19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2015 – Year B

9th August, 2015

1 Kings 19.4-8
Ephesians 4.30 – 5.2
John 6.41-51

After the fall of communism in Romania it was found that there were a number of orphanages in which handicapped children were living in atrocious conditions. It was clear that they had been given the minimum of food to keep them alive but no loving care. When these orphanages were taken over by UN sponsored agencies and the children treated lovingly and with dignity it was amazing how quickly they developed. Obviously loving concern was their greatest need apart from better food.

So where do we get the nourishment we need for a happy life? Many people in our world still have a great deal of money and some are certainly not happy, though we all agree money is very necessary for living. Today’s advertising world is trying to convince us that if we have different commodities, like a lovely house, a new car, nice clothes etc we will be happy. Sad to say this is no guarantee of a deep peace. Why is it that some with all these turn to drugs, sex, drink etc? What do they find lacking? Maybe they think that in these they will find lasting nourishment for their lives? We know that if addictions take hold how terribly sad it is.

In the gospel today Jesus is offering himself to us as the bread of life, the true nourishment that will nourish us on all levels of our being.  Is that true for you and me?  A well-known writer once said that Christianity had failed. Another replied that Christianity had not failed but it had not been fully tried. I believe this is true. Many try to follow Jesus, not because the Church says so or God might punish them if they don’t. No, they try to follow Jesus and accept his ways and values because he asks them to but also because it has given them a deep peace and joy. Twice in John’s gospel he reminds us that in him alone, that is by having his value system, will we have the deep peace and the joy we all yearn for. But it isn’t easy to follow Jesus closely. Others will say ‘why not enjoy life etc?  But how?

The Jews in the gospel today complain about Jesus when he says that he is the ‘living bread that comes down from heaven’. I think I can understand their problem. They know the family of Jesus and his background so it is quite a claim on the part of Jesus. But he asks them to let go of prejudices and rational questioning alone. He simply says. “Look at my lifestyle, what I have done, the miracles, a great welcome for and forgiveness of sinners etc. Do these speak to you of someone who works for God or not?”

Maybe you and I are like that sometimes. We have questions about Jesus and who he is. Also like Elijah in the first reading we may find at times that life is very difficult and feel like throwing in the towel. There is nothing wrong with that. Didn’t Jesus himself in the Garden of Gethsemane reach a very low point too?  But with God’s help he got through it. So will we.

God doesn’t ask us to understand totally how he can be the Son of God, who has come down from heaven. He asks us to believe, to accept. This is also why we accept Jesus as Saviour.  Simply stated, it is a call to believe, to have faith in Jesus. Jesus says in the gospel: ‘Everybody who believes has eternal life’. Do we pray for a living faith in the living Lord Jesus? It is a grace from God, as Jesus tells us that no one can come to him unless he is drawn by the Father who sent him’. If we ask for this from God he cannot refuse us.

Jesus says ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven’. The one sent by God is a human being who belongs to our history, our world. Maybe the unbelief of the Jewish leaders is still amongst us. Do we prefer to believe in a God who belongs to another world only? So if you are blessed to be in a good relationship, with good emotional support, live in a happy relationship in a family, in a religious community or with others, there is the living bread coming down from heaven to us still. Let us not confine God to Holy Communion at Sunday Mass. Since the Resurrection, Jesus is out and about in so many different ways. May he give us, through his Holy Spirit, the eyes to see this in our daily lives. And remember that since communion in the body of Jesus makes us brothers and sisters of everyone; we have to create a community of equals among ourselves, forgiving each other, loving and serving each other. In so doing we are giving life to one another. St. Paul in the second reading advises us how to behave.

The Eucharist is a whole way of life. No matter how often we receive Holy Communion, unless we listen to the Word of God and allow our lives to be transformed, going to Mass does not lead to the transformation of our lives as it should.

Whilst the connection between right living, acting justly and being a Christian is a central teaching of Christian life, perhaps this bond is not preached about as much as it might. But are we aware of the greatness of the gift of the Eucharist? Assenting to receive Holy Communion is to agree to open oneself to knowledge of the truth. Our participation in the Eucharist should form and inform our life’s actions. Christ’s words, ‘Do this in memory of me’ is an invitation to live as Christ lived, to love as Christ loved, to live according to different value systems than those of the capitalist competitive environment. The Eucharistic celebration is part of our schooling in Christian living, not an obligation to be fulfilled.  

Today’s Good News is that Jesus came to nourish us on all levels of life and he still comes down to us from heaven, not just at Sunday Mass, but through the people and experiences of our daily life.

“Lord Jesus, may each one of us who claims to be a disciple of yours show to others that you still come to us through our love, concern, compassion, forgiveness and service of all people we meet.  Give us your powerful Holy Spirit to help us to do this. Amen.”

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA