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Nineteenth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51.
Reading 1 (1 Kgs 19:4-8):
Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
Reading 2 (Eph 4:30-5:2):
Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
Gospel (Jn 6:41-51):
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven,”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven?'”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“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.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
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.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The bread that give the divine life to human beings.
Human lifehas at least two dimensions: physical and spiritual. When the body is tired, hungry or thirsty, people have no strength to work; therefore, they need to eat, to drink and to rest. When the spirituality is dishearten and desperate, people have no will and strength to live, they want to die. How can people find the will and the strength to continue their life?
Today readings pay a special attention to the divine food which can help people to fully live and to reach the eternal life. In the first reading, the prophet Elijah felt discourage to the point of desperate because after he tried to preach repentance and did many miracles, the Israel’s king, queen and people still turned their back to the truth. Moreover, the king Ahab also listened to queen Jezebel to search for his life. God sent His angel to bring bread and water to help Elijah to recover his strength. After eating and drinking the angel’s food, he raised up and walked forty days and nights to Horeb mountain to meet God. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Ephesian faithful to eliminate the lifestyle according to the flesh and to live the lifestyle according to the Holy Spirit which Christ asked his Father to send to their soul. In the Gospel, when Jesus declared that he is the bread from heaven to give the divine life for humankind, the Jews murmured and opposed him because they couldn’t understand how could Jesus come down from heaven and give them his flesh to eat.
1/ Reading I: Because of that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
1.1/ Elijah was discourage and desperate because the Israelites were blind to the truth: Like all other prophets, Elijah must speak what God commanded and witness for the truth; but the Israelites didn’t only recognize and believe in the truth, but they also searched to kill him. In chapter 18 before today passage, Elijah proved to king Ahab and the whole Israelites who is the true God by organized the competition between him and the Baal’s priests on Carmel mountain. God answered his prayer and sent the fire from heaven to consume his offering. Took advantage of this opportunity, Elijah gave the order to seize and to kill all four hundred and fifty Baal’s prophets.
But Ahab is a timid king; he didn’t only recognize the truth, but also retold to queen Jezebel all the things which Elijah had done, also the fact that Elijah used the sword to kill all the Baal’s prophets. Queen Jezebel sent her messenger to announce to Elijah, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow” (1 Kgs 19:2). Therefore, the prophet Elijah must hide from her to protect his life. He went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
1.2/ The bread of angel gave strength to Elijah: “He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again,but the angel of the Lord came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”
This was the bread from the angel prepared for Elijah. Only this food could help the prophet to recover both bodily and spiritually so he could walk forty days and nights to Horeb mountain. Earthly food can’t do that. The angelic food which Elijah ate is the figure of the sacrament of the Eucharist which Jesus mentioned in the Gospel of John below.
2/ Reading II: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”
To understand the sacrament of the Eucharist’s benefits, St. Paul helped the Ephesian faithful to differentiate between the two lifestyles:
2.1/ The lifestyle according to the flesh opposes to the lifestyle which the Holy Spirit guides the faithful. St. Paul advised the faithful, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” In general, these are five reactions, used to happen when people face the opponents which they don’t like or cause damages for them. Depending on the relation and the opponent’s position, people shall choose one or many ways to react to satisfy their anger.
2.2/ The lifestyle according to the Holy Spirit: To oppose to the lifestyle according to the flesh, St. Paul advised the faithful to do the following:
(1) They must kindly treat each other: The faithful can’t be selfish but must have a concern for other’s needs.
(2) They must have compassion and forgive others as God forgives them in Christ: This is one petition of the Our Father, and also the condition which Jesus requires a person to be perfected as our heavenly Father in chapter five of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
(3) They should imitate God because they are His beloved children: An Vietnamese proverb which encourages the son to imitate his father, “if he can’t be like his father in this aspect, he should be in another aspect.” To imitate God is the highest standard in life which a person can learn. Clement of Alexandria said more strongly, “A true faithful is a wise man who is practicing to become God.”
(4) They should live in charity as Christ loved us, and because of us, he sacrificed himself to become the offering to offer to God as the aroma. Two things we need to learn from Christ which are: First, we should always obey God in all things. Secondly, we must love all people. Not a single offering can please God than Christ’s offering because it included both these elements.
3/ Gospel: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
3.1/ People’s suspicion about the new food which Jesus revealed:
(1) Human reaction: People murmur and oppose because they don’t understand what God does. The Jews murmured and opposed Christ because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said to each other: “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
(2) Jesus’ reaction: Jesus wanted to tell people that even their faith is God’s grace, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him on the last day.” How can we understand the verb “draw” in this sentence?
– By strength as people “draw” an ox? God certainly doesn’t do this because it violates human freedom; and people shall have no credit before God.
– By showing people what are the truth and the benefits of living according to the truth (Augustine)? Jesus and his disciples used this way when they preached the Good News, and only this way can have lasting values.
Scripture revealed for people about Jesus appearance. Jesus reminded people of this fact when he said: “It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.” Both Isaiah and Jeremiah predicted the Messiah’s appearance and his teaching (x/c Isa 54:13, Jer 31:33-34).
3.2/ The differences between the two breads by analyzing of their results.
(1) The results of material food:
+ They are perishable like manna: Jesus said: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died.” Manna or material food can only bring physical life but can’t bring spiritual and eternal life for people.
+ They have double effects: When people rightly use the material food, they can help people to be healthy; but if not, they shall cause many damages for people.
+ They don’t bring the divine life: In reality, there are many rich people who have everything, but they don’t want to live; while there are many poor who not only live but fully and happily live.
(2) The results of divine food:
+ It brings eternal life: Jesus revealed to people: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
+ It unites people with God through Christ: The divine life is bestowed for people through the sacrament of the Eucharist. When people frequently receive this sacrament, God shall increase the virtues of faith and charity for them so that they can love God more everyday.
+ It unites people with the Church and others: St. Paul compared each faithful as a member in one body which is the Church. The sacrament of the Eucharist unites all members to the Church and to each other.
+ It sanctifies people: The sacrament of the Eucharist forgives the venial sins and helps to avoid the serious sins in the future; orients people to God and helps to overcome worldly temptations. The form or people is the result of what they ate. If they frequently receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, they shall be more and more like God to the point that they can speak out as St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
+ It helps people to produce good fruits: Jesus compared himself as a vine and we are branches. If we unite with him, we can produce good fruits which are virtues and good deeds. Moreover, by frequently receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist, we shall have strength to live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as mentioned in the second reading.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We are a combination of both spirituality and body. As our body needs food and drink, our spirituality also needs divine food to joyfully and happily live.
– The sacrament of the Eucharist is Christ himself. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we are shared with God’s life and received so many good results from this divine life.
– We need to organize our daily schedule so that we could daily participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The effects of this sacrament shall help us to overcome all difficulties of our life.