August 12, 2018 Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary TimeReading 1 1 KGS 19:4-8

 Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

  1. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 EPH 4:30—5:2

Alleluia JN 6:51

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord;
    whoever eats this bread will live forever.

Gospel JN 6:41-51

Homily—August 11 & 12, 2018

The first reading features Elijah who has escaped into the desert after defeating the prophets of Baal and having them put to death.   Despite seeing the wonderful deeds of the true God, King Ahab still allowed the wicked Queen Jezebel to threaten Elijah with death the minute she could get him under her power.

Elijah sits down to rest under a broom tree.  This fragrant shrub, native to the Middle East, blossomed with beautifully scented white flowers.  Here we meet Elijah at his lowest and loneliest. He’s escaped Jezebel’s realm of influence, left his servant behind and gone a full day’s journey into the desert.   His prayer is an admission of defeat. “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Elijah’s prayer of complaint amounts to the accusation that God had asked too much of him.   He is tired and falls asleep until he is awakened by an angel and given a hearth cake and water to drink before he lies down again. Once again the angel interrupts him so that he can eat a second time and then have the strength to make the journey to Mt. Horeb where he would meet God in the gentlest of breezes.

Elijah’s story seems to teach that God listens to the prayers of the beloved and answers by beckoning them toward all that life can offer.  Never, never give up on life. God has wonderful plans for you if you truly listen.

The people of Israel complain against Jesus in John’s Gospel today as the “Bread of Life Discourse” continues.  Jesus contrasts the bread that he is to give with the bread that their ancestors ate. The challenge for the Israelites was to understand that the manna was God’s gift given through ordinary means.  In today’s Gospel the challenge is to recognize God’s gift in the person of Jesus.

Jesus’ critics fall back into their penchant for the extraordinary.  Rather than judge Jesus by how his message or works reflect God’s ways, they claim he is too common to have come from God.  You can see other instances in the Bible where people doubted Jesus because they thought they knew him. (Check Luke 4:16-30; Matthew 13:53-58, and Mark 6:1-6)  Jesus’ friends and neighbors have a hard time connecting the carpenter’s son they know with his claim to be true bread from heaven. I wonder how many Catholics today really believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist.  Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.”  To receive Jesus in Holy Communion is to have God’s life within us. We are to prepare ourselves to receive the sacramental presence of Jesus within us. When we invite someone into our home we often make an extra effort to make it presentable.   When we are receiving Holy Communion we want our whole being to be presentable to Jesus. We spend time in prayer before Mass either at home or in church. We ask forgiveness for our sins and if we have serious sins we go to confession before receiving communion.   We make guests welcome in our home by visiting with them and listening to them and we do the same with Jesus as we experience His sacramental presence under the form of bread and wine consecrated to be his Body and Blood.

The Catholic Catechism states, “Before so great a sacrament, the faithful can only echo humbly and with ardent faith the words of the Centurion: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.’  And in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the faithful pray in the same spirit: ‘O Son of God, bring me into communion today with your mystical supper. I shall not tell your enemies the secret, nor kiss you with Judas’ kiss. But like the good thief I cry, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church.  Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.”

At its root, the “bread” Jesus speaks of is the life he shares with the Father.  In this bond of love, Jesus finds everything that sustains him. Jesus offers this bread to his disciples through his teaching.   This bread is also Jesus’ body, which Jesus offered in obedience for our redemption. Furthermore, the bread of which he speaks is his continuing presence in the Eucharist, which his disciples continue to celebrate until today.  Put simply the bread of life is the Father’s love that is available to any who believe in Christ, receive him sacramentally, put his teachings into practice and offer themselves like Christ in complete obedience to the Father.

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