By Bishop David McGough
Nineteenth Sunday of the Year 1 Kings 19: 4-8, Ephesians 4: 30 — 5:2, John 6:41-51
G-t up and eat, or the oumey will be too long for you." Such was the advice given to the prophet Elijah as he fled the wrath of the enraged Queen Jezebel. At a dramatic trial of strength on Mount Carmel he had dared to defy the morality of Israel's king and his notorious consort. The moment of triumph had been short-lived. Now Elijah had preferred flight to a seemingly endless struggle with the depravity of Israel's court and ruling classes. The incident in today's reading presents a very different Elijah from the confident champion of Mount Carmel. "Lord, I have had enough. Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors." Elijah discovered that he had neither the strength nor the stomach to match the strength of a godless world. In the wilderness he rested in the presence of the Lord. He was sustained by the food provided by the Lord, by the presence of the Lord revealed in the still quiet voice of the breeze. Thus he became the first of Israel's many prophets.
In less dramatic ways we face a godless world. We are, by baptism, a prophetic people, a people called to proclaim the gospel and reject all that is contrary to its values. Like Elijah, we can, at times, summon ourselves to dramatic witness to Christ and his gospel.At other times we reflect the dispirited Elijah, seemingly abandoned and alone in our struggle. Like Elijah, we begin to doubt our strength and stamina for longterm faith. At such times we are summoned to Christ, the Bread of life.
"lam the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my
THE WEEK AHEAD Divine Office Week III
flesh, for the life of the world."
Jesus, and those who came to him, had discussed Israel's experience in the wilderness. "Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead." Jesus underlined the basic insufficiency of human nature. Without a vision of its own dignity and destination and without the means to sustain that vision, the human spirit is condemned to starvation and death. The words of Jesus invite us to the most basic questions. What vision do we have of ourselves and the destiny to which we are called? What sustains this vision, renewing it each day of our lives?
When Jesus described himself as the Bread of Life, he offered himself as both the vision and the sustenance of • our lives. The vision that brings wholeness to our lives is communion with Christ. In him alone do we find meaning and purpose, a sense of who we are. This longing to be one with Christ draws us into a deeper communion, a life shared with the Father. "No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father." As we draw near to Christ the Bread of Life, the love of the Father is already at work in us. The Holy Communion at the heart of the Mass draws us into an eternal dialogue in which the Father leads us to his Son.
In this same dialogue, the Son leads us to the Father. Here, and hem alone, the hunger and longing of our humanity is sustained and strengthened.
"They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me."
In the Eucharist the restlessness and dissatisfaction of sinful humanity is fed and made whole. Without Christ the human spirit is but half alive. "This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die."