Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
Jesus the bread of life who strengthens us on our journey to eternal life. This Sunday we continue our reflection on the bread of life discourse in Chapter Six of John’s Gospel. The First reading from the Book of Kings is an account of Israel when it was ruled by king Ahab, who had married a Canaanite woman, named Jezebel. The king then converted to her religion, which was basically a Canaanite fertility cult. In this passage, the prophet Elijah challenges the king’s behaviour and becomes an enemy of the queen. When she threatens to kill him, Elijah is afraid and flees to Mount Horeb, to ask God for help. Along the way, he gives up and prays for his death. Then God sends a messenger with bread and water. This gives Elijah the strength to walk to the mountain. The bread given to Elijah seems to foreshadow the Eucharist and its power to keep us faithful on our personal journey to God. Just as the Lord drew Elijah to the holy Mount, we too are drawn to the mountain of the Lord (the Church) where the Lord strengthens us with the living bread from heaven, namely, the Body and Blood of Christ. Thus in the Gospel passage we are invited to a new level of awareness; a deeper spiritual relationship with Jesus, who is our bread from heaven, on our journey of faith towards the Father. In other words, Jesus walks with us on this pilgrimage, which can be rough as in the case of Elijah in the wilderness.
In the Gospel of last Sunday, the crowds asked for a sign that would show that Jesus came from God. Jesus replied by saying that He is the sign and the bread of life sent by God from heaven. This Sunday's Gospel begins by saying that the Jews complained about Jesus' claims regarding his identity. They knew his family: that he was born of Mary and that he was the son of Joseph. How could he then have come down from heaven? Jesus responds to their complaints by saying that those who listen to God will recognize that Jesus is the one sent from God. Those who believe will have eternal life. Jesus concludes with the central teaching on the Eucharist. He promises that the bread of life will bring eternal life to those who partake of it. Jesus tells us that the bread of life will be his own flesh, given for the life of the world. In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus repeat the words of last Sunday Gospel, that he is the bread of life. We also hear Jesus add that he is the living bread. Both of these statements help us understand better the gift that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist. We celebrate this gift of Jesus each time we gather for Mass – the Eucharist. We take Jesus with us when we are sent to live and proclaim what we have eaten – Jesus Christ. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Just as the Lord nourished the prophet Elijah with bread and water for his journey to the holy mountain, so too Jesus nourishes us with his Body and his Blood for our spiritual pilgrimage; 2) By being nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ, we get strength to walk to everlasting life; 3) Our communion with Jesus in the Eucharist is indeed a gathering that sends us out at the end of Mass, to live and proclaim what we have received, Jesus Christ, who accompanies us always in our witness.
©2012 John S. Mbinda