Commentary Theme for 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
“The Word of Jesus, Bread of Life.”
We always seek life and the nourishment to preserve it. Manna, though a gift of God, was not capable of giving everlasting life to the people of Israel in the desert.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that his humanity, weak and fragile as it is, is the true nourishment sent from heaven and is capable of satisfying the need for a full life present in the heart of us all.
The first reading shows us Elijah who longs to meet his God, the only reason for his existence. To reach him, he went on a long and risky journey with the power that he received from the bread sent from heaven.
The second reading presents us with two lists, one of vices and the second of virtues and tells us the difference between the life of those who feed on Christ, the bread from heaven, and those who reject him.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.
1 Kings 19:4-8.
The event takes place at the time Ahab is the king of Israel (Approx. 850 B.C.). Trade is prospering, cities and palaces are being built everywhere, but it is also a period of great social injustice and frightening religious corruption.
Jezebel, the young and beautiful wife of Ahab, is a foreigner; she is very intelligent but also very shrewd and wicked; she knows that she can get anything she wants from her weak husband, and she decides to introduce into Israel, the pagan customs of her country. It is at this time that Elijah begins to raise his voice to denounce her plans with fiery words; he threatens those who have abandoned Yahweh for Baal, the god of Jezebel; he works miracles, calls down punishment from heaven, and stops the rain for three years, but all his efforts are useless, and at a certain point he finds himself all alone.
The queen now his powerful enemy, is getting more enraged every day and is hunting him down to kill him. At first Elijah hides, and then he decides to run far away, southwards, towards Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. He wants to reach the place where Moses met God four hundred years before. He feels that his faith needs to be strengthened. He wishes to repeat the spiritual experience of the great liberator of Israel.
He sets out, but the desert crossing is not easy. There are many difficulties, dangers and sufferings to overcome. At one moment in his journey he feels so sad, dejected, tired and alone that he cannot carry on. He sits down under a tree and begs God to let him die.
The desert that Elijah has to cross is the ‘symbol and image’ of our lives. We too, at times, find ourselves in great difficulty; even religion and the life of our communities seem to be letting us down. We are saddened by conflicts, envies, meanness, gossiping of others and the inconsistencies that engulf us. We may be so depressed as to give in to despair and say bitter words like those of the prophet.
God does not abandon his prophet or us in our moments of despair; he accompanies us, he prepares us food so that we may recover our strength and spirit. We are not exempt from temptation neither does God relieve us from our difficult journeys. We like the prophet need to keep walking farther and farther into the ‘desert of our faiths journey’ with all its dangers and difficulties that await us. God does not do the work for us; he does not take our place. When we are tired, he does not oppress us; he shows us the way and provides the food that renews our vigour.
The Elijah story also reminds us that God’s care for us always involves self-revelation on God’s part. By caring for the Israelites in the desert, God taught them something about himself. By providing nourishment for Elijah and by bringing him into contact with himself, God helps the prophet to know him more intimately and deeply.
There is another food that nourishes and gives us strength: the word of God. When we find ourselves in difficulty, depressed or dispirited because of all that takes place around us, what should we do? We may share our feelings with all those we meet on our way, in the hope of finding comfort, help, hope and love. But we must never forget how much light, consolation and strength we would get if we fed ourselves with the bread of God’s Word.
The Psalm thanks God for deliverance from trouble. Traditionally, it is connected with an incident in the life of David. We can apply it to our Elijah story. The reference to seeing and tasting prepares for the Bread of Life in John.
Ephesians is concerned most of all with the Church. Elsewhere, Paul calls each believer a ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 6:19). In Ephesians, the whole Church is a Temple of the Holy Spirit. An offence against the Church is an offence against the Spirit. Behaviour that appears merely anti-social like the loss of temper and the calling of names is a sin against heaven (Lk. 15:21). We forgive one another because God forgives us. Although Christian morality may not differ in content from the best of secular morality, it is different in its motivation.
