Good Things

He hath filled the hungry with the good things (Our Lady’s Magnificat)

It seems that no matter where I turn in the scriptures I find the term “good things.” Doing a tally from the Douay Concordance, one finds ninety-one usages of “good things” in the Bible.

The Best of the “good things” is the Holy Eucharist. Was Our Lady referring to It when she proclaimed her Hymn at the Visitation? I like to think so. Our Savior, after all, did tell His Apostles not to be concerned with “what you shall eat or what you shall drink . . . For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things’ (Matthew 6:32). So, what would be more of a “Good Thing” for the hungry than worthily to eat the Living Bread from heaven? In teaching His disciples how to pray, Jesus said to ask the Father to “give us this day our supersubstantial bread.” In fact, in both Gospels where the Our Father is given (Matthew and Luke) the inspired Greek text has ton arton hemon ton epiousion dos haemin semeron, which is translated “Give us this day our supersubstantial bread”.

In the Old Testament, good things most often refers to material things, good food and plenty, good rains and harvest. As in its first usage in Genesis: “And bring away from thence your father and kindred, and come to me: and I will give you all the good things of Egypt, that you may eat the marrow of the land” (Genesis 45:18). And again, “And thou shalt feast in all the good things which the Lord thy God hath given thee” (Deut. 26:11).

The term also refers to good words as in “Jonathan spoke good things of David to Saul his father” (1 Kings 19:4). Or, David himself says in prayer, “And now, O Lord God, thou art God, and thy words shall be true: for thou hast spoken to thy servant these good things” (2 Kings 7:28). And so, too, did his son Solomon pray, “Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into thy resting place, thou and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O Lord God, put on salvation, and thy saints rejoice in good things” (2 Paralipomenon 6:41).

All the blessings of God are reserved for those who obey His will. These blessings, of every sort, but most especially of God’s pleasure and grace are called “good things”. Thusly, we read in the Book of Tobias, “Fear not, my son: we lead indeed a poor life, but we shall have many good things if we fear God, and depart from all sin, and do that which is good”  (4:23).

Five times does Job refer to God’s blessings as the “good things.”[If] we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil? In all these things Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

Eleven times in the Psalms David sings of the “good things.“ He sings of good things in general, spiritual good things, and, prophetically, of the Best of the Good Things, the Holy Eucharist for the “hungry soul”: “I will sing to the Lord, who giveth me good things” (Psalm 12:6), “Blessed is he whom thou hast chosen and taken to thee: he shall dwell in thy courts. We shall be filled with the good things of thy house; holy is thy temple” (Psalm 64:5)..”For he hath satisfied the empty soul, and hath filled the hungry soul with good things” (Psalm 106:9). Our Blessed Mother, who knew the scriptures perfectly, honors her father David by citing this verse in the Magnificat. She also borrowed from the hymn of Anna, the mother of Samuel, wherein Anna thanked God for removing her barreness and giving her a child: ‘My heart hath rejoiced in the Lord, the hungry are filled, the Lord humbleth and he exalteth, He  lifteth up the poor from the dunghill, and shall exalt the horn of his Christ’. All but the last verse were employed by Our Lady whose own mother, Saint Anne, must have often sung this canticle of her namesake in the home of Joachim.

The Books of Wisdom contain twenty-seven references to the “good things.” Most of these praise the good things of wisdom, prudence, and virtue that purify a soul and make it more God-like. “They err that work evil: but mercy and truth prepare good things” (Proverbs 14:22). And more:. “The learned in word shall find good things: and he that trusteth in the Lord is blessed”  (Proverbs 16:20). “[H]e that keepeth prudence shall find good things” (Proverbs 19:8). “Now all good things came to me together with her [Wisdom], and innumerable riches through her hands” (Wisdom 7:11). “Wisdom and discipline, and the knowledge of the law are with God. Love and the ways of good things are with him” (Ecclesiasticus 11:15). Lastly, “Blessed is he that is conversant in these good things: and he that layeth them up in his heart, shall be wise always” (Ecclesiasticus 50:30).

More than a few of the words of the prophets concerning the “good things” manifest a Eucharistic significance: “And I will fill the soul of the priests with fatness: and my people shall be filled with my good things, saith the Lord” (Jeremias 31:14). “Fatness” in the Old Testament is a metaphor for abundant grace. “Cry yet, saying: Thus saith the Lord of hosts: My cities shall yet flow with good things: and the Lord will yet comfort Sion, and he will yet choose Jerusalem.” (Zacharias 1:17). The Eucharist was instituted on Mount Sion. The “cities” are the Churches of the Gentiles.

Let us see now how the “good things” are promised us in the greater fullness of the New Testament covenant. Remember the petition of the Our Father for the “supersubstantial bread.” “If you then being evil,” Jesus said to his disciples, “know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11) Before the Thrice Holy God, excepting Our Lady, even the saints are evil. With the forgiveness of sin, however, we, who are far from saints, are justified in God’s grace, and, children that we are, we need to be nourished sacramentally to keep ourselves holy. Jesus, assuring us of His own paternal love, said, “A good man out of a good treasure bringeth forth good things” (Matthew 12:35). A good tree cannot produce bad fruit (Matthew 7:18). “Good things,” are good works, “And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life” (John 5:29). “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!” (Roman 10:15)

Finally, we offer a reference that is without a doubt Eucharistic. It is from Saint Paul to the Hebrews: “But Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation” (9:11, my emphasis). The priesthood of Christ is not that of Aaron, but of Melchisedech, “The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.” (Messianic Psalm 109:4) The Apostle devotes much of chapter seven in his epistle to expound upon the perfect priesthood of Christ-God compared to the inefficacious priesthood of Aaron. “If then perfection was by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchisedech, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?” (7:11).

Melchisedech, as we all remember from our Bible history, was the high-priest of Salem (Jerusalem) to whom Abraham paid tithes. Some fathers hold that he was the son of Sem although that is not in Genesis. The principal role of this mysterious man was to prefigure the Eucharist by offering to God bread and wine. Thus it is written by Moses: “Melchisedech the king of Salem, bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the priest of the most high God” (Genesis 14:18).

So, we have the Holy Mass being set up by figures in the Old Testament. Bread and wine by Melchisedeck, the manna, the bread from heaven, and the rod of Aaron preserved,in the Tabernacle of the Covenant, the latter symbolizing the priesthood of blood and the paschal lamb.

The “tabernacle” of Christ was greater and more perfect than that of Moses. It is “not made by human hands, not of this creation.” In the Mass, Jesus is the only High-Priest, of the Order of Melchisedeck, the Sacrificer and the Victim. The priest acts in His Person as an alter Christus, indeed so true is this that the priest, when consecrating, does not say “This is Father Smith’s body,” but “This is My Body.” Jesus takes over. Father’s lips move but Christ is the Word. The Effect, the Transubstantiation of bread and wine into His Body and Blood, is through the Power the Almighty has over the elements. Fiat lux! Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum! His Will is His Word. “This is My Body!”

To paraphrase Saint Peter at the Transfiguration: “It is a ‘good thing’ for us to be here!” (Matthew 17:4)