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God's Word on Sunday: God is source of strength and sustenance

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  • August 1, 2021

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 8 (Year B) 1Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51

Elijah could not take another step — he was finished. At that point, all he wanted was a swift and painless death. There are many who reach that point in their lives. They are overwhelmed, exhausted and discouraged, and just want an end to their suffering. But this is usually where God steps in — that is, if we are open to God’s intervention.

In this story, the angel bringing food and drink to Elijah played a role that is often found in Scripture — God as sustainer and provider. There are echoes of the manna, quail and water that God provided for the Israelites during their journey through the wilderness of Sinai.

Numerous psalms — such as Psalm 65 and 104 — speak of God as the one who provides sustenance for all creatures. In the New Testament, there is a similar message in Matt 6:26 and Luke 12:24: God provides food for the birds of the air, and so much more for humans. Finally, the miraculous feedings provided by Jesus, such as the one in John 6, served as irrefutable evidence of God’s provident care.

Refreshed and strengthened by the food and drink provided by the angel, Elijah was able to resume his journey to Mount Horeb. When the psalm urges us to “Taste and see, that the Lord is good,” it is more than a pious statement. It is an invitation to a closer relationship with God and recognition that God is the source of our strength and sustenance.

In our life journey, we may reach our limit and be tempted to give up. That is the time to allow God to be present to us and to take over. With God, there is always strength for one more step.

Most believers would be very upset and angry if someone were to deny the Holy Spirit. It is certainly part of our theological arsenal, but sadly, it is not a palpable reality in the lives of many. If we were truly aware of the Spirit’s presence, we would be more careful with our words, thoughts and actions.

Ephesians warns the community against “grieving the Spirit.” And grieved the Spirit must be by the amount of “bitterness, wrath, malice and slander” that seems to have taken hold of so many individuals and communities in the Church and in all religious bodies.

The antidote to this poison is kindness, forgiveness and gentleness. That is the only way that we can be like God. If God seems distant to us, then the practice of these virtues will draw God close.

The crowd around Jesus did not take kindly to His insistence that He was the bread come down from Heaven. How could He be since they knew His family and where he came from?

But they were interpreting His words in a literal and materialistic manner, which was the failing of all spiritually unenlightened people in the Gospel of John — and often our failing.

Jesus recognized that not all would be open to His words. He observed that those who did come to Him had been open to God all along. They had been taught and guided by God. Even so, they had not seen God nor had anyone else — Jesus alone had been in God’s presence, and He alone could grant access to others.

With the metaphors of flesh and bread, Jesus revealed what He brings to those who believe: permanence and eternal life. Jesus carries life within Him and is able to bestow it on whomever He chooses.

This life will be granted to those who make Jesus their food and drink — their very sustenance. John’s Gospel calls this gift eternal life and it is made clear that those who believe can begin to experience this even while they still live on Earth. It refers not to a duration of life, but a quality — living in the awareness of the immediate presence of God.

The bread come down from Heaven is far more than food for the journey — it is the source of a whole new life.

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