God’s serendipity never ceases to amaze me. I recently got a copy of Berit Olam: Psalms. It is part of a series of “Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry.” To check it out I turned to the analysis of Psalm 23, today’s responsorial psalm. The psalm has three parts: a pastoral scene, a banquet in a nomad tent, and a conclusion. The point is that God is walking with us through a lush pastoral scene, even through the valley of darkness and death. God is with us! Not only is God with us, God invites us into God’s house, God’s tent for a banquet in the sight of our enemies. God spreads a sumptuous banquet table before us and anoints us with oil. God is with us!
Isaiah (25:6-10) expounds on the feast which ultimately is Eucharist. Here again we are reminded that God will feed us “rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure choice wines.” Fortunately, there are no cholesterol or fat calories in this banquet food!
Isaiah goes beyond the banquet to the effects of feasting with God. The veil of death that separates all nations will be destroyed forever. Ernest Becker says that fear of death guides much of our greed and desire for acquisition. The fear of death having been destroyed, God will wipe away every tear. God is the only source of our salvation, our wholeness, our health.
Matthew (15:29-37) picks up the themes of Isaiah and the Psalmist. First, Jesus is in a pastoral setting on a mountain by the Sea of Galilee. The crowds are following him. In the crowd are the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute and many others. He heals them. He beings them salvation, health and wholeness. The crowds watched in amazement as the lame leap, the blind see, the deformed are restored, and the mute speak.
Then, we have one of the most poignant lines in the New Testament. Jesus is “moved with pity.” The root of the word for moved with pity is that his gut wrenched within him—profound compassion for the crowd, the ordinary, common folk. Like the Good Shepherd in psalm 23 he has led them to a pastoral place and to a banquet and He will care for them.
Scripture scholars tell us that the people in the crowd would have probably had some food among them. The miracle comes when, at Jesus’ instigation, people began to share with others who had no food. Seven loaves and a few fish feed thousands.
God shepherds us. God leads us through beautiful, rich and lush valleys and through dark valleys. God is our shepherd. We shall not want. God leads us into God’s tent and seats us at a sumptuous banquet of finest food and choicest wines. God leads us. God nourishes us.
What do we need to do? We just need to let God be God. We need to let God lead us and allow ourselves to enjoy and share the bounty God sets before us.