19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (9a)
August 12, 2018
Elijah was fleeing from King Ahaz and others after defeating the 450 prophets of the false god Baal. They were seeking to kill him. In fear and despair Elijah “prayed for death, saying this is enough, O LORD!”
Elijah is tired. He served as a prophet of our Lord but it seemed to become too much for him. It takes a lot of energy. Knowing that Elijah needed “food” to rejuvenate him and to encourage him, God sent an angel with “a heart cake and a jug of water.”
At first Elijah only ate a portion of the cake but angel told him to eat, “else the journey will be too long for you!” Elijah faced a physical journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. He needed earthly strength for this journey but he also needed spiritual nourishment for the spiritual journey ahead as he continued as a prophet of the Lord.
We need physical food as nourishment for our bodies. We also need spiritual food to nourish our souls. Jesus provides for us as the “bread of life”, “the living bread that came down from heaven.”
Jesus offers us the food we need. Are we open to receiving the bread of life that Jesus offers us?
Today we hear that “The Jews murmured about Jesus” because he told them, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” For these Jews it was impossible that Jesus came down from heaven. They knew his father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary. They knew him to be human just like them. They were not open to Jesus being anything more. As such, they were not open to what Jesus offers us.
What is bread? In its simplest form it is flour made from wheat and water. It is nothing fancy but we view it as a basic necessary for life. When the Israelites grumbled in the desert because they had nothing to eat, God sent them the manna as bread but it looked different than what they knew as ordinary bread. Still, it was enough for them for life in this world.
Even though the Israelites ate the manna, they still died an earthly death. Jesus speaks of himself as the bread one may eat and not die. This would be difficult for the crowds to hear and understand. Everyone dies. How can we eat Jesus as the bread of life and “not die”?
What is life? Right now, the life we experience is life in this world. It ends with earthly death. It can come with challenges. We need to work to make a living and care for our families. We face disease. There is violence in this world. There is also good in this world.
Yet, when Jesus speaks of life, he is not limiting “life” to this world. Life for us begins in this world but it is not all that there is. True life is to know God, not just in this earthly world but in Heaven. Life in Heaven comes after life in this world. When we know of life in Heaven and how good it is, it should change the way we live in this world. It should change our priorities from material things to living our lives as God calls us so that we spend life after earthly death in Heaven and not in Hell.
It means removing “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling” and “malice.” These things separate us from love. That means they separate us from God.
In the Eucharist we celebrate, in the bread and wine we receive as Communion, Jesus offers us life. It is his gift to us. It is a free gift but if we are to truly and wholly receive this gift, we need to seek to live not as we want but as Jesus teaches. We need to confess our sins so that God can cleanse our sins. Only then can we truly receive the gift of the bread of life. Receiving the bread of life is not just about earthly consumption of the consecrated bread and wine. It’s not just receiving into our bodies but to receive it into our souls to feed us for the journey of life.