I find it amusing that the writers of Hebrew Scriptures so often painted prophets as unwilling and protesting men. Again and again we are confronted with those called to serve God who are quick to demur for any number of reasons. “Choose someone else, God,” they seem to proclaim.
In today’s first reading, Elijah is no different. In earlier readings, Elijah has proven that Baal is no God but that his God is in fact the only true God. He has set about killing off the Baal priests and Jezebel is after his head. He runs far away and collapses under a broom tree, a tree that offers little shade. He is exhausted and falls asleep. He longs for death.
Instead, an angel appears and brings nourishment. Fed with the cake and water, he is able to resume his journey to Horeb.
We are of course expected to draw the parallel with the Hebrews, led by Moses, who were fed in the desert. If you recall, God sent manna to the Israelites which they could gather by day which gave them sufficient nourishment to sustain them until the morrow. Since they had no idea what the “food” was, they called it manna, or “what is it?”
Similarly of course, Elijah is also fed, though apparently the fare if familiar to him.
Not until Jesus discourse on bread in Jn 6: 41-51, do we learn what these food references are. They are, as Jesus tells us, God himself. “I am the bread of life!” he proclaims. What is it, is God.
We learn that God sustains us on our journeys, and without his sustaining power, mere food would never be enough. In other words, we are never enough. Our strengths and perseverance is admirable, but insufficient. It is God, through his great love for us, that allows us to carry on when we are too tired physically and emotionally to bear the burden any longer.
Some are wont to say that God burdens us with more than we can handle. But I think this is incorrect. God does not burden his children. We burden ourselves by our poor decisions, or we are burdened by the simple vagaries of life, the happenstance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God does not take over and choose for us, but when we find ourselves burdened, he graciously stands by ready and willing to offer us that which we cannot offer ourselves–the beyond human strength to continue.
We, or most of us, have had that experience at least one in our lives. We look back astonished that we were able to “get through it”. We recognize that God’s grace sustained us when nothing else could have.
Elijah, like us, doesn’t feel up to the task. We complain and whine. We bargain and resist. But when we offer ourselves to God’s hands, we find, that we can bear the circumstances we find ourselves in, and we can do the job we are being asked to do.
Those of us who believe that God, in some mysterious way, becomes the bread the wine for us, find strength in the Eucharist, not only in times of great stress, but in our daily normal lives. It is like a muscle that is exercised and grows in strength and endurance. With regular reflection upon the importance of this gift, we become more able handle the small issues of life, and thus are prepared when faced with serious problems.
Such is God’s love for us. As Paul says, let us be imitators of God–let us love this greatly all those we meet.
- Surrendering to the Living Bread: Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year (b) (frbonnie.wordpress.com)
- 19th Sunday Year B – Food for our Journey (johnmsfs.wordpress.com)
- Food for the Journey (improbableoptimisms.blogspot.com)
- How’s Your Spiritual Journey Going? (Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time) (mikerivageseul.wordpress.com)
- Under the broom tree (callingintothesilence.wordpress.com)