12Aug 12 August. 19th Sunday

1st Reading: 1 Kings (19:4-8)

Elijah is a dispirited; but revived by food and drink, he reaches the mountain of God

Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

Responsorial (Ps 34)

R./: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall be always in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the Lord;
the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R./)

Glorify the Lord with me,
let us together praise his name.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears. (R./)

Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard,
and from all his distress he saved him. (R./)

The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who fear him, to deliver them.
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord;
blessed are they who take refuge in him. (R./)

2nd Reading: Ephesians (4:32-5:2)

Be kind and forgiving towards one another as God is towards us

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Gospel: John (6:41-51)

Jesus is the manna from heaven, offering eternal life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever

The Jews complained about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise them up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”


Living by the bread of life

Regular holidays have become something to which we feel entitled. Right now, at the height of the holiday season, we can reflect on what our life is for, and specifically about the purpose of our holidays. People looks forward to their vacation as the chance to be free from the pressures of their work. For a young person it can conjure up all kinds of possibilities of adventure, new experiences, to express oneself — or even to find oneself. Settled adults have more limited expectations. Whether young or old, the holidays are a time to be really ourselves and ideally they help us to live with more zest when we return to “normality.” This leisure time should benefit our living. It is not in itself what life is about. We have leisure in order to more fully live. This may sound trite but most people feel it when a holiday is too long or just a little aimless, the idea of endless leisure sounds intolerably boring.

Staying with the image of rest and recreation, today’s first reading describes an exhausted Elijah, weary of life and its burdens. His mission to fight against Queen Jezebel’s pagan movement had sapped all his energies and he just wants out. The prophet’s idea of a vacation was to seek rest and renewal by going to the mountain of God, searching for some experience of God to give him new faith and courage. It was out there in the wasteland of his life that he found the bread of God which gave him the strength he needed. Everyone needs renewal, in order to fullly live the life that God has given us.

Our second Reading offers ethical standards to measure ourselves, whether we are really living up to our potential. There are warning lights to show if our spiritual lives are running down or we are becoming dispirited — malice, bitterness, slander. More positively, Paul urges us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.”

Living life to the full involves adopting the outlook of Jesus himself, For the Christian to fully live is to live “like Christ” and that means to live “in Christ.” What does this kind living look like? It’s a disposition of kindness to those around us, forgiveness of their annoyances and the ways they reject us, the ability to be tender-hearted towards anyone in need. It is a kind of living to which we would all aspire and even occasionally achieve, but it is a kind of living that needs constant support and nourishment if it isn’t to die out altogether.

We are greatly helped by the Eucharist to live in harmony with God’s will. This is where we receive the bread of life and are united to Christ, believing and listening to him. If our communion with him is real we have his own life within us and it it will be something we need to share with others. Living the Christian life means living out what we have celebrate in the Eucharist. Without this frequent return to the bread of life it is difficult to keep the spirit of Christ alive in our hearts. Just as we need holidays, so we need spiritual renewal. Our Eucharist is a source of re-creation, a source of new life in us. Here we find new inspiration and vision through the Word of God. Here we can have our faith renewed and we are given the strength to live it out.

Refrain from complaining

We all do our share of complaining, and sometimes with good reason. We complain about the weather a great deal. We complain about all kinds of things. If we are not careful we can get ourselves into a very negative frame of mind. We see the problems but we see nothing else. We fail to see the bigger picture which usually has brighter shades in it. Our vision can restricted to what is wrong or missing or lacking.

Today’s gospel opens with the Jews complaining to each other about Jesus. As far as they were concerned his ordinariness was a problem, and they could not see beyond that. They had always known him as the son of Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth; they knew his family and his mother. Yet, here he was claiming to be the bread that came down from heaven. They were scandalized that one of their own could make such claims for himself. Their response to Jesus was to complain about him. Complaining on its own is rarely an adequate response to anything or anyone; it is certainly not an adequate response to the person of Jesus.

The Lord calls for a special kind of response. In the beginning, when he first met the group of disciples gathered by John the Baptist he invited them to, ‘Come and see.’ They came, they saw how he lived, and went on eventually to believe in him. This call to come to him is repeated even to those who are already with him. He urges those who already believe to come closer to him so as to identify more fully and more deeply with him. As followers of Jesus, we spend our whole lives coming to him. We never reach him fully in this life; we never fully grasp him, either with our mind or heart. We are always on the way towards him. No matter where we are on our faith journey, the Lord keeps calling on us to come closer.

Jesus declares in the gospel that nobody can come to him unless drawn by the Father. We cannot come to Jesus on our own; we need God’s help. The good news is that God the Father is always drawing us to his Son. When Jesus says to us, ‘Come’, we are not just left to our own devices at that point. God the Father will be working in our lives helping us to come to his Son; he will draw us to Jesus. There is always more going on in our relationship with Jesus than just our own human efforts. That should give us great encouragement because we know from our experience that our own efforts can fail us in the area of our faith as in other areas. Our coming to Jesus, our growing in our relationship with him, is not all down to us. God the Father is at work in our lives moving us towards his Son, drawing us towards Jesus. There is a momentum within us that is from God, a momentum that will lead us to Jesus if we are in any way open to it.

