HOMILY FOR THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B (AUGUST 08, 2021)

HOMILY FOR THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B (AUGUST 08, 2021)

1KINGS 19:4-8; PSALM 34; EPHESIANS 4:30-5:2; JOHN 6:41-51

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 FR GALADIMA BITRUS, (OSA)

THE PILGRIM’S BREAD

Every kind of life’s journey depends on some kind of sustenance or nourishment. The spiritual life’s journey is no exception. Thus, the pilgrim or the one who embarks on a journey towards an encounter with the divine needs some sort of sustenance. It is on the sustenance for such spiritual pilgrimage that the readings today focus.

The 1st Reading (1 Kgs 19:4-8) is an excerpt from the story of Elijah’s flight from Jezebel (1 Kgs 19:1-18). Jezebel was a Phoenician princess that Ahab, king of Israel, took as wife (cf. 1 Kgs 16:30-32). She was powerful, manipulative and cruel and is known to have persecuted and killed off prophets of the Lord (cf. 1 Kgs 18:4). She is particularly known for having manipulated Israel’s justice system, mobilizing Naboth’s town’s men to falsely accuse him of having reviled God and the king, thereby stoning him to death so that her husband, Ahab, who desired Naboth’s ancestral land but was refused, could have it (cf. 1 Kgs 21:5-16).

Following Elijah’s tremendous victory over the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel, putting them to the sword after their gods were proven to be manmade and incapable of answering prayers (cf. 1 Kgs 18:20-46), Jezebel who introduced their worship in Israel and sponsored it, took it very personal and vowed to kill Elijah by the following day (cf. 1 Kgs 19:1-2). Having learned about her threat, Elijah fled to the wilderness, where he would suffer hunger and pray that the Lord take his life (19:3-4).

Elijah’s famine in the wilderness and God’s intervention by a miraculous provision parallels the story of Hagar in Gen 21:14-19. Hagar despaired over her child for lack of water in the wilderness of Beersheba, leaving him under a bush and sitting at a distance as she waited for the child to die. But the Lord intervened and opened her eyes to a well of water from where she could fetch and revive the dying child.

In Elijah’s story, the wilderness of Beersheba is also mentioned as the place where Elijah left his servant while he went further into the wilderness (19:3). Probably the servant was also dying and like Hagar, he did not want to see it happening right before him, hence, went a distance. Or probably he himself felt he was dying and did not want the servant to behold that potentially traumatizing sight, hence he went a distance.

The latter seems to be more probable since it is Elijah’s story that continues, just like it is the story of Hagar’s son, Ishmael, that continues (cf. Gen 21:20). Also, Hagar was a maidservant, so her role corresponds better to that of Elijah’s servant while Elijah himself, corresponds to Ishmael. He too sits under a certain bush described as a “broom bush” as he prayed and awaited death (19:4.5), just as Ishmael was placed under a certain bush by Hagar, as she sat a distance away awaiting the child’s death (Gen 21:15-16).

In both stories, God intervenes through his Angel. In the case of Hagar and her son, the Angel comforts and encourages Hagar with the famous “fear not” formula, and opening her eyes to see a well of water from where she could fetch in her water-jar and revive the child (Gen 21:17-19). In the case of Elijah, the Angel wakes him up and asks him to eat, thus also opening his eyes to see right beside his head, a cake baked on hot stones and also a water-jar (1 Kgs 19:5-7). Furthermore, it is said that God was with Hagar’s child as he grew up (Gen 21:20), just as Elijah will proceed with his journey of faith, to be with the Lord on the mountain of God at Horeb (cf. 1 Kgs 19:8bff.).

The connections between these two stories are numerous and quite striking, clearly pointing to some relationship between the two texts, a phenomenon described in biblical scholarship as “intertextuality”.

The story of Elijah’s near-death in the wilderness and the Lord’s miraculous provision echoes also the story of the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, in the wilderness of Sin, between Sinai and Elim in Exod 16 which we read and meditated upon last Sunday. The Israelites also felt they were at the point of death and in desperation grumbled against Moses and Aaron, “You have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole congregation to death” (Exod 16:3), even as they idealized their former, equally traumatizing life in Egypt.

