Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51
Jesus the bread of life that satisfies our spiritual hunger on our journey to eternal life is the good news from the gospel this Sunday. But, let me first tell you a true story about Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa of Portugal who dies in 1955. She is one of the great mystics of modern times. Alexandrina was paralyzed and bed-ridden after jumping through the window of her home to escape from someone who wanted to rape her. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004. The amazing part of her life is that for the last thirteen years of her life, she miraculously lived on the Holy Eucharist alone, a medically confirmed fact. I tell this story because the readings this Sunday speak about the Lord who nourished the prophet Elijah with bread and water for his long journey of forty days and forty nights to the holy mountain. Jesus promises to nourish us with the bread of life that sustains to eternal life. The prophet Elijah in the first reading challenges the king’s idolatry and then the queen 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 for forty days and forty nights to the mountain. The bread given to Elijah seems to foreshadow the Holy Eucharist and its power to sustain us not just for forty days but for eternity. 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 nourishes us with the living bread from heaven, namely, the Body and Blood of Christ.
In the Gospel of last Sunday, the crowds asked for a sign that would show that Jesus indeed 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 of having come from heaven. 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 He is the one sent from God. Those who believe in Him 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. Here Jesus teaches 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. This time Jesus adds that He is the living bread. Both these statements help us understand better the gift that Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist. We celebrate this gift of Jesus each time we gather for the Holy Mass – the Eucharist. We take Jesus with us at the end of Mass 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 for his journey to the holy mountain, so too Jesus nourishes us with his Body and his Blood to sustain us on out pilgrimage. 2) By being nourished with the Body of Christ like Blessed Alexandrina, we get strength to walk to eternal life. 3) At the Eucharistic gathering we are sent out at the end of Mass, to live and to proclaim what we have received, Jesus Christ, who accompanies us always in our witness.
©2015 John S. Mbinda