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Get Up and Eat

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: 1 Kgs 19:4-8
Response: Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Eph 4:30—5:2
Gospel: Jn 6:41-51

Throughout the last several weeks, the Scripture Readings create a mosaic depicting the sublime mystery of the Eucharist. The narrative shows us how carefully the seeds of this mystery were planted in the early stages of Salvation History. Discouragement, fear, disappointment and frustration can all lead to a first response of shock and rejection. Elijah felt it - and those who first witnessed Jesus' words and works felt it..

First there was the Manna in the desert. Today we have the marvelous excerpt from the Book of Kings that shows us the prophet Elijah journeying in the desert, weary, discouraged, even praying for death. An angel is sent by God to offer him food and drink; he takes a little, but then falls back to sleep. Then the angel stirs him and cries out: "Get up and eat or else the journey will be too long for you."

Discouragement, fear, disappointment and frustration can all lead to a first response of shock and rejection. Elijah felt it - and those who first witnessed Jesus' words and works felt it.

In today's' Gospel reading, we can almost hear the shock and unbelief spread throughout the crowd. Looks of dismay and disappointment are interspersed by the flashing angry eyes of indignation. They grumble and complain that what they have just heard Jesus say seems to border on blasphemy. To make matters worse, Jesus expected them to take his words literally. Their grumbling was not unlike that of their ancestors in the desert when they too expressed their ingratitude by judging the ways of God's infinite Goodness.

Jesus further scandalized these folks by claiming, "I am the living bread," and suggesting that they must eat his flesh, the Bread of Life.

Instead of being scandalous, Jesus' words were life-giving. People today continue to wander aimlessly in a way not very dissimilar to the Jews wandering in the desert, starving for lack of food and a living relationship with the Father. Even as the heavenly manna was sent to nourish the physical bodies of the ancient Israelites, so our God sent us his Son, the true heavenly food, to nourish our entire beings.

And like those in the Gospel reading, Jesus is telling us that we have nothing to fear - that we should not be discouraged. He is the One the world has been waiting for. He is the One whose gaze has been turned towards the Father for all eternity. He is the only One who has seen the Father. He is the only One who can give eternal life to those who believe.

In some ways, perhaps in many ways, we act the same like those ancient Israelites. We grumble. Perhaps we grumble over our jobs, our neighbors, or about far more important aspects of our lives. If we grumble enough, we will see negativity everywhere.

It is easy to be negative. It is also contagious. One negative thought leads to another. One negative person easily infects another.

But we have been gifted with the eternal positive. The Word of God has become one of us. He who from the beginning of time has had a intimate relationship with the Father, shares his life with us. St. Paul could have had plenty of reason to grumble. He was mocked, insulted, scourged, beaten, etc. Yet he writes to the Christians at Rome, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us."

We are the people of the promise. Paul speaks about the necessity for a positive attitude to the Christians at Corinth: "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, was not "Yes and No"; but in him it is always "Yes."

The angel of God calls to us as to Elijah the prophet: "Get up now and come to the table to eat this food - or else the journey will be too long for you."

 



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