|19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5,
So as to be more available to the graces of God’s Word in our
Readings, imagine Jesus sitting under a Broom Tree waiting patiently for
his questioners to stop murmuring and arguing. He has his knapsack
next to him and his staff quite prepared to continue his journey. His
protagonists keep huddling and then approaching him with something more for
discussion. Each time they go into their huddle he makes as if to take
off and that brings them back out to the scrimmage line.
We PRAY THESE DAYS AS PEOPLE ON A JOURNEY. We are one form of God’s
really being present. We have eaten of the Bread of Life, Jesus, both
in the Eucharist and in our acceptance of him as the One Who Has Been Sent.
We pray for God’s accompanying us as we meet resistance to our
own goodness and that of God. We pray for the gentle touch of the Eucharist
in our hand and on our tongues which encourages us to get up, keep going,
and show up for tomorrow. We may also pray not to argue about religion
and religious beliefs, but live them convincingly.
To understand Elijah’s journey and why he just wanted to die, one must read
the previous chapter to the one from which our First Reading is taken. Elijah
is being chased for good reasons by Jezebel and Ahab who have killed all
the other prophets of Israel. Elijah in his turn has proven the prophets
of Baal, a god of fertility, no god at all. That little piece of action
you must read and enjoy in chapter eighteen. He has mocked their god
and then slaughters all one hundred and fifty false prophets. They
played for keeps in those days.
So Elijah is on the run, making for the mountain of the covenant.
We see him exhausted, frustrated, and ready to quit. An angel
wakes him and urges him to eat and drink; he does this twice. Elijah
then gets up and journeys for forty days and forty nights before arriving
The discussion about the words of Jesus claiming to be “the bread come down
from heaven” and his being the “bread of life” intensifies in today’s Gospel.
Jesus is not letting up, but saying even more statements which seem,
to his Jewish listeners, outrageous and impossible as well as insulting to
their sacred history.
Jesus advances his thoughts by adding that he, in his totality must be taken
in and it is the work of his Father to draw all to this belief or acceptance.
Belief then steps ahead of intellectual understanding or imaginational
conviction. His “flesh” must be eaten, or consumed, or made a part
of the living flesh of those who do believe that he is the one “sent” from
heaven to give life to this world. As the flesh of quail, lambs and other
animals, when eaten, gives life for the journey, so Jesus, when taken in
as word from God, gives life for the journey of life. Jesus states
directly that they should just stop murmuring; arguing, intellectualizing,
and other forms of mental gymnastics which will not reduce this mystery of
the Incarnation to a simple one and one makes two. Jesus quotes, “They
shall all be taught by God.” Jesus is speaking of the God of their
history and the God made flesh for the journey into their future.
Jesus recalls that their Jewish ancestors ate of the bread which fed them
in the journey of the desert and did die. The “bread” that is Jesus
will give life for the journey into eternal life. He will give this
flesh on the cross for this eternal life given for all and to all who can
believe in their being so loved.
A few years ago I witnessed a marriage within my family of origin.
The liturgy was on a Saturday afternoon. Sunday afternoon, while visiting
my brother and sister-in-law’s home, I suggested we have mass before I had
to fly back to Omaha. My young nephew plaintively suggested that we
had mass yesterday. I told him in a very Jesuit-Uncle way, why we were going
to have Sunday’s liturgy on Sunday. He lurched back in his lazyboy
chair and poutingly asked, “Could we just have communion and get out of here?”
He knew reception of Communion came near the end of the liturgy, at least
It is the journeying all right that is important. Jesus, Elijah, you
and I are meant and sent on “getting out of here.” Getting out of “here”
this life, is ultimately the aim of Jesus’ having made his journey.
He came that we might have life, real life, more abundantly on earth in such
a way that we will “get out of here” into eternal life.
Elijah wanted to “get out of here” by dying quickly. The
burden of his being a prophet was too heavy. God came down and touched
his flesh, fed his flesh and strengthened his flesh to continue the mission
of revealing God’s love to Israel. Life’s journey needs help and Jesus’
journey was to give us a fleshly touch, and encouragement, and even a kick
in the spiritual pants to keep us on a similar pilgrimage of revealing the
goodness and love of God in and to this world. We believe in Jesus.
We believe in Jesus in the Eucharist. WE believe in Jesus who takes our flesh
and distributes us as gifts of his love.
After listening, after offering, after celebrating, after receiving, then
it is indeed time to “get out of here” and bless this world a bit.
“Praise the Lord, Jerusalem; he feeds you
with the finest wheat.” Psalm 148