[19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Aug 9, 2015 / 1 Kgs 19:4-8 / Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 / Eph 4:30—5:2 / John 6:41-51]
IMAGINE a person helping others by giving them bread to eat. Now let us say that this person is totally dedicated to this, working very hard, making many sacrifices, trying to feed many people for little or no income, giving up many of their own dreams, plans and comforts to be able to help others. What could we say about what this person is giving others? Is it only giving bread or is it not giving much more? I would say that this person is not just giving bread but that they are giving their very life. Jesus says in today’s Gospel: “the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6:41-51). Jesus does not give things but he gives himself.
Let’s ask ourselves: Do I just give things to others or my very self?
Sometimes we can be hesitant to give our lives for others. Better to keep it in reserve. For what? For when? For whom? As the Indian proverb goes, “All that is not given is lost.”
Life is an adventure, dare it! If you don’t take the bull by the horns, the bull will take you. But we can feel intimidated by life’s little challenges, even paralyzed with indecision in assuming a responsibility or task. But as St Teresa of Avila, the great Spanish mystic and writer noted, “The biggest cross is to avoid the cross.” That is why Jesus encourages us to pick it up, to embrace it and often we are surprised! I did it! (Of course, with the help of God’s grace). We find that it was not as bad as we imagined.
When the people listened to the teachings of Jesus they complained because he said, “I am the bread that comes down from heaven.” Jesus said to them “Stop complaining to each other.” Sometimes we complain when we think that God is not doing anything. As if he is sitting in heaven twiddling his thumbs and oblivious to what is going on here down below. But do you really think that seeing that world of today, with its many challenges, God is silent? It cannot be. He is shouting out but we have to listen! God is working powerfully in the world.
Why don’t we notice sometimes what he is doing in our lives? Because we don’t ask him! Logical. It is very beautiful to stop once in a while and in a moment of prayer to ask God what he is doing in our lives. He will let you know and you will be surprised!
For sure the work of God in all of us is that we no longer live only for ourselves but for others. But for this you need to be well nourished. In the marathon often the runner will carbohydrate load before the race, stocking up and nourishing his body with pasta and bread so he or she will have enough energy for the race. Likewise, if you want to endure in the race of life and keep loving until the finish line you need to stock up on the Word of God, the bread of life which is full of energy and power.
“Man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Elijah the prophet was encouraged by the angel to eat well for the journey ahead. At first, Elijah only nibbled at the food offered and then fell asleep. The angel returned and said, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” Elijah got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb (1 Kings 19:4-8). That is why the psalmist invites us: “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Psalm 34).
What is the sign we are well nourished spiritually? When we can follow the exercise plan (spiritual exercises!) of St Paul – “Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2). Wow! This is a well-nourished life, a life strong in the Lord and in serving others. I want this!
Let us persevere then in running the race for we know that “the salvation of many depends on the prayer and sacrifice of the few” (Pope Pius XII, 1943). Amen.