The prophet Isaiah foresees that the God of Israel will allow himself to be seen by Israel, with their own eyes, and give his people the comfort of holy bread and living water, and through these revelations will impart healing and hope.
The Church understands this magnificent vision as an anticipation or foreshadowing of Christ. Christ is the God of Israel, who makes himself visible to his people by accepting a human nature. In Christ, Israel, indeed the world, meets God face to face. In Christ, the hidden, invisible God appears and makes himself visible.
As Pope emeritus Benedict so eloquently expressed “God became flesh and flesh became the habitation of God, whose glory shines in the human face of Christ”.
Christ is not a phantom or an idea, even less is he merely a feeling. Christ is not myth or a legend. In Christ, God enters the arena of history, of time and space. In Christ, God comes into our world- literally, in flesh and in blood- not as a symbol, but as a living, divine person.
The revelation of God in Christ is called the Incarnation, which literally means that God accepts human flesh as the means by which he reveals himself.
The holy bread God in Christ gives us is, as the Gospel of John attests “his flesh for the life of the world”. God makes of his Body and Blood food and drink and allows his divine life to nourish and sustain us. This holy bread is given to the Church in the great revelation of the Blessed Sacrament.
The living water, flows, as the Gospel of John attests, from the pierced side of Christ on the cross. Through these waters Christians must pass in Baptism and it is these living waters that carry us from life in this world and into a heavenly world that is yet to come.
The divine life of Jesus Christ comforts and heals an afflicted, anxious and sin-sick world. This is what it means for us to say that Jesus saves us, that he is the Savior of the world and that in Jesus the Savior that we have hope. Bereft of a Savior, hope becomes mere wishful thinking, without any reason to be believed.
We cannot save ourselves, not from sin, not from death, not from the devil, not even from ourselves, and in any attempt for us to do so, will inevitably end in our defeat. For this reason, and out of love for us, God in Christ enters into the human condition and saves us- even thought we are unworthy and so often unwilling to accept the salvation he gives to us.
The recollection or remembrance of what God has revealed in Jesus Christ is the purpose of Advent. The celebration of what God in Christ has revealed to us is the reason for the great solemnity of Christmas.
Much of the culture has forgotten this or just doesn’t care. We Christians are in the midst of this culture to remember and remind people about the revelation of Christ and to show people why they should care.
This mission is evident to us in today’s Gospel. If we are truly disciples of Christ, and not just spectators to the work of the Church, then accept that it is Christ’s will that we serve him by going out into the culture and introducing people to Christ and inviting them to share his divine life in his Church. Christ is not introduced to people through a kind of osmosis, but directly, through invitation, and that extending that invitation is what it means to be a missionary disciple.
The Church is off point in terms of this mission if the prevailing ethos of a parish or a diocese is that being a disciple of Christ is merely to be the passive recipient of faith based services. When this ethos takes over, the Holy Bread disappears and the Living Water dries up.
A church that makes itself unwilling or incapable of doing the mission Christ gives to us falters, fails, and passes away. We will either be Christ’s missionary disciples, or nothing at all.