Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
(Isaiah 25:6-10a; Matthew 15:29-37)
People speak of “death with dignity,” but, as a leading bioethicist has observed, death always compromises human dignity. It refuses to recognize the person’s desire not only to live but to thrive. Of course, what people mean by the term is a death without the depersonalization of medical technology, without intense long-term suffering, and with the person controlling some of the circumstances about her demise. Full dignity, however, goes beyond these considerations. It is a quality of soul engendered by virtuous living. In death dignity is reflected especially in courage that expresses gratitude for life even as it drains away and pursues reconciliation with God and others to leave the world a friendlier place.
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah promises a heavenly banquet for those who die with full dignity. On that occasion the tears that they may have shed bearing pain or seeking peace will be graciously wiped away. Also, the God to whom they entrusted themselves will reveal Himself as their savior. The gospel passage foreshadows that banquet with Jesus providing the repast as he shows himself the fulfillment of the people’s deepest desires.
During Advent we look for Jesus to come and console us in our efforts to live virtuously. We yearn for him to escort us to the table of plenty which our Eucharist foreshadows. Finally, we hear him tell us the best way to prepare for his arrival is the same virtuous lifestyle.