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Elijah and the Food We Need

It’s hard enough to do the right thing. But when you get blame for it instead of praise, it really takes the wind out of your sails, even if you happen to be a prophet.

This is background we need in order to understand this Sunday’s first reading. Elijah had just brought an end to a two year famine by doing away with the idolatrous prophets of Ba’al. So what thanks does he get from Queen Jezebel? She demands his head on a platter. Within seconds he goes from being a hero to a fugitive. After running for his life, he finally drops exhausted in the desert under the only shade he can find. Feeling sorry for himself, he prays for death.  God decides instead to give him food. An angel appears with bread and water and tells him to take nourishment. He has a long journey ahead of him and there is no time for moping.

This is no ordinary meal, however. Have you ever heard of a single snack of bread and water giving someone sufficient strength to trudge 40 days through barren desert only to arrive at an equally barren mountain?

This is indeed a puzzling incident that is more than a miraculous desert refueling of a discouraged prophet. The Holy Spirit intends it to point forward to an even more remarkable food and drink that God will make available through his son, Jesus. Are we speaking of the loaves and fishes that Jesus multiplies to feed thousands in the wilderness? Even that is too little. For this miraculous lakeside meal, mentioned by all four gospels, satisfied only for a short time, and then the people were hungry again. Jesus points this out in John 6, and he also reminds the people that the manna their forefathers ate in the desert had similar limitations.

Even the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, like the meal Elijah received under the broom tree, merely points forward to something even greater, to food that truly satisfies and leads to eternal life. The fulfillment of all this foreshadowing is Jesus’ own flesh and blood, to be eaten sacramentally under the forms of bread and wine, in the Eucharist. This meal will be offered not just to a select few, but to all those sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) through baptism, making them prophets, kings, and priests of the Lord. They, like the prophet Elijah, will ultimately walk with God in glory, but before that will have a long, arduous journey to make that will require extraordinary strength and stamina.

Our second reading tells us why they will need superhuman strength. They are to rid themselves of bitterness, passion, anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. Have you ever tried to eliminate all such things in from your life? Have you found it easy to be as kind, compassionate, and forgiving as God, to be imitators of Christ’s way of love and self-sacrifice?  Then you know why God has made nourishment available to us that is truly superhuman, indeed divine, so that we are capable of loving in a way normally impossible for mere mortals.  In God’s wonderful plan of creation, blood was designed to purify our system of all impurities and bring life to every cell of our bodies. Christ gives us his own blood to drink to flush out the toxins of selfishness and revitalize us with his divine generosity and unlimited patience. When we receive this sacrament in faith, we have God’s own love coursing through our veins, passing through our weak hearts, transforming them and strengthening them for the journey of love that can lead us through some pretty bleak landscapes at times.

God cared enough for Elijah to have an angel bring him a special meal. He did one better for us.  He sent his Son who both brought the meal and is Himself the meal.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas.

48 posted on 08/12/2012 8:14:43 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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Manna and the Eucharist

First Reading: 1 Kngs. 19:4-8

Psalm: Ps. 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

SecondReading: Eph. 4:30-5:2

Gospel: Jn. 6:41-51

Today, Jesus attempts to link the Old Testament event of the feeding of the manna to the Israelites to his ego eimi or the “I am” sayings, that is, his being the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

As we all know, bread is something that is considered as staple for many cultures unlike in thePhilippinesandAsiawhere we tend to eat more of rice. But more than the physiological satisfaction that bread or rice gives us, it is good to ask: what do we feed ourselves for nourishment?

Nowadays, we hear of various ways by which we somehow pamper ourselves. We cannot seem to be contented with how things are. For those with curly hair, they want it to be straightened and vice-versa. Those who have darker skin they like to look fairer. Those who are excessively overweight go to health clubs so that they might trim down.

While some of what has been mentioned is commendable, it is good to ask whether we are able to do something to enhance the other aspects of our lives. Do we do something for our emotional and spiritual dimensions, which Jesus is likewise concerned? What have we done to nourish our relationship with Jesus? Do we make time for prayer? Or is prayer something we remember only when we have problems or are in need of help from Jesus?

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was the former archbishop ofChicago,Illinois,USA. One of his most practical advices was that we should pray when we are still healthy because when the time comes that we are sick, it would be very difficult to focus our attention to God. He arrived at this conclusion because he himself experienced getting seriously sick, that is, his encounter with cancer. Isn’t this true? Just a simple running nose, headache and toothache make us easily distracted. What more for illnesses and diseases where pain can be so much that we feel so helpless as it cannot be sufficiently managed. During those times, it is easy to neglect the presence of Jesus as we are so enmeshed in our suffering.

But, in ways that we cannot fully comprehend, Jesus continues to offer himself to us. In our desperation, we are able to suddenly remember to call on him, whose availability and love are without question. These then are the moments that Jesus becomes truly the bread of life because from hopelessness, we become hopeful. From lack of meaning in life, we find reason to move on. We find that even in moments of weakness and insignificance, Jesus continues to sustain us and make us feel special. These, in the end, would only be experienced with the eyes of faith. Just as Jesus has become the bread of life to us, we are likewise invited to be bread too for others.

“I am the bread of life”, Jesus claims. It was a truly a difficult moment for the Jews for they were supposedly very familiar with Jesus’ background. They simply found him too much, too overwhelming. We too can find such a claim difficult to believe. But with constant reflection, openness of heart and mind, as well as faith, such a profound truth may be perceived and accepted.

Today, let us pray that we may experience true nourishment in our hearts, mind and body. May we grow in deeper relationship with him, who manifests in finding meaning in life. May we look forward to reaching the eternal life as he promised.

49 posted on 08/12/2012 8:15:49 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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