are urged not to give up hope, to be patient as God will save them from their life of exile and spiritual drought. As they wait, they are asked to support and encourage one another. So too, the paralyzed man and those who carry him to Jesus through the roof are rewarded for their faith and perseverance.
We wait in blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Ps 147:1-6; Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6-8

Then [Jesus] summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.
This event from Matthew’s Gospel is sometimes referred to as the marching orders for all mission work, all discipleship. The disciples are called, given particular instructions, and sent out to continue Jesus’ work. We are those disciples now. If Jesus were sending us out today, as he did the first disciples so many years ago, what might he instruct us to do? The list of needs to be addressed often seems overwhelming, and many times we choose not to do anything because the problems are so huge and so complex. And yet, we are called, given instructions and sent out to preach, to confront evil and injustice, to heal.
Grant us boldness and confidence to follow where you lead us, Lord Jesus.

Gen 3:9-15, 20; Ps 98:1-4; Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth.
I can only imagine the uproar among the angels when they learned God’s plan to go to earth as a baby. There would be no heralding trumpets, no fiery swords, no cosmic battle. Instead, God planned to send Gabriel to a young peasant woman named Mary to tell her she had been chosen for a very special mission. Did the angels try to talk God out of this idea? Did the angels understand God’s desire to be with us? Did they comprehend God’s deep desire to teach us a new way of living, a way of love and peace? Do we?
Help us to recognize and receive you as you are, O God: Love incarnate, Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Is 26:1-6; Ps 118:1; 8-27; Mt 7:21, 24-27

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
During my years as a pastor, I’ve been privileged to accompany countless people in times of terrible tragedy, uncertainty, and suffering. Everyone responds differently; some people become angry and bitter, but others seem to have been preparing all their lives to deal with life’s difficulties and disappointments. When the floods come, they are able to reach down deep inside and rely on the foundation they’ve built — a foundation built on worship, prayer and service.
Guide us as we build a solid foundation, Holy One.

Is 25:6-10a; Ps 23:1-6; Mt 15:29-37

Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd.”
Jesus has been busy meeting the various needs of a great crowd of people. Mute people are talking, the blind are able to see, the lame are walking again. After three days of this, instead of taking a break, Jesus expresses his concern for the peoples’ lack of food. The disciples are incredulous; feeding such a huge crowd is surely impossible. But where they see obstacles, Jesus sees opportunity — and using what is available, he feeds everyone. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the needs of the world; what could we possibly do to address the vast problems of hunger or poverty? As we prepare for the birth of Jesus, one thing we could do is make sure some of our Christmas giving addresses those difficult issues.
God-who-comes, stir our hearts to glorify the nativity with acts of compassion and service.

Is 11:1-10; Ps 72:1-17; Lk 10:21-24

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.
The prophet Isaiah gives us a vision of what has been called the peaceful kingdom — a king who will rule with justice and mercy and a world filled with peace and harmony, even among animals who would usually be enemies. The wolf and the lamb, the lion and the ox will all live together in a world made new. Children live without fear. There is no violence or hatred. We are called to live out this vision of peace here and now, understanding that Isaiah’s vision of God’s shalom is the norm for God’s creation.
May our gifts be used to usher in your reign of peace, justice and love.

Is 2:1-5; Ps 122:1-9; Mt 8:5-11

In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.
Hebrew and Greek both have several words which mean wait. Some are passive, like the English defer, and others are more active, to expect or to look for. In the Hebrew Scriptures, when God’s people are waiting for God, it always has an active meaning, full of expectation, anticipation and hope. This reminds us that is not enough to simply wait; one who waits for God must keep the covenant and walk in God’s paths, sharing love and seeking justice.
God of love and hope, we await the Savior’s coming with expectation that in that holy birth our lives may be renewed.