Ordinary 19by Lanie LeBlanc OP
The Scripture readings this Sunday tell of human inadequacies and how God responds to them. In the First Book of Kings, Elijah is fleeing for his life from those who did not want to hear the word of the Lord spoken through him. He was what we might call bone weary, frustrated, and just plain exhausted. Who among us has not felt that way? There are so many situations of people expending their energies purposely doing good whether within a family, the work place, or the community, who are met with a polite "thank you, but no thank you", a stronger rejection, or even violent reprisal. Sometimes one's effort is so great and the seeming result so undetectable, that well, it seems that those who are hell-bent to, well, are just hell-bent. "This is enough, O Lord! is our cry, too. In my case, it usually sounds more like "Do something, Lord!" as if He hasn't been doing anything yet !
God's response to Elijah shows His care. He doesn't remove these feelings, but instead, continues to provide opportunities for nourishment. The shade, the directives from the angels, and the water and cakes help Elijah regain his physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to continue his journey.
In the Gospel reading, the Jews' response to Jesus's words of life is to "murmur" against him. They try half-heartedly to figure out where Jesus came from and what he might mean, but not with open minds and hearts. Although Jesus is a bit sharp with them at first, he continues to explain. He tells them directly that whoever believes that he is "the bread of life" will have eternal life. Once again, the feelings of doubt are not dispelled directly, but rather opportunities for more understanding are provided so that spiritual nourishment can take place.
It is part of our human condition to become weary, to doubt, and to fall short of living as we should in so many ways. God's response to us is the same as the responses in the first and third readings. God indeed does provide respite for us in the Bread of Life and also in countless other ways that we may or may not recognize. One way is through one another, the reaching out for help and to help.
If, as it says in the Letter to the Ephesians, we are the beloved children of Cod, then we must be imitators of God in how we act. We were sealed with the Holy Spirit of God at Baptism, making us one family. Family cares for family. The reading says that any type of violence and malice in our lives must be replaced by compassion and forgiveness. Our feelings and our inadequacies often get in the way, as with those in the first and third readings. God does still provide us with opportunities for nourishment so that we can believe and continue on our journey to Him. Helping others along the way actually helps ourselves, for it is in doing so that we do as Jesus did, "handing himself over" for us.
In some ways, it helps me to think that the give and take in life keeps the balance of life continually flowing throughout the Body of Christ. Jesus's redemptive life blood remains our steady sustenance. Our need for help of whatever kind along the journey is received through the Bread of Life directly and also from those who have received from the Bread of Life and are willing to extend their helping hand in prayer, word, or deed. May we all, those in need and those not currently so, rejoice in the Triune Head of the Family Who cares for us all and also for our brothers and sisters who reflect that care.
(Comments to Lanie at email@example.com.)