Life is not as fair and soothing as we often wish or plan. There are times when we face dissipating challenges that push us to the point of losing all the last traces of hope. Most people face tough moments in their families; there are cases of depreciating health conditions. Some people confront severe relationship breakdown and while others face real attacks from both known and unknown enemies. When you find yourself in the middle of some physical, moral or spiritual turbulence, what line of action do you take? Lose it, and give up or hang in and faith it?
Elijah had his own “fair” share of tribulations as the First Reading (1 Kings 19:4-8) relates to us. The prophet was running for his life after the victory of God over Baal and the killing of the 450 prophets who serve at the cult of the idol. Jezebel, the wife of the king who was the principal sponsor of Baal worship in Israel, wanted Elijah dead at all cost. The prophet escapes and commences a forty-day walk to Mount Horeb to have an audience with God.
After a day’s journey in the wilderness, Elijah was tired and was giving up and, in his desperation, he prays for death saying, “this is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers”. God answers him by sending an angel to give him bread and water twice and afterwards; he was able to do the forty-day walk to Mount Horeb. One fact we should keep at the back of our minds in the narrative is that Elijah became tired after a day’s journey in the wilderness, but when God fed him, he was able to make the rest of the forty-day journey without getting tired. When God intervenes in our lives, we achieve more than we can imagine.
Often, we encounter the same daunting experience as Elijah when we face various forms of “Jezebels and wilderness” in our lives. At some points, we want to give up and even pray for death, and the simple reason is that we do not give God a chance in our lives. Elijah was troubled, he prayed, and he also waited on God for an answer, and God answered him.
In our journey of life, we need divine viaticum. For the sake of clarity, viaticum stands for provision for the journey. That is exactly what God does when we put our trust in Him; He provides for us in our journey of life. God cannot give us a vision without a corresponding provision. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians (9:8), St. Paul says, that God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, we may share abundantly in every good work.
In Gospel Reading today (John 6:41-51), we continue the dialogue between Jesus and the people who were searching for him a day after the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish. Last Sunday we heard Jesus telling them that he would give them the kind of bread that would fill them forever instead of the perishable bread they wanted. Today, our Lord sums up his instruction by telling them that he is the living bread that came down from heaven and whoever eats him will live forever.
The people who were searching for Jesus Christ have something in common with Elijah, they were on a journey, and they needed sustenance for the journey. Elijah’s mission was to Mount Horeb, but with the people searching for Jesus Christ, the journey translates to the journey to eternal life. While God is concerned about our daily life provision (Matt.6:11), He is more interested about our eternal life which involves knowing Him and Jesus Christ, the Son whom He sent (John 17:3) and who gives us His body and blood as food for the journey of life.
Jesus is our viaticum for the journey of life, and we have the full expression of the totality of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The last part of our Lord’s statement today says, “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the word” (John 6:51). The narrative of the last supper tells us that our Lord took a loaf of bread and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them saying this is my body which is given for you. He did the same with a chalice of wine after giving thanks he said, this is my blood which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:19-20).
What form of relationship and connection do you have with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the narrative of your journey in life? When you have distress in your journey like Elijah, do you still remember that you have an enduring viaticum? Do you seek out the bread that gives eternal life or are you concerned about what you could have for the short term? When you face challenges, do remember to come to Him for a few moments of adoration in the blessed sacrament?
As we march into a new week, may we resolve to seek the Lord not just to fix our immediate material needs but to give our souls the food for eternal life. Remember that Jesus Christ is your viaticum in the journey of life.