19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B – 2009 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 B
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.”
Sometimes we find ourselves at the end of our strength and feel that we cannot go on. Sometimes, instead of asking the Lord for strength to go on, we ask the Lord to end our lives. This is not any attempt at suicide, just a plea to the Lord to end the situation that we are experiencing because it seems impossible. Maybe it is impossible from a human point of view.
The First Book of Kings tells us about Elisha coming to this point—and at that very point, God intervenes in the life of Elisha. Elisha cries out to God and God hears him. So often in our human lives we keep trying to solve our problems and fix our problems and do everything by ourselves, and we don’t cry out to the Lord. We don’t even have to wait until we are at the end of our strength. The time to cry out to the Lord is always right now.
Today’s Gospel continues from last week, giving us another part of Chapter 6 from Saint John. We know that Chapter 6 in the Gospel of John speaks about the Eucharist, about God’s presence in our lives as bread. In today’s passage, the people begin to murmur against Jesus. They know Jesus and cannot believe that Jesus has come down from heaven.
The people are probably not even sure what it means that Jesus has come down from heaven, but for sure it sounds like he is claiming to be more than just another ordinary person in their midst, and that sets them off. How often we also can be harsh on people we know when they try to be more serious about a spiritual life! Or when they try to be good! Or when they try to change a pattern in their lives!
Jesus teaches us that He is the way to God. Jesus calls God His father consistently in the Gospels. The people know that Jesus is saying that He Himself is the way to find God. Jesus presents Himself as the bread of life, as a bread that gives eternal life. Jesus tells us that if we eat this bread, we will live for ever.
Although for us who are Catholics, this may not sound strange, for people who have never heard this kind of teaching before, it must have sounded totally crazy. Jesus is willing to sound crazy to speak the truth. This is another lesson for us. We can be uneasy speaking the truth if we think that we might suffer because of it or if we think that people will think less of us.
Perhaps this Sunday we can hear all of this summarized in the second reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians: Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love. If we do this, we shall be invited to speak truth, to continue walking even when the road is difficult, and to give our lives completely in the service of this God who loves us and demands all.