1 Kings 19:4-8
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the Lord came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven, ” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
What kind of food do we eat today? For many of us in wealthy countries, obesity is a problem. We eat so much more than we really need. Then we get concerned about being thin and spend billions of dollars on diets. We don’t need to be ashamed of ourselves—because that is not the point of the readings today! On the other hand, we need to look at the realities of our lives and see if we can change them at all!
The readings talk about food today not because of our present preoccupation with obesity, but because eating is something that all of us do and can talk about. We recognize that what we eat affects us and how we live. If we don’t have any food, we know that we shall die. If we eat bad food, we know that we shall be sick.
The readings want us to recognize that the spiritual life has its own rules as well and if we want to be healthy spiritually, we need to follow the rules of the spiritual life.
Probably all of us recognize that if we go around angry and hating everybody else, our spiritual life will surely suffer. We also recognize that if we go around trying to harm others, then we can’t have a spiritual life. For most of us, probably, we accept the ten commandments found in the Hebrew Scriptures as a basic guide to living.
The great challenges to our spiritual life, traditionally and even now, seem to come from three areas: money, power and sexuality. Our whole Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the strength of these three areas and is very clear that they are dangers to the spiritual life.
We have to be clear that the tradition does not ever say: don’t have money, don’t have power and don’t have sex!
Instead we are given a wisdom tradition such as we hear in the readings today. The wisdom tradition gives us ways of understanding the powers that we have and of using them for God’s glory and the good of our human family. The wisdom tradition recognizes that always we will be people who must struggle with each of these areas, either because we have no money or power or no one to relate to or because we have lots of money, lots of power and lots of possible relationships.
This spiritual tradition is what is referred to in today’s readings as “food.” What teaching will really help us live well and in accordance with what God asks of us? Today we are invited to reflect deeply on the values by which we live. Do our values lead to live with God? Do our values help us serve the Lord? We can only know this if we are willing to hear God’s word and allow ourselves to be formed by it.
May God help us listen today and be attentive to what He wants in our lives. May our hearts rejoice in living in Him!