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.”
The second reading today is from the Letter to the Ephesians and tells us: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. The letter then gives a list of negative ways of responding to life and a list of positive virtues for us to cultivate. All of this is sort of standard Christian advice. It could be good advice for anyone, whether Christian or not. It paints a picture of how to be a good human being.
The first reading today is a wonderful contrast to this part of the Letter to the Ephesians. Elijah has just slain all the prophets of Baal, a false god, and now is running away from the fury of Jezebel, the notorious wife of Ahab, the king of northern Israel. Ahab was weak and Jezebel strong. Elijah knows that he is in trouble! And he despairs of living and asks God to take his life. God does not respond that way, but makes Elijah keep on walking!
The contrast between these two readings is wonderful! It helps us understand that although Ephesians makes Christian life sound very easy: just don’t do bad things and instead do virtuous acts, the reality is often much closer to that of Elijah, who tries to do right and suffers intensely for trying. This does not negate the advice of Ephesians, but makes it real for us. If we are going to follow the Lord Jesus, we must learn how to struggle to do the good, how to suffer in order to be faithful to God and how to keep on praying even when it looks like God has abandoned us!
The Gospel of John now puts this in the context of the Eucharist. We remember that this Gospel has no account of Jesus instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Instead, the Eucharistic teaching is almost all in this Chapter 6 of this Gospel. This Chapter 6 over and over proclaims for those who have ears that Jesus is Lord, Jesus is God, Jesus is sent to us, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures.
Many of those who listen to Jesus cannot accept His words. They see in Him only the human person that they have known since His childhood. They see in Him someone who could not be anyone special. Their ears, eyes and hearts are closed. Jesus is frustrated with them just as Elijah was frustrated with the prophets of Baal and with Jezebel.
For us: how are we living today? Do we walk with the Lord Jesus or with the prophets of Baal? Do we accept the struggle and the sufferings to give our life to the Lord? Do we call on the Lord even when we are in trouble? Come, Lord Jesus!