Very graphically, Jesus calls himself the bread that comes down from heaven and calls us to eat this bread. When we hear that kind of language we probably think instinctively of the Eucharist. Yet those words have wider application. The Lord invites us come to him and to feed on his presence, and in particular to feed on his word. In the Jewish Scriptures bread is often a symbol of the word of God. We may be familiar with the quotation from the Jewish Scriptures, ‘we do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ We need physical bread, but we also need the spiritual bread of God’s word. We come to Jesus to be nourished by his word. The Father draws us to his Son to be fed by his word. The food of his word will sustain us on our journey through life, just as, in the first reading, the baked scones sustained Elijah, until he reached his destination, the mountain of God. When we keep coming to Jesus and feeding on his word, that word will shape our lives. It empowers us to live the kind of life that Saint Paul puts before us in this morning’s 2nd Reading, a life of love essentially, a life in which we love one another as Christ as loved us, forgive one another as readily as God forgives us. That, in essence, is our baptismal calling.

Machtnamh: Ag glaoch sinn chuige féin (Calling us to himself)

Iarrann Íosa freagra faoi leith uainn. Ar dtús, nuair a bhuail sé leis an chéad grúpa deisceabal a chruinnigh Eoin Baiste thug sé cuireadh dóibh, ‘Tagaigí agus feicigí ” tháinig siad, chonaic siad conas mar a raibh cónaí air, agus i ndeire thiar chuaigh sé i bhfeidhm orthu agus chreid siad. Déantar an glaoch seo arís agus arís agus arís eile dóibh siúd atá páirteach ann cheana féin. Éilíonn sé orthu siúd a chreideann cheana féin teacht níos gaire dó ionas go n-aithneofaí níos mó agus níos mó gur clann Dé iad. Os rud é gur lucht leanúna Íosa sinne , ní mór dúinn leanúint ar lorg Íosa fad is beo sinn. Ní bhuailimid go hiomlán leis ar an saol seo; ní mór dúinn bheith ag triall air i gcónái. Táimid i de shíor ar an mbealach chuige. Is cuma cén áit in a bhfuil muid ar ár n’aistear creidimh, cuireann an Tiarna ar ár gcumas teacht níos gaire dó fós.

2 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    Your father thought he would live forever, my mother used to say. After years working in the pit, and after six years of war in North Africa and Normandy and the Ardennes, after seeing so much death and destruction, my father came home to live his life and to enjoy every single day of it. Nothing now would ever disturb his equanimity and his simple love of being alive. Ill health and unemployment hit him for a while, but he overcame the darkness of those days and found serenity.

    At some point in life everyone hits the buffers. I have had enough. Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors. Stress and depression hit many hard. Old age and loneliness can bring us to isolation of spirit. Why go on! Life can go into a decline. But someone comes to wake us up and to give us a baked scone and a drink. Good neighbours, good friends are there for us and will be with us on the journey of life.

    So let us not make God’s Holy Spirit sad. Each day let us rise to the occasion. Let us thank God who gives us Jesus as bread for our journey and living water for our soul. We have a a journey to make right to the end where we will find God’s holy mountain.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    Be incarnate in our faith.
    “There at his head was a cake baked on hot stones.” How did it taste? Elijah hadn’t forgotten to take his lunch with him – he had to get out of town fast, to escape Jezebel, the queen he had crossed.
    (Remember Frankie Laine: “If ever the devil was born, / Without a pair of horns / It was you, / Jezebel” – about 60 years ago?
    I remember a summer’s evening when I was growing up. My mother’s home-made brown bread still warm from the oven, butter half-melting on it. I can almost feel it in my mouth, and taste it, and chew, and swallow. A very corporeal, incarnate experience.

    “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Would we dare to say it, if it were not already there in the psalm? The experience of the Lord as real as the taste of Elijah’s bread.

    “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” “Tender-hearted” is weak. Perhaps a literal rendering might be “good-gutted”? A visceral experience. The “you” is plural: it’s a communal experience. It seems the writer says these thing because they were not the common experience among the target audience. Could we say that the congregation here for Mass are “good-gutted” towards one another?

    “Everyone who believes has eternal life.” Faith not so much in believing what may seem unbelievable, but in being faith-full, faithful to Jesus.
    “Anyone who eats this bread.” “Eat” – again experience Jesus as really as eating bread, becoming the bread we eat, the bread of life. To hear the teaching of the Father and learn from it is to come to Jesus. This too is a kind of “eating” – becoming the Word. We do not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.

    So taste, and see that the Lord is good – it’s by tasting, by living it, that we discover the reality.
    “I will bless the Lord at all times – his praise always on my lips!”
    Perhaps begin every day with blessing God and praising, so much so that it becomes THE morning offering.

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