From these stories, we learn the truth that in our pilgrimage with the Lord, he is always right there to sustain us, especially when we come to the point of realizing that our success is not in our strength but in the Lord’s, a lesson in faith we often never learn as long as we still have a modicum of strength and ability in us. We most often learn this valuable lesson the hard way, when we come to the very limit of our own strength and ability.

It is the lesson of absolutely trusting God and totally abandoning ourselves in him, learning to say to the Lord, like Elijah, “take my life” (Heb. qaḥ nafšî; 1 Kgs 19:4), a statement which, though generally understood as expressing the prophet’s prayer to die, may also imply the total surrender of his life to God, expressing, therefore, Elijah’s realization that the situation at hand is beyond his ability to withstand. He has reached the end of his strength and as such, has to rely entirely on God. In fact, Elijah’s full statement reads: “It is much, now O Lord, take my life”.

This prayer is followed by a gesture that shows Elijah taking off himself every preoccupation handing over same to God. For “He [Elijah] lay down and fell asleep under a broom bush” (1 Kgs 19:5). This is the high point of faith, that moment, as C. S. Lewis notes, when one has tried his best to practice virtues, and found out that he fails. Only then, can he be in the right relation with God. “He cannot get into the right relation until he has discovered the fact of [his]/our bankruptcy” (C.S. LEWIS, Mere Christianity, 145). That is the moment when we realize, as St. Augustine did, that “When you [Lord] are our strength, we are indeed strong, but when our strength is in ourselves, we are weak” (ST. AUGUSTINE, Confessions II.16.31).

In the Gospel Reading (Jn 6:41-51), Jesus identifies himself with life-giving divine sustenance. For he said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35.41.51). Failing to go beyond their material knowledge of him as the son of Joseph, the Jews murmured.

Jesus’ reference to himself as life-giving bread and drink echoes God’s life-saving provision of food and drink to Hagar and her son in the wilderness of Beersheba, to the Israelites in the wilderness of Sin during the exodus, and indeed to Elijah on his way to Horeb. This was a moment, as we have seen, preceded by a total surrender into God’s hands, “It is much, now O Lord take my life”, cried Elijah. In the same vein, Jesus equates acting in faith with possession of eternal life: “Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life” (Jn 6:47).

While the 1st Reading and the Gospel emphasize divine providence, the 2nd Reading (Eph 4:30-5:2), part of a long exhortation running through Eph 4:17-5:20, emphasizes the need for believers to adopt worthy conduct and qualities in their dealing with the world and with one another. For clearly, while God is up and doing making his grace available to us, we too have to be up and doing, making good use of the grace which God freely gives.

The passage of the 2nd Reading is structured into a negative exhortation and two positive exhortations, all the three exhortations being grounded on the nature of the triune God, the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

The first exhortation to avoid or put away “all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander and malice” (4:31), is grounded on the Holy Spirit of God. As we read, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption” (4:30). The negative formulation of this exhortation reflects the negative nature of the conduct it calls on us to avoid.

The second exhortation to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” is grounded on God the Father. As we read: “As God in Christ has forgiven you, therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children” (4:32-5:1). The third and final exhortation of the passage calls on us to “live in love” and it is grounded in Christ Jesus. As we read: “As Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:2). These last two are positive exhortations and are accordingly, positively formulated.

The 2nd Reading, therefore, invites us to beware of negative emotions and avoid feeding them, but rather, to irrigate our positive emotion of love, for it has the capacity to produce kindness and tenderheartedness.

All this is to be based not merely on humanitarian considerations but on theological grounds, that is, in imitation of God. In this way, Holy Scripture seeks to secure deeper grounds for an unconditional commitment to avoiding evil and doing good, always, everywhere and to everyone, a kind of commitment that humanitarian considerations alone cannot guarantee, as they are often based on the slippery and shallow grounds of conditionality and mutuality.

FR. DANIEL EVBOTOKHAI

RATHER THAN MURMURING TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD

In the gospel we see Jesus again teaching the people that he is the bread of life which has come down from heaven and which can bring them eternal life. In response the people murmured at Jesus because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ The word “murmur” or “grumble” implies complaining against Jesus behind His back. In Exd. 16:2 in the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. In  Num 14:2. “all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron…” It is not good for Christians to murmur. Murmuring was among the five major sins of Israel in the scripture; others are Lust for evil things, Idolatry, Fornication, Tempting God and Christ. We must learn to avoid grumbling. If we continually murmur and complain, we eventually forget all the good things God has given to us. The moment you murmur, grumble, and complain, you begin to be unthankful. Thomas Watson says “Our murmuring is the devil’s music”. It is actually the devil’s music inasmuch as it does not offer solution.   

Precisely because of the above, the second reading says; do not grieve the Holy Spirit, 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. Often times we are guilty of all these vices. We murmur against people and worst still we murmur behind them and tell lies about them. When we don’t understand; ask, seek help and pray.  James 5:9 says “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” Similarly, St. Paul says in the second reading; be friends with one another, kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave us in Christ. Try, then, to imitate God as his children.

More so, we often complain about our bad health, our failures, and disappointments from friends and relatives, we complain about our parishes and parish administrators, we complain against our bishops, the society and the high level of selfishness, crimes, materialism and lust. Jesus said to the people today “Stop complaining to each other. ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Phil.2:14-15 saysDo everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world.” Beloved, if the Father was not drawing us we would not have been where we are today. Therefore, rather than complaining let us pray that the Father draws us closer so that we can rise up from our ugly state to the beauty he has destined for us since the foundation of the world.

Oftentimes our complains blind us from seeing the beauty that God has in store for us. Elijah in the first reading resorted to taking his life simply because he felt abandoned by God. He never knew that God had better plans for him. Similarly, we complain about our failures and insufficiencies. We come to that stage wherein, we feel that there is no need to live. As a result of the trials we end our lives even before God speaks. This was the state of Elijah in the first reading. To his greatest surprise God sent an Angel to give him bread and water.. This food from heaven strengthened Elijah forty days and forty nights until he came to Horeb the mount of God.

Beloved, this bread from heaven that was given to Elijah was defined in the Gospel reading of today. Jesus is the bread of life that came down from heaven. The people wanted natural food but Jesus presented them with the spiritual food. This bread of life is of greater value and relevance than the natural food and we are not satisfied spiritually unless we eat of this meal. When Elijah ate he found strength to ascend to the mount of the Lord. If we too participate in this bread of life – the Eucharist, we shall find strength to go through the journeys of life and come to the mountain of the Lord – the heavenly Jerusalem. Therefore, rather than resigning to suicide, anxiety and restlessness because of the failures of life; let us go to Jesus the bread of life so that we may be strengthened. Today’s responsorial psalm says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” What are you waiting for?

FR. EVARISTUS OKEKE

WE CANNOT BUT “EAT”!

“ Taste and see that the Lord is good ” (Ps. 34:9a)

Life is precious and whatever contributes to the preservation of life is always of importance to every living thing. It is for the preservation of life that man toils day and night that he may make a living. However, since man is both body and spirit, the life of man is not only physical but even more spiritual. The readings of today teach us that for us to be truly alive, we must eat of the Lord. In John 14:6, Jesus emphatically stated that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one come to the Father except through him. It therefore means that for us to truly possess the life that Jesus is and gives, we must eat Jesus. The thrust of today’s readings is to insist that the word “eat” is not used figuratively nor symbolically but exactly. We must actually eat Jesus the way we eat physical food for us to possess spiritual life – there is no other meaning or alternative to this truth.

In the first reading of today, we encounter a dramatic encounter between God and Elijah. Elijah had just concluded a contest with the prophets of Baal; a contest where it was publicly shown that only the Almighty God is God indeed. After the contest, Elijah slayed the prophets of Baal and this did not go down well with Jezebel, the wife of Ahab. She sworn to do to Elijah what he did to the prophets of Baal. It is surprising to read that Elijah went into hiding in the wilderness for fear of his life. If Elijah could be called by God, if God could answer the supplication of Elijah and consumed the sacrifice by fire, why then was Elijah afraid of Jezebel. Could he not have trusted God to be able to deliver him from her hands? Was he afraid that Jezebel was a hard nut for God to crack?

I consider the hiding and fled of Elijah rather symbolic. It symbolizes that no matter how gifted we may be; no matter what mighty deeds the Lord may work through us, we will never be immune from the vicissitudes of life. Everyone must have his or her own fair share of life’s problems. If our gifts won’t immune us then, something else is needed. What is needed is spiritual nourishment. Something is unique about this needed spiritual nourishment. Unlike physical nourishments, it is not earned by the labours of man but like physical food, it must be consumed physically.

Consequently, when Elijah thought that dying will be a solution by enabling him escape from the great problem at hand, the Lord decided to feed him with this unique spiritual food. An Angel of the Lord woke Elijah up and asked him to eat. The food was physical but was not provided by Elijah nor by mortals. Elijah was to eat this food and eat it again. This teaches us that our consumption of this spiritual food cannot but be a frequent one. By this, the Lord was teaching Elijah that what he needed was not death but strength to move on in life. Without spiritual food, we will have no strength, zeal and courage to utilize the gifts that God has given to us. Therefore, spiritual gifts are not enough, we must also be spiritually fed.

In the gospel reading, the theology of this spiritual food was perfectly developed. The physical food is the body and blood of Jesus. Man cannot work for this food as he does his daily bread. It is Jesus who freely gives himself to us in the Eucharist. While the Jews murmured against Jesus because of his low background, Jesus insisted that it is the consumption of his flesh as food that will give man life. Today many are “murmuring” by giving different meanings/alternatives to the word “eat”.

Without this bread, we will have no life in us; without this bread, we will not be able to experience the resurrection. This bread must be Jesus himself not a representation of him, else it will be like the manna that the Israelites ate in the Wilderness that is not able to give life. The life that comes to us through the physical consumption of this spiritual food, cannot come to us through any other means.

What this means for us Catholics is that there is no substitute to the Eucharist. The nourishment that comes from sacramental communion cannot be gotten through any other spiritual exercise. The idea of spiritual communion comes up when, out of no fault of the Catholic, he or she is not opportune to sacramentally receive Holy Communion; like the case of the covid-19 lockdown when public Masses were on hold. Therefore, spiritual communion does not apply in a case when sacramental communion is possible.

Beloved, we are called upon today, to strive against all odds to remove whatever obstacle that prevents us from receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. That excuse of yours, no matter how legitimate it may be to you, it is not able to give you life. “God will understand” does not help the situation. God wants to understand your effort in removing all obstacles. Therefore, as you mentally and physically prepare for Sunday Masses, let it also be part of your preparation to ensure that you worthily receiving Jesus in Holy Communion.

Another lesson we learn today is that we must be mindful of our lifestyles. Let us always guide against anything or decision of ours that will translate to us no longer being able to receive Holy Communion. Never you think or say that not receiving Holy Communion is not a big deal or that it is something you can always sought out later in future. No! It is rather something that you must avoid at all cost.

To sacrifice ones eligibility to receive Holy Communion for some other benefits is tantamount to one using himself or herself for ritual to make money. It is obviously a senseless thing to do. St. Paul warns in the second reading that whatever distances us away from the Lord, grieves the Holy Spirit of God. Beloved, do not grieve the Holy Spirit. God Bless You!

REV. FR. STEPHEN UDECHUKWU

We will not be abandoned in crisis if we are connected

Human life is characterised by crisis and troubles of all kinds. In fact some persons believe that some one can only be seen as matured if he/she is able to go through and handle troubles of life. Every creature in life at a point in time must experience crisis. Even a baby in the womb experiences crisis sometimes. There may have been a point in our lives that we have had the cause to ask “God why me”?. But the good news is that God never abandons us during these periods of crisis. Job in Job 3:2-13 was so distressed that he begged God to curse the day he was born but God did not abandon him. Tobit in Tobit 3:6 prefered death because of crisis, he was tired of life, but God never abandon him. He sent an angel to help him. It was a serious crisis for Moses facing the murmuring of the Israelites hence in Numbers 11:11-15 he begged God to have pity on him and kill him instead of leaving him to suffer. But then God came to his aid. Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:14-18 also wished he was dead when his life was being threatened. He wished he never answered the call to be a prophet. Even Jesus himself at a point in his crisis thought that his Father had left him and so he shouted in Mark 15:34 “My God My God why have you forsaken me” but the Father came to his aid.

