19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 1Kings19:4-8, John 6:41-51
I Give Up!
Maybe it was the sudden death of a parent or child! Maybe it was a financial crisis, loss of job or an unexpected repair that completely wiped out what little savings you had. Maybe it was the breakup of a close relationship, even a marriage. Maybe it was a debilitating illness that left you unable to do even the simplest of tasks. Maybe it was a weak moment when you stumbled. Or maybe it was a fall from a great moral height when you fell hard and deep into that seemingly inescapable pit of despair. A night so dark we felt we couldn’t forgive ourselves much less accept forgiveness from others.
And we decided to give up! We surrender to our fate! We expected that this was the end of our life and we would not see the beginning of another day!
Haven’t we all been there at some point in our lives? Whether it was ourseIves or someone near and dear to us, we know that feeling! I give up! I give in! There is no surviving this moment!
This certainly seems to be where the Prophet Elijah is at in today’s first reading from 1 Kings! He has already confronted the priests of Baal in a test of faith and bested them; afterwards he has them all put to death. This angered Queen Jezebel and she wants to put him to death. Elijah flees into the desert and, in despair, he prays for death. Convinced that he has failed, he gives up! So he lays down under a tree and waits to die!
But God had other plans! He sends an angel to rouse Elijah from his depression and nourish him with bread and water. Notice that it takes the angel 2 attempts to fully get Elijah on his feet. How many times does it take us to not merely hear God’s call but to actually respond to it! So fed a second time, Elijah gets up energized and restored and he returns to his prophetic mission, walking for 40 days to the mountain of God.
Up until Covid hit, our parish would hold Coffee/Donut Sundays once a month at all our Sunday Masses. It was a chance to informally gather after Mass and share fellowship. It was a simple opportunity to pause before heading home and converse with each other. Simple basic food! But it was enough to sustain us for our journey home from church.
God gave Elijah simple bread and water, food for the body, food for his journey to Mt. Horeb! But what about us? What about those days, what about every day, when we are in need of spiritual food? The answer to that is in today’s Gospel! “I am the Bread of Life, 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.”
Food for our journey, for our spiritual journey, food that refreshes our soul and strengthens our faith! Food that lasts not a mere 40 days but for life unending! Food that reminds us that, even in the darkest of times, when all seems hopeless, when we are lost in the desert! We are not alone! A reminder that God is always with us. That He feeds us with His Body and Blood. And no matter where we are or what situation we are in, He sends us forth from that place nourished in our faith and strengthened for the journey ahead!
As tasty and as filling as coffee and donuts are, they really only satisfy us until we get home from Mass. The real food, the real spiritual food, is what we received at Mass itself, the Body and Blood of Christ. And that will sustain us on our entire journey home to the Kingdom of God.