1 Kings 19, 4-8; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4, 30-5, 2; St. John 6, 41-51
Prophet Elijah was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. He opposed and defeated the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. This earned him the hatred of the idolatrous queen, Jezebel, who wanted him killed. So he fled into the desert. Elijah had reached the limits of his frustration and could not take it anymore. He wants to end it all, he sees no point in continuing, he is giving up, calling it quits. “Lord. I’ve had enough, take my life,” he pleads with God. But God has not given up on him. Instead of letting him end his life, the Lord provides him with nourishment. But Elijah, after eating what the Lord provided, just lay down and rested. Once again the Lord aroused him and fed him a second time. After being nourished by the Lord, Elijah was strengthened for the long journey to the mountain of the Lord. He walked for forty days and forty nights till he reached his destination. The Lord had become the one who provided nourishment for the journey to life. He does the same for us, when we are frustrated and ready to quit. He never lets us down. He may not solve our problem but he gives us strength to carry on till the end.
One day a partially deaf boy came home from school with a note from his teacher. He handed it to his mother. She opened it and slowly read it. The note suggested that her son was too dull to learn. He was holding back the whole class. It would be better for everybody if he would withdraw from school. When the boy’s mother finished reading the note, she felt awful. She also felt challenged. “My son, Tom, is not too dull to learn,” she said to herself. “I’ll teach him myself.” When Tom died many years later, the entire nation honored him in a remarkable way. At exactly 9:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, every home in the United States turned off its lights for one minute, as a tribute to the man who had invented those lights. Thomas Edison invented not only the electric light but also the movie projector and the record player. When he died, the boy who was ‘too dull to learn’ had over a thousand patents to his credit, thanks to his mother who never gave up.
The connection with today’s Gospel is that God provides what we need for the journey of life. The journey that we are on is the same journey Elijah was on: it’s the journey to fulfill the will of God.
Today’s Gospel begins with a negative reference to another journey. It mentioned that the people were murmuring that Jesus did not have the right to say that he was the bread that came down from heaven. Great word: murmur. The entire Exodus account presents the people of Israel as murmuring against Moses. Jesus catches the people and says, “Stop the murmuring. You have it in prophecy that a time will come when the people will be taught by God. That time is now. This is different than the days of Moses. Those people ate Manna and died. I have food which will last you on the journey of life, food that is forever.” Then Jesus says, “I am the living Bread that came down from heaven.”
God has an overwhelming love for each of us. St. Catherine of Sienna put it this way, “Don’t you understand? God is running after you day and night as though he has nothing better to do than occupy himself with you.” God is so great that he created more than billion people and treats each one as an only child.
Jesus realizes the struggles of our lives. He sees the journey that each of us is on. He knows that we often have to flee from forces that wish to destroy us. These forces could be the materialism of the world, the licentiousness of a godless society, various addictions and sicknesses that we may or may not be responsible for, etc. He knows that we get depressed at times. There are plenty of times that we want to join Elijah under the broom tree and say, “Enough, I can’t take it anymore.”
We might want to give up, but he doesn’t let us. “I have food for the journey,” the Lord says. “I am the food for the journey. I am the Bread of Life that gives you the strength you need.” God won’t let us give up. He loves us too much. The Eucharist, communion, is the sacramental reception of the Bread of Life. Food for the journey, the Eucharist, Jesus, it’s all the same. When we receive communion we take the Love of God, Jesus Christ, within us.