In our first reading we see Elijah’s own crisis. Elijah after the incident that took place on mount Carmel, when he challenged and killed the prophets of the pagan god baal and proved that Yahweh is the only true God. Jezabel, the pagan queen, wife of Achab, then threatened to kill him. But Elijah, being aware of this threat, left Israel to go and settle on Mount Horeb in Sinai. On his way he ran out of food and he felt the crisis was too much for him and wished to die. But God did not abandon him. In fact he ate to his satisfaction. God made provision for him even when he was asleep and after he finished eating the first round he still ate the second round.

Dearly beloved, Elijah was not abandoned by God because he connected himself to God. Even in the sea of his crisis he made sure he did not lose contact with the one who is alive. Even Job made sure he remained connected to God who is life himself. He was insulted and ridiculed, advised to curse God and die but he refused and remained connected with the giver of life. And because all these people were connected they were not abandoned.

Jesus tells us in our gospel reading “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will leave forever…” this words of Jesus implies that once we are disconnected from him, we will have no life. We will be swallowed by the crisis and waves of life. When we feed ourselves with the bread of life who is Jesus himself by connecting to him, our crisis will be very light for us for he himself said in the gospel of Mathew 11:30 that his yoke is easy and his burden light and in Matthew 11:28 he said “come to me all you who are overburdened and I will give you rest”. The problem most times is that we don’t know how to remain connected to the giver of life and the bread of life. To be connected, we must practise frequent and worthy reception of the Eucharist for he says in John 6:50 “this is the bread which came down from heaven that man may eat and not die”. When we frequent the Eucharist we will not die by being disconnected. Because to be disconnected from God means an automatic death. We can be connected through our daily communion with God in prayer. Prayer the Church says is lifting upmour hearts and minds to God. In other word, it is a mortal connection to the immortal. And finally we can connect to God through a sincere study of his word.

St. Jerome reminds us that “ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christ” and ignorance of Christ undoubtedly amounts to spiritual death. Just as mobile phones are almost usuless when not connected to network so also our lives becomes almost usuless, worthless and fruitless when disconnected with Jesus whom is life himself. Let us therefore remain connected to Jesus the bread of life so that we will not be drowned by our life crisis. May God keep us always connected to himself. Amen.

FR. PAUL OREDIPE

Food for the Journey  –  Jesus Christ,  BREAD OF LIFE 

At Benediction, we pray:  “Lord our God, you have given us the true bread from heaven.  In the strength of this food may we live always by your life and rise in glory on the last day.” 

In the strength of this food:  That is the focus of our liturgy today as we continue the great passage in the Gospel of St. John on the Eucharist. 

We can never exhaust the great riches contained in the Eucharist.  It is so rich and central to our faith that it takes us some few Sundays to read and reflect on this passage. 

“They shall all be taught by God”, our gospel passage tells us.  So we continue to listen as God, in and through Jesus Christ, teaches us about himself. 

Traditionally, the Church is divided into 3 groups:  

            The Church triumphant:  those who have arrived in heaven, having fought the good fight of faith. 

            The Church suffering: those who are yet to arrive in heaven, making atonement in purgatory. 

            The Church militant: those of us still alive, struggling on, yet to arrive. 

            Surely, we are still on the journey.  Our life itself is a journey.  We are pilgrims here on earth. 

            In the course of our journey here on earth, we need nourishment.  We need food.  We need strength. 

Jesus assures us that He is THE FOOD we need.  “I am the living4 bread that came down from heaven …  the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” 

Life is about survival, the desire to live in spite of setbacks.  Many sick patients recover and continue to live because they desire to live.  They love life and live it to the fullest.  They never give up on themselves or others.  Most of all, they have faith in God. 

We are all on the journey of life.  But we are all at different stages of the journey.  Some have been on it for quite some time now.  Some are just starting.  Wherever we may be, we all can only continue the journey with the needed strength and stamina. 

