Sunday of the 19th in Ordinary Time Year B
(1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51)
A story has been told about Rev. J. Reford Wilson, who was a former director of Free Will Baptist Foreign Missions, who entered the hospital for the last time, the doctors told him that his chances of survival were small. But they said, the surgery itself contained risk and his chances were marginal. With the steady eye-to-eye contact and disarming, twinkling smile so familiar to his friends, Reford said, “either way, Doc, I win.” (taken from the “Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, by Robert J. Morgan, p.191). While is it true that no one of us wants to die, it is also true that many of us desire to die to have more life beyond this world. It is only on desperate situations where one desires death because of unbearable circumstances. But it is always the intention of God for us to live. Death is inevitable but escaping eternal death is possible. For three Sundays now, we have been directed by the readings to focus on Jesus who offers Himself as the Bread of Life. Today’s readings focus on specific directions God commands us to do in order to live through Jesus who is the Bread of Life. Let us look into the messages of the readings with careful reflection.
1. Obedience is life- The words of Christ give life and we are encouraged to obey His words. We know that Jesus speaks to us what the Father told him. In his perfect humanity he does the will of the Father at all times; Jesus hears his voice and obeys it with his entire being; he knows the Father and he keeps his word (cf. Jn 8:55); he speaks to us of what the Father has told him (cf. Jn 12:50); I have given them the words which you gave me” (Jn 17:8) (VD 12) It is the Father who desires us to live and Jesus obeys the Father and presents Himself as the way to life. He then commands us to “take”, “eat”, “drink” and “do” in remembrance of him. It is in obeying shall we all live. This imperative is illustrated in the first reading today when the Prophet Elijah prayed for his death and said “This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers. He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree.” But the angel of the Lord appeared to him, touched him and commanded him to eat and drink. He ate and drank but went back to sleep for the second time. This is symbolic of the initial stage of faith or conversion. Sometimes we eat and drink of God’s goodness for several times but fail to journey as true Christians. It is only when God touched us for the second time through trials and pains that we begin to be faithful Christians like Elijah who was ordered to eat and drink for the second time in which he henceforth began to journey and appreciate life.
2. Holy Spirit is life- St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians in the second reading today not “to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” It is because the Spirit gives life both here on earth and in the world to come. We remember what Jesus said “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (Jn 6:63). Paul reminds us likewise not to forget and be away from the Holy Spirit for only one reason: we are already “sealed for the day of redemption.” We are already assured of salvation through the power, teachings, direction, and abiding presence of the Spirit. Therefore, we open ourselves, instead to the promptings of the Spirit who gives life even in our difficult and challenging situations. Paul told us to act in these 5 ways as signs of being in the Spirit: a) to take away things against others like anger, bitterness, fury, revilement etc., b) to be kind, c) to be compassionate, d) to be forgiving, e) to be children of God. This is only possible through an interior sense of faith which is given to us by the Spirit. John Paul II says “the fullness of the Spirit of God is accompanied by many different gifts, the treasures of salvation, destined in a particular way for the poor and suffering, for all those who open their hearts to these gifts-sometimes through the painful experience of their own existence-but first of all through that interior availability which comes from faith. (Dominum et Vivificantem 16)
3. Faith is Life- When Jesus says “I am the Bread of Life” He was offering Himself as the object for faith. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Faith leads one to life, and disbelief in Him means eternal damnation and to be guilty of eternal sin. On the eve of the Passover Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the one who “will convince the world concerning sin,” on the one hand this statement must be given the widest possible meaning, insofar as it includes all the sin in the history of humanity. But on the other hand, when Jesus explains that this sin consists in the fact that “they do not believe in him,” this meaning seems to apply only to those who rejected the messianic mission of the Son of Man and condemned him to death on the Cross.” (Dominum et Vivificantem 29) To conquer the guilt of sin and the path toward eternal damnation, Jesus presents to us Himself as the Bread of Life. The Gospel today presents 4 dimensions of what is to believe in Jesus as the Bread of Life: a) this Bread came down from heaven. The bread is not made by human hands and the source is heaven; b) the Bread of Life becomes part of human life if there is the sense of listening. Jesus explains “everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me,” c) to eat the Bread of Life is a foreshadowing of a celebration. The Eucharist becomes the venue of partaking Jesus who is the “Bread”, “Broken,” and “Shared” element for life. Prayer becomes then, the path towards the Bread of Life for Jesus says “whoever eats this bread will live forever,” d) The Father has become the inspiration to reach Jesus. Jesus says whoever desires for the Father, comes to Him and whoever wishes to see the Father, looks at Him and whoever loves the Father stays with Him.