The Abbot's Desk
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: "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. He 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.
Do nothing to sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be imitators of God as his dear children. Follow the way of love, even as Christ loved you. He gave himself for us as an offering to God, a gift of pleasing fragrance.
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, for a man to eat and never die. I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world."
Text from Lectionary for Mass
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We continue to hear from our Scriptures that Jesus is the bread of life. We continue to hear once again that God will take care of us and watch over us in all our needs.
Elijah sounds just like us! He goes off to the desert, to some difficult task, and things do not work out as he wants. So he asks God to take his life. We need to think about our own reactions when we find that we feel abandoned by God. What are our thoughts? Do we admit our feelings and still trust in the Lord? Do we give up easily? Do we think that God does not really care for us? So often, if we can discover what we are thinking and feeling, we shall have a much clearer idea of our faith. God knows that we are humans. He invites us to learn to trust in Him. We learn that trust through the normal trials of human living.
Saint Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians asks us to trust in the Holy Spirit and to do nothing that would sadden the Holy Spirit. What Saint Paul is inviting us to do is to live with virtue and compassion in our lives. When we live with virtue and compassion we come to understand the Lord and His ways of acting. If we follow the way of love in our personal life, we come to understand profoundly the way of God's love.
The Gospel reading is one of relatively rare places where Jesus seems to be claiming to be God. For His own people, it was much clearer what He was saying. Since we do not know the spoken lanuguage of Jesus and since most of us have not been raised with a knowledge of how the people of Jesus' time and religion argued, the scene given to us sounds simply like a somewhat incomprehensible religious teaching.
First of all, Jesus uses an expression: "I am..." This expression is directly related to the revelation of the Living God in the Old Testament, but we can easily miss that connection. Jesus says of Himself: "I am the Resurrection." "I am the bread from heaven." "I am the vine." And Jesus uses many other expressions such as these. To those who heard Him and who understood their own religion, these expressions indicate a claim to be God. We can hear in today's reading his own townspeople talking among themselves: "But we know who He is, and He cannot be what He is saying!"
Also in this Gospel Jesus tells us that He will give us His flesh for the life of the world. This kind of saying brings a revulsion to some of His hearers because it sounds like cannibalism. This was one of the accusations against the early Christians: they were cannibals.
For us today, we are invited to reflect once more: Do I accept Jesus as God? Do I really eat His flesh and drink His blood? Do I accept a resurrection from the dead? These are strong questions to us and the life we live if we believe and say "yes" to each of these questions.
Jesus, help me believe and cure my unbelief!
© 2000 The Monastery of Christ in the Desert