Homily – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Food for the Journey
Link to audio of the Gospel is here.
Link to audio of the homily is here.
Have you ever had to go through something, and you just didn’t know how you were going to get through to the other side? All of us have; when we’re young, it might be something as simple as moving to another part of town and changing schools. Later in life, maybe it’s an important assignment that we just can’t figure out. As we grow toward adulthood, perhaps we lose a close relative or friend to death. All of these things can be hard, depending on our age.
Or maybe we end up in a bad work situation, or worse, we end up unemployed, and we have no prospects of getting another job. Or we end up suffering from a grave illness, or we lose a parent, or a child, or a spouse to death. These things can all make us cry to heaven, asking God to just “take me now, Lord!” Or they can even make us reject God altogether, and make us think we don’t need a God who can’t do any better by us than that.
If we were left on our own to get through all of these situations, if it was on us to figure out how to get through, alone, we’d never make it through. But we aren’t alone. And we have something to sustain us, someone to give us strength, even in the worst of times.
Why was Elijah running through the desert to Horeb? Why did he leave everything he knew? Elijah was running for his life. His work situation, as prophet of God, had gone really badly; after he killed the prophets of the false god Baal, the wife of the king decided Elijah had to die, too. So Elijah was running to save his life. And you know Elijah got tired. Not just physically tired; Elijah was spiritually tired. And he just wanted to give up, lie down and die, because he couldn’t understand how things had gone so wrong. Ever felt that way?
But God didn’t let Elijah just starve, or die of thirst, did he? Instead, God sent Elijah heavenly food and drink to sustain him for his journey, not once, but twice! God had things that He still wanted Elijah to do, so God fed him for the journey!
In the Gospel, Jesus connects Himself to that same food in the desert. He hears the Jews murmuring as He explains who, and what, He is. The Jews cannot understand Jesus’ reference to Himself as “bread”; after all, they know his parents. And Jesus explains further to tell them that His flesh is the bread he’s giving! Jesus claims that those who eat his flesh won’t just make it through their journey: Jesus tells them that those who eat His flesh will live forever!
The Jews, of course, were scandalized. No one ate people. So what Jesus was saying was nonsense, at least at first hearing.
But God fed the Israelites in the desert. And God fed Elijah on his way to Mount Horeb. God had already performed fantastic miracles for His people. And Jesus is the ultimate miracle! Jesus gives us his flesh to eat, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, from this altar. And the food is for the same purpose. God fed the Israelites so that they could continue their journey to the Promised Land. God fed Elijah under the broom tree so that he could continue his journey to his next mission. And Jesus feeds us with His Body and Blood so that we can do what He has ordained us to do!
And what is it that Jesus calls us to do? What is it that He calls us to be? Paul gives us insight in the second reading. Christ calls us to “…be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us”! Jesus feeds us, in order to strengthen us to live in the Holy Spirit! And He feeds us to give us eternal life!
But …how are we supposed to believe that God actually feeds us through Christ’s body when we line up and stick out our hands? After all…that’s just a little round wafer. That’s supposed to be God? Jesus? And how does that help us with all this…junk in our lives? Is the Eucharist going to get me a job? Or bring my wife, my brother, or my child back?
Brothers and sisters, the answer to those questions…is yes. Yes, Jesus will help us! Is He going to make things just like we want them to be? No! But what Christ will do is this: He will give us the strength to make it through! Out of work? Come to Jesus! He’ll sustain you and guide you as you search! Someone died? Come to Jesus! Jesus has the words of everlasting life! Our relatives and friends who die in Christ will rise with Him! Spouse cheating on you? Come to Jesus! He will strengthen you against the pain, and He will work on the heart of your spouse to bring them back to Him!
Whatever the hurt, if we can bring it to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we will receive strength to live through it! We are all drawn to Christ through the Father, just as Jesus said: we’re here this morning! And now that we’re here, we can receive the Bread of Life, and live forever! All we have to do…is believe!
Life is a journey. And during that journey, we all go through things that seem too hard to survive: death, disappointment, and despair, are all part of our human experience. They can sometimes pull us into a hole we can’t see a way to climb out of.
God, however, has a different way planned for all of us. We have all been drawn to Christ, by God, through our baptism. We have all received the gift of faith from God; it’s why we came in here this morning. And God does not leave us to figure all this out on our own!
Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven”. When we receive that Living Bread from the hands of our priest, we are given the strength to live as “imitators of God”, His beloved children. And nothing can really hold us down.
Feeling down? Feeling like you just can’t go on? Let Christ refresh you in this meal we’re about to receive! Christ is the Bread of Life. Christ is our food for the journey.
Take, and eat…and believe!