In his words after the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Jesus proclaimed: “I am the bread of life”. He invited his listeners to come to him and to believe in him so that they may have the kind of life that God always wanted for them. The people cannot believe that he has come down from heaven. Knowing his human origin prevents them from believing in his divine origin.
For the first time in John’s account of the sequel to the feeding of the 5000, the crowds turn hostile. The evangelist calls them the Jews, his term for the enemies of Jesus. They murmured against Jesus, as the Israelites murmured against Moses in the desert. The crowd no longer looked for the food that perished and sought the bread that offered them eternal life, and they refused to accept ‘Jesus’ as this bread. How could he have come down from heaven when they knew his parents? They argued like the people of Jesus’ hometown whose lack of faith astonished Jesus and prevented him from performing any miracles there.
Faith in Jesus is gift of God. In the person of his own Son Jesus, he shows us that his relationship with us is one of love. God never forces us to come to him. He respects the freedom he has given us. We can become instruments of God to draw people to Jesus, if we allow the ‘Spirit of Love’ to really change our lives.
God had given the people of Israel ‘manna’ in the desert. The manna gave life, physical but temporary. Now Jesus offers another food to those who believe in him. This new food will give another kind of life, a life that is different, and a new and permanent life. The certainty of the resurrection from the dead for all believers is based on the fact that Jesus himself rose from the dead. He suffered, died and was raised to life on the third day, and we too shall be raised with him. What is the condition for joining in the Resurrection of Jesus? It is a consequence of the ‘decisions and choices we make now’ in this life.
The new life in Jesus begins with the little victories of self-giving over selfishness, honesty over dishonesty, justice over oppression, light over darkness and hope over despair. Jesus is life giving and if we wish to live we must receive him as food. When we celebrate the Eucharist together it is a great moment for us. We receive Jesus in the ‘Word’ and in the ‘Eucharist’ to bring life to others in God’s love.
By or way of living the ‘Word’, we give witness to our ‘new life’ so that the world that seeks life may have it through us.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. …We all have demanding and sometimes painful ‘Desert Crossings’ on our faith’s journey, but we need to keep walking further towards the ‘Promised Land’. Let us hold on to our faith and trust in God’s guiding love and graces despite all the dangers and difficulties, which seem to confront and test us.
Mon. …As we travel further on our faith’s journey our relationship with God will become stronger. He teaches us about himself and his ongoing proclamation of his gratuitous love for his people. He will show us the ‘Way’ and provide the food that renews our strength and vigour.
Tue. …Paul calls each Christian a ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’. How does our Christian morality measure up? Has Christ’s death and Resurrection earning for us the gift of redemption changed the way we live our lives? Can we be truly called ‘children of God’?
Wed. … God always takes the first step. By our baptism we have been drawn by the Father. Faith in Jesus is a gift of God. Do we understand and accept who Jesus really is? Jesus offers to those who believe in him, a ‘new bread’ that will provide another kind of life, a life that is new, permanent and eternal.
Thur. … In the person of his own Son Jesus, the Father shows us that his relationship with us is one of love. God never forces us to come to him. He respects the freedom he has given us. We can become instruments of God, to draw people to Jesus, if we allow the Spirit of love to really change our lives.
Frid. … Even after our life on earth has ended, the new life that Jesus gives us will continue, since he will raise us up to a new and eternal life. Jesus is life giving when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist and in the Word. Let us today by our actions and love for our neighbour, give witness to our new life so that others who are lost may also seek to be found.
Sat. …How can we join in the Resurrection of Jesus into new and everlasting life? It is the consequence of the decisions we make in this life, starting right now! It develops from the little victories of self giving over selfishness and greed; loving others over indifference and enmity; and justice over oppression.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, Your Spirit made us your children, confident to call You our loving Father. Increase Your graces within us and bring us to our promised inheritance. We pray that in Your mercy and love, we may join in the compassion our Lord had for others and in His Resurrection into new and everlasting life. This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”