The life of a prophet was hard enough, and Elijah was not having a very good day. He had just proved himself to be a true prophet and had announced the end of a long drought, but yet he had to flee for his life because the Queen (Jezebel) wanted him dead. So he went out to the desert and tried to find shade under this skimpy little broom tree, which probably did not provide very much relief at all. You can almost see him sitting there: hands in his chin, throwing pebbles—discouraged, dejected, spent. He feels unappreciated; he hasn’t seen any fruits from his work; and actually what he has done appears to have been done in vain. And so, he wants to give up, even begging God to take his life. What’s the point of living anyway if it all seems to be so futile? And worn out by it all he zonks out under that little tree.
Of course, God is not so willing to let his beloved prophet go, and in fact has more work for him to do; his mission was not yet completed. So God provides food and water and an angel encouraging him to eat, so that he will be ready for the journey ahead. And strengthened by that food, Elijah heads out for Horeb (another name for Mt. Sinai), where one would go to meet God.
I think it’s inescapable really, to go through life without ever feeling discouraged or worn out or unappreciated. Just ask any parent, or teacher, or nurse, or social worker, etc. For all of us, life certainly has its share of trials. Yes, blessings as well, but certainly not without trials, some even great. But like with Elijah, God does not just let his beloved sons and daughters go; and like Elijah, we too are given food from heaven so that we may be strengthened for the journey and for the work that God has planned for us.
Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven…and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Jesus not only gives but IS the bread of life come down from heaven. He gives us the gift of Himself. We are fed, nourished, and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ, the body and blood broken and poured out on the cross so that we may be freed from the chains of sin and death and brought into the happiness of eternal life spent with God.
But before we reach heaven, we are given this life here on earth to discover who we are as sons and daughters of God. It is a journey filled with ups and downs, with both consolations and discouragements, and sometimes we even veer off the right path and need to be shown the way back to God. But we are given food for the journey. In the Mass, we are drawn by God and to God, both individually and as a community. Through the Eucharist, Jesus tells us to get up and eat, for the journey is long and we cannot have life without him.
As I know I’ve said before, each of us has a sense deep-down that our life is meant to be full. At the very depth of our heart this is a “God-shaped hole,” and only God can fit that spot, to fill that hole so that we can be filled. But sometimes we get caught up in trying to fill that spot with other things.
To put in one way, in talking these weeks about food and the Bread of Life, we can ask, “What else do we get caught up trying to be fed with?” St. Paul mentions some of those things to the Ephesians:
bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling, and malice. There are other things we could add. Maybe we get caught up in trying to be fed by stuff, by success, by popularity, by gossip, by impure relations or by pornography, and so on. But only God can fit that spot/can fill that spot. Things that aren’t of God ultimately leave us still empty, but we truly come alive in Christ, who “loved us and handed himself over for us,” and in imitating this self-giving love in our own life.
Even if we come here today discouraged, dejected, and spent in any way, God is here to feed us with the Bread of Life, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of His own Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is indeed worthy of all of our praise. Let us taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
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