 In our First Reading today, a story of hardship from the Book of Kings, Elijah the prophet was on a journey.  After he had zealously dedicated himself to serving the Lord, and all his hard work had worn him out.  Elijah, becomes discouraged, tired and depressed.  He had just finished challenging the prophets of Baal and demonstrated that the God of Israel is the true living God.  Although he had defeated the prophets of the pagan god, Baal, his victory was short-lived.  Queen Jezebel was a follower of Baal and had threatened Elijah’s life, so he fled.  As Jezebel, Israel’s unbelieving queen, was after him, Elijah had to flee for his life.  We find him wandering in the desert, tired, hungry and praying for death.  But God has other things in mind for Elijah, who has remained faithful when all others had turned away from God. 

After all he had done, Elijah began to wonder whether he had accomplished anything at all.  Elijah wanted to die.  He had had enough.  He was so tired and discouraged.  Rather than allow him to die, God sends an angel to take care of Elijah.  Twice Elijah is fed before continuing his long journey to the mountain of God, Horeb (or Sinai), where he will have an intimate encounter with God. 

At different times, like Elijah, so many of us may feel so tired.  We feel so wearied out as we go on the journey of life.  Have you ever felt so discouraged that you just wanted to curl up and die?  Worse yet, have you felt like God had abandoned you?  Have you ever said: “Lord, I did everything you told me to do, but I feel so exhausted and discouraged”? 

In the case of Elijah, God let him rest.  Then he sent an angel with food and drink.  The angel told him:  “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you” (1 Kings 19:7).  Elijah did as he was told, and so was refreshed and strengthened to continue on his journey to the place where he would hear the Lord again. 

 Today’s Gospel of John deepens the theme and reality of life and hope.  It is no longer an angel who comes speaking words of life and hope.  It is the very Son of God, the One who came down from Heaven, sent by the Father to draw all people to God. 

This is exactly the same that Jesus did for us in the gospel.  He told us: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (John 6:51). 

Today, Jesus continues to offer us His entire life-giving self in the Eucharist.  When we are exhausted and discouraged from difficulties on the journey of life, Jesus is with us, always ready to give us the chance to rest in Him.  “Get up and eat,” He says, “otherwise the journey will be too much for you”. 

Like Elijah in the desert, we often feel drained, but like Elijah in the desert, the Lord gives us the ability to carry on with His work.  An angel of the Lord brought Elijah food and water, and he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God.  We have a gift far greater than Elijah received. 

It is not an angel of the Lord that is telling us to take and eat.  It is Jesus Christ who gives us the nourishment we need to complete the work with which we have been entrusted.  We are not given just a hearth cake and water.  We are given the very body and blood of the Lord to help us complete the journey of the Lord. 

The food He offers for our journey is not mere bread and water.  It is “bread from Heaven”, which alone is able to satisfy that deepest of all human hungers, the hunger for life.  Jesus is the one offering us life, offering new meaning and purpose, offering new hope.  As food for our journey, He offers His very self. 

It is through Jesus that our deepest longings and hopes are fulfilled.  We hunger and thirst for so much – for love, for acceptance, for forgiveness, for meaning, in a word, we long for life.  In John 10:10 Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it to the fullest.”  Jesus is the only one able to offer us real life – eternal life. 

Jesus says that He is truly the “bread of life”, reminding the people that the manna in the desert provided nourishment only for a day, not for eternity.  But the bread of Jesus gives life forever. 

If we feed on Christ, if we believe in Him and learn from Him, His life will become part of our life.  We are called to allow His love to continue to work through us and His love will go out into the world and touch people’s lives, to let the hope Christ offers to shine and allow His peace and forgiveness to be extended to others, to allow His concern for the poor and the weak, the outcast and despised. 

Ordinarily what we eat is digested to become what we are, part of us. 

In the Eucharist, it is the reverse – We are transformed into who we receive. 

Jesus offers to let us participate in His life now.  He invites us to be part of Him, for He wants His flesh to give life to the world now, through us.  He seeks to help people on their journey towards God, towards fullness of life, to sustain people, to offer new hope, to bring purpose and confidence to a bruised and often battered people.  This is the life Jesus offers and He offers it, not just to us, but through us to the world. 

The holy mountain which was the prophet’s destination is an image of heaven.  We too are on the journey to this destination.  In our journey through life, during which we too encounter temptations, difficulties and fatigue, surely we need strength to continue, to move on, to overcome obstacles and weaknesses, to bear the trouble, energy to live our life. 

The Father draws us to Christ because we cannot do His will on our own; this is what the bread that Christ gives is for.  The food that God gave to Elijah strengthened him to do the impossible.  Strengthened by that food he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God where he experienced God’s presence in a powerful way.  But it was not because of the food as it met the eyes, just bread and water.  It was because he believed the word God spoke to him and obeyed.  It was because the strength came from God. 

The food that our God gives to us strengthens us to do the impossible, and it far surpasses the food Elijah received.  Strengthened by this food, we eat and never die.  It brings us to the true mountain of the Lord; it brings us to heaven and eternal life, beginning now. 

We are called to a stronger faith: “Stop murmuring among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.  …  amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”  When you receive the Body or the Blood of the Lord it is appropriate to respond, “Amen.”  This ancient response means, “I believe.” 

 Today we hear in the Gospel account about those people who complained about Jesus – Jesus who claimed to be the bread from heaven.  They complained because of what they saw – the son of a local carpenter and his wife, and someone they knew.  They could not see beyond – and that is what faith is all about, seeing beyond the appearances, beyond the human and sensing the presence of God, the presence of the divine in Jesus. 

Faith is the same for us.  It is finding the divine in Jesus – seeing beyond the human figure.  It is finding Jesus in the simple signs of bread and wine and seeing beyond those signs to his real presence with us.  It is seeing beyond what can be seen with human sight and knowing the presence of the Spirit with us today.  It is looking at death and seeing beyond to resurrection and new life.  We see beyond what appears – and we know this is what faith is all about. 

To see, to look beyond the appearances – that was the challenge to the people around Jesus and that is the challenge to us today.  It is a challenge not only in our Christian faith, but it is also a challenge in our daily living. 

We will celebrate the Eucharist – we will see beyond bread and wine and know the loving presence of the Lord with us.  Surely, certainly we will be strengthened to see beyond appearances in many other ways in our lives this week. 

This life of faith is what our Second Reading tells us:  It is worth RE-reading. 

We are called to “Choose Life.  Live Life.  Share Your Life With Others.” 

The journey we make and the time we set aside to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday is important for the development of our faith.  If we are to imitate God as Paul asks us to do in the second reading then we need to become encouraged and challenged by His words and be fed by the bread of life.  This gift is freely given, not because we are the holiest of people but because we are trying to be holy in spite of the troubles and struggles we experience along the way. 

Today at Mass, as you receive Jesus, the Bread of LIFE, listen for His words of encouragement and comfort.  Open up to Him every area of your life where you experience difficulty and need.  Let Him fill your emptiness.  Listen to Him as He tells you how much He wants to be your food for the journey. 

Elijah was downcast but a word of encouragement and some food renewed his vigour for the journey of faith.  The word of God and bread of life do not give us a false joy and hope or remove the struggles, but we are given strength to cope, to hope and to win through.  In the words of the psalmist, we are able to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” 

In the light of all this, is it any wonder that Jesus said to us: “How blest you are to see the things you see.  I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.”  (Luke 10:23-24)  All we can do in the face of such a great mystery is pray:  

 “God our father, you have given us so much.  Forgive us if we ask for one more thing. 
Give us the faith to recognize the Spirit of Your Son in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in the church right now. 
Give us the faith to recognize the voice of your Son in the words we have just read and heard explained to us. 
But above all, give us the faith to recognize the Body of your Son in the bread we now prepare to break and share. 

We make our prayer through Christ our Lord, through whom, and in whom, we will one day live with You and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.    Amen. 
  
 Song  =  
   LOOK BEYOND THE BREAD YOU EAT, SEE YOUR SAVIOUR AND YOUR LORD.  
    LOOK BEYOND THE CUP YOU DRINK, SEE HIS LOVE POURED OUT AS BLOOD.  

HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU.

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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria. He was ordained October 20th, 2018. He offers his daily homilies, talks and articles that bother on, faith, theology, morals and many other burning issues in religion and politics. Fr. Daniel writes poems, inspirational quotes and clips.

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