Athenaeum Resources


                                                                               Texts of the Readings

August 13, 2006

Nineteenth Sunday of the Year (B)

Rev. Timothy P. Schehr

1 Kings 19:4-8   X       Ephesians 4:30-5:2    X   John 6:41-51


            In the first reading for this Sunday we meet Elijah when he is having a really bad day. It is so bad he prays for God to release him from this world. We all have probably had days like that when we feel we just cannot go on. If so, we may find comfort in the way God answered Elijah’s prayer.


            Elijah asks for death; God responds with life. The weary prophet wakes up and finds a substantial meal sitting in front of him—a gift from heaven. He eats it and goes back to sleep. It seems Elijah is determined not to move from his chosen place of departure.


            So God provides a substantial meal a second time and this time Elijah discovers he has energy enough to make a forty-day journey to the mountain of God. On that high ground Elijah will learn that God’s ways are definitely not his ways. The prophet has yet to carry out one of the most important missions of his career—to anoint as successor the great prophet Elisha.


            In the gospel Jesus offers the people a substantial meal too---the bread of life. When Jesus explains that he offers his very self as food, some of the people standing around him cannot accept what he says. From their limited point of view they try to work in all out in earthly terms alone. They think they know all there is to know about the origins of Jesus. They know his father and mother and see no reason to accept his word that he came down from heaven. Jesus wants them to know they are missing out on so much more. The prophets looked forward to a day when people would have God for a teacher. Jesus is telling them that day has arrived. If they can just open their hearts to hear the message.


            To help his audience make the transition to a new level of thinking, Jesus offers them an example from their own traditions. Their ancestors found nourishment in a bread that came down from heaven. It was the manna in the desert, God’s special bread to nourish them for the journey to the Promised Land.


            Jesus offers so much more. Those ancestors ate the manna for forty years. It got them to the Promised Land, but it could not carry them beyond the boundaries of time. They eventually died. Jesus offers bread from heaven that will nourish to eternal life. It is bread for a new and more glorious journey, one that leads to heaven.


            In his letter to the Ephesians Paul addresses his spiritual brothers and sisters. They have already displayed great faith in accepting the gospel. But Paul does not want them to lose all the advantages they have gained so far. He warns them against things that grieve the Holy Spirit. The list includes such things as anger, bitterness, and malice towards others. Paul offers them a new list that includes antidotes for such spiritually harmful choices. This list includes kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.


            Paul goes on to tell the Ephesians they can find the best example to follow in the Lord Jesus. He gave his life for them as a sacrificial offering to God. This great act of love won forgiveness for them. What better way to show gratitude for this than to reflect that kind of love in their own lives. Paul might have appealed to the first reading by urging them not to join Elijah under the tree and give up on life. There is still so much more to do for God.


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