RECEIVING STRENGTH FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE REFLECTION FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Podcast] I Am The Bread of Life – Steve Dusek

It is easy to judge people who commit suicide as impatient and fragile. But have you ever found yourself in that place in life where you are broken, anxious, and hopeless? Have you ever been in the middle of two extreme conditions that seem to push you to the point of wishing to die? By the way you don’t have to die because of your troubles; they should rather die away because your life is more important!

The prophet Elijah was in that dark place as we see in the First Book of Kings (19:4-8). Elijah was running from queen Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab who swore to kill him after defeating and killing the prophets of baal who served under the wicked queen.

Elijah had set out to meet God at mount Horeb through the desert, but one day into his journey he found himself at a dead-end fainting, and even prayed for death to take him. We hear him say: “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers”.

Contrary to Elijah’s wish to die, God had a revitalizing plan for him as he sends an angel to provide him with cake (bread) and water and these words, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you”. Twice he ate the miraculous lunch, and he was strengthened by the food to walk the forty days and nights journey to mount Horeb.

In the Gospel of John (6:41-51), we see the crowd who followed Jesus and wanted more bread murmuring when Jesus declared that he is the bread that came down from heaven. The crowd was abusive and judging as they started profiling Jesus’ humble family background. However, what they did not understand is that there is something about Jesus Christ that is beyond his earthly family; he is the life-giving bread from heaven.

Strength for the Journey of Life

Oliver Goldsmith says that life is a journey that must be travelled no matter how bad the roads and the accommodations. Elijah and the crowd searching for Jesus had one thing in common; they were on a journey, and they needed some sustenance. Furthermore, the sustenance they needed was not just physical diet but spiritual strength for the journey.

Notice that Elijah could not survive a day without food, but the two square mealtimes sustained him for a period of forty days in the desert. No wonder the angel said to him, “eat else the journey will be too long for you”. The quick lesson here is that when we are not filled in by God the journey of life becomes long and tedious, but when God is in the equation things get better and smoother.

On the other hand, the crowd searching for Jesus were also in the journey of life. Unknown to them however, they needed the food that would give them eternal sustenance not just overnight satisfaction like the five loaves and two fish.

Responding to their desperate search for perishable bread, our Lord Jesus Christ says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”.

Moving Forward: Receiving the Strength for the Journey of Life

The narratives of Elijah and the crowd remind us of the importance of the food from heaven in the journey of life. Pause a while and reflect on those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; “whoever eats this bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”. Our Lord was not just making a statement, but he was stating a helpful fact.

In another place he says, “unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will not have life within you” (John 6:53). Remember also that he says in the Gospel (John 15:5), “cut off from me you can do nothing”.

Are you intentional about partaking of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ? When was your last worthy participation in this meal? God gave us His Son our Lord Jesus Christ not only for the expiate of our sins but also for our spiritual sustenance and strength as we walk through the journey of life; Jesus is our viaticum.

So, as you journey through the desert of life, and running from some destructive Jezebels, remember that your strength may fail you but if the Lord is with you and in you, your strength will never fail.

Five things you must keep in mind when you find yourself in that dark place like Elijah:

  • You are never, ever alone; God is with you!
  • Nothing takes God by surprise, not even the dark place
  • When you are weak like Elijah, God is always strong for you.
  • There is always a new beginning for you.
  • God’s love will never give up on you.

God bless you and have blessed weekend.

Fr. Bonnie.

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