Sunday, August 9, 2015

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Taste and See

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Today's reading are a continuation into an introduction to the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus is the "Living bread that came from heaven."  The readings highlight this.

In the first reading, we read of Elijah traveling in a desert.  Remember, the desert imagery in the Bible represents a struggle, our lives in the world and temptation. Elijah sits beneath a tree and prayed for death to come.  He was clearly stressed or depressed.  He tells God that he had enough and claims he is not as good as his fathers or those before him.  Once there, he falls asleep and angel wakes him up. The angel tells him to eat.  Before Elijah was a hearth cake and jug of water.  Elijah enjoys the meal and laid down again but the angel told him to get up, eat and continue on his journey. The food gave Elijah strength where he was able to walk forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God. The number forty has a specific meaning in the Bible.  It represents a period of preparation, testing or judgment (Genesis 7:4, Exodus 34:28, Ezekial 4:6, Matthew 4:2).  We see this number used numerous times in relation to these. Elijah was going through a "Lent," if you will.

We Catholics today can identify with him. We often lose hope and feel we are not good enough (Psalm 42:11). Some of us want to quit or even ask God to take us (Luke 22:42). This is a result of human weakness when it thinks it can do things on its own.  Notice that it was when Elijah was given to eat of the hearth cake and drink of the jug of water that he got the strength to go to God's mountain (Hebrews 2:18).  "God's mountain" was a way to describe the presence of God (Psalm 87:1, Psalm 24:3, Ezekiel 20:40, Psalm 99:9). When we get closer to God and grow in grace, we too go to "God's mountain," or His realm (2 Peter 3:18). The food the angel gives Elijah is a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Bread of Life. This is the "bread of the angels" that gives strength and eternal life as Christ will tell us in the Gospel (Psalm 78:25).  We must taste and see as today's Psalm says, before we can advance to God's mountain as we travel the desert of life.

In the responsorial Psalm, we read about tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord (Hebrews 6:4-5).  In order to do this, we must be with God, bless Him, praise Him, let His glory shine in our being.  We must be happy and proud to be with God and not "blush with shame" (Mark 8:38, 2 Timothy 1:8). God hears us during our distress just like He heard Elijah (1 John 5:15).   God sends His angel to protect us and aid us just like with Elijah (Psalm 91:11).  We must trust in God and not complain all the time thinking that we cannot do anything as we read in the second reading.

In the second reading, we are told not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God." We must not be depressed or complain to God believing we cannot do anything in God's name (Isaiah 63:10,.  We can!  We can do anything in God's name and if He wills it (Philippians 4:1). If God wants us to do something, it shall happen even if it seems impossible or difficult (James 4:13-15, Luke 1:37). When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing.  I had no set audience for it.  This work came to be only because God willed it.  From twelve views, now I have over half a million in a short time!  From ten or twenty views a day, now I have about 1,700 a day!  All this was because God is the one who is using this to spread the Gospel. Even when there were times I felt I was not doing enough just like Elijah, I set it aside and trusted in God. If the blog is successful, thanks be to God.  If it is not, then thanks to be to God.

We must not become stressful when our attempts to evangelize may not produce fruit (Acts 20:24, 2 Timothy 4:7).  We must set aside all bitterness, anger, shouting, etc, as the reading tells us.  These are not part of Christianity. We must forgive one another; yes, even that person who annoys us (Matthew 5:44)!  We must be "imitators of God," be "perfect as the Father is perfect" (Ephesians 5:1, Matthew 5:48)! This is a big call for us!  As Christians, we must live in love because Christ came to us, died for us because of love for us (John 3:16).  If Christ died for each one of us, then this means each one of us has intrinsic worth (2 Corinthians 5:15, 1 Peter 3:18).  If each one of us has intrinsic worth, then that means each one of us is valuable and we must treat one another with respect and love (John 13:34-35, Matthew 7:12).  We can achieve this by imitating God and becoming one with Him in the Holy Eucharist, the bread from heaven as we shall read in the Gospel.

In the Gospel, Christ continues His introduction of the "Bread from heaven."  The Jews were murmuring among themselves, confused about what Jesus was telling them.  He told them, "I am the bread that came down from heaven,"  The Jews present began to suspect of Jesus.  They asked, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know His father and mother?" They did this because Jesus was saying some really weird things to them. The words of Jesus seemed crazy to them because they did not understand. Jesus was saying that He came from heaven, yet He had human parents.  That is why they asked, "how can He say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"  Jesus told them to stop murmuring and continued telling them that no one can come to the Father unless it was through Him.  He continues making a connection to Himself and what was written in the prophesies found in the
Hebrew Scriptures.  Jesus then tells them that whoever believes in Him has eternal life and that He is the bread of life.  He tells them that their ancestors ate manna in the desert and died, but that the bread that comes from heaven (Himself) will bring eternal life.

This chapter that we have been reading from the Gospel of John is probably the strongest Biblical evidence for the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Some of our separated friends believe Jesus is symbolically present in the bread and wine, but we read in this chapter that Jesus was very serious about being bread and drink (John 6:55). He was so serious that the Jews present were uneasy with His words (John 6:60-66).  They were murmuring among themselves and perceiving Christ as some lunatic or charlatan.  Jesus is the true bread from heaven (John 6:35).  He is truly present in the Holy Eucharist just like I am present here typing this and you are in your home reading it, not symbolically (1 Corinthians 10:16). Jesus waits for us in the Tabernacle, Monstrance, Ciborium or Pyx - whatever receptacle used to reserve the Sacred Species. He is our food that gives us strength for the journey in the desert of life.  He remains present for us, even subjecting Himself to abuse or desecration just like when He walked the Earth in a human male body and allowed Himself to be beaten, abused and killed.  Let us trust Jesus and visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament.  When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we must not eat and lay back down like Elijah did.  This heavenly food is not comfort food, per se; but food to get us up and moving, ready to work in the vineyard of the Lord.  He awaits you!  May Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist be praised forever!


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