A Reflection for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B).
1Kings 19:4-8 – Ephesians 4:30-5:2 – John 6:41-51.
My dear brothers and sisters, from our own hard experience, each one of us can relate to what Elijah was going through when he sighed Lord, I’ve had enough (v.4). Broken and dispirited, disorientated and wandering aimlessly into the wilderness, Elijah finally reached the end of his tether. He couldn’t see the point of going on, and he was feeling so low that he asked God to end his life (v.4). One of the classic signs of depression is seeking refuge from the pain in sleep. As Walter de la Mare puts it, sleep is ‘the quiet steeps of dreamland, the waters of no-more-pain’. Sleep is healing and restorative to body, mind, soul and spirit, isn’t it? When Elijah was at his lowest ebb, an angel of God (whether human or divine, we do not know) ministered to him repeatedly with sustenance to restore his physical and mental wellbeing. I like what the angel encouraged him to do, to get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you. (v.7) The result of doing what he was told, of consuming the divinely-provided food and drink, was that Elijah’s hope was restored, his courage and faith were renewed, and he was able to resume his journey to Horeb.
In our darkest moments, we may feel so low as to be tempted to say with Elijah, ‘Lord, we’ve had enough.’ Living out the Christian life is by no means plain sailing, and we can get to the point where we find ourselves broken by circumstances beyond our control. We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel (and if we can, we fear it’ll be the light of an oncoming train). In order to keep plodding on, we need to have the assurance that we are not alone, that God is indeed with us, that He is willing us on and helping us to carry our crosses. It is in the divine presence in the Holy Eucharist, where Jesus is present to us and within us, that we find such assurance. In the Gospel reading, Jesus assures that He is the Bread of Life (v.48). He gives us exactly what we need to sustain us on our pilgrim journey to God. Jesus Himself is the heavenly Bread, medicine for the sick soul, nourishment for the wounded spirit, light and strength for the weary mind, the source of life, whose presence and power strengthens us in the here-and-now. Jesus Himself is the Bread who has come down from heaven (v.50) to save us from sin and death. Jesus is the Living Bread (v.51) who feeds our souls.
May I, therefore, urge you always to have the confidence to seek the Lord whenever you feel you really have had enough of the worries, trials, frustrations and anxieties of life. Every Holy Eucharist offers you the opportunity for reconciliation with God and with each other, for forgiveness to be received and demonstrated, and for new wounds and old sores to be bandaged up. When you consume the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and bear Him within your innermost self, His presence divinises you (CCC 82) and assures you that you are His and will never be separated from Him. Place your trust in Jesus, the Bread of Life, whose presence within you will give you the confidence to keep going forward for His sake.
May I also urge each one of you to offer a shoulder to cry on to anyone who feels they have had enough and sees no point in going on. Be there for them, be a listening ear for them, and just let them have their say uninterrupted until they have vented their pain and suffering. Be aware that it may take them quite a while. This is what St Paul implies in the 2nd reading when he instructed us to imitate God as His loving Children and to follow Christ’s example in loving people. So many people these days are giving up before their time because there is so much sorrow in the world. We ought to avoid adding to that. Rather, we should do our utmost to be their ‘angel of God’ (1R vv.5 & 7) by offering them material and emotional support. Being there for the needy and helping one another to keep going means that (unless circumstances warrant it) we should never begrudge anyone anything reasonable, we should never lose our temper or raise our voice to anyone, or call anyone names or be spiteful. Rather, we should make the effort (because it is our Christian duty in emulating Christ) to be approachable, friendly, kind, compassionate and forgiving.
And finally, as long as we have communion in the support of each other and in Christ, we ourselves shall benefit from divine guidance supporting us through the difficult situations of life. Jesus warned His disciples not to complain… not to take offence (Jn 6:61; cf. Jas 5:9; Phil 2:14f). Jesus is the Living Bread for the life of the world (v.51), for your life (Jn 6:35), and He has the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68). To receive from the altar while complaining or grumbling or with a bitter heart is to fail to participate with integrity in the Holy Eucharist because the thanksgiving cannot then be wholehearted. I myself want more and more of Jesus – and I earnestly hope you do too. God bless you.