SUNDAY, NINTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1 Kgs 19:4-8; Ps 34: 2-9; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51
FAITH IS THE FOOD THAT STRENGTHENS US
Today’s first reading, taken from the first book of the Kings, tells the story of Prophet Elijah’s time of trial and the comfort and strength offered to him by God through his angel. “Get up and eat, for the journey will be too long for you.” Elijah is fed so that he may be strengthened for his journey. The nourishment that God gives, is always towards fulfilling a purpose, a mission. This mission is revealed in the second reading, taken from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians in which Paul urges his converts to “imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ, loving as he loved,” living in peace with one another. The Gospel is a passage from the Lord’s discourse on the Bread of Life. The focal point of the discourse is the necessity for belief in Christ who came down from heaven. Christ explicitly states that he is to give his own body as spiritual food to those who believe in him. The description of himself as “bread from heaven” and the vital difference between this bread and manna given to fathers in the desert become a definite preparation for the announcement of the doctrine of the Eucharist.
However, before the Jews could even consider accepting this teaching on the Eucharist, they had first to accept Christ as divine, as the Son of God. This was not easy for them, for whom monotheism was the heart of their faith. To admit that Christ was God would, at first sight, seem like admitting belief in two gods. Secondly, even though Christ had worked extraordinary miracles, to all appearances he was still a mere human, and the prophets of old had worked miracles too. Christ was claiming, however, to be more than a prophet; he claimed that he alone had seen the Father, that he had come from the Father.
We believe in a loving God, and in his divine son Jesus Christ, who came on earth to take us to heaven, and in the Holy Spirit who completes the work of sanctification in us. Because of our Christian faith which has come to us from Jesus, we know where we came from, we know where we are going and we know how to reach that destination. Of all the knowledge a human being can acquire on earth, these truths are the most essential. Any other knowledge is of momentary value. The knowledge that our Christian faith gives us relates to eternity and our journey toward it.
Today, we must thank God from the depth of our hearts for giving us the grace of faith. This faith reminds us that “God, out of the abundance of his love, speaks to men as friends, and lives among them, so that he may invite and take them into fellowship with himself,” as Vatican II puts it. He did not put us on earth and leave us on our own with nowhere to go except to the grave. He sent his beloved son to make us heirs of his kingdom in heaven and left to us, in his Church, all the instructions and aids we need to attain our inheritance. The unbelievers and free thinkers may feel that they are free to do what they desire here on earth, but we know that we have been given the freedom of the children of God for all eternity, if only we live according to the faith given us. This faith is the food that strengthens us to make the journey that Paul lays out for the Ephesians, i.e., the imitation of Christ. The word of God today urges us to “get up and eat” the Truth, that we may be “strengthened by that food” to follow the Way, until we reach the kingdom of God and are united with the Life for all eternity; for, Christ alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Response: Taste and see that the Lord is good.
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