19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON AUGUST 8, 2021 (R. 1: 1Kings 19: 4- 8; Psalm 34: 2- 9; R. 2: Ephesians 4: 30- 5: 2; Gospel: John 6: 41- 51)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
PLEASE, LET HIM IN!
A homeless man was on his way into a Church on a Sunday morning, and one of the ushers stopped him outside the Church at the door and asked if he needed help. He replied, “I was praying and God told me to come to this Church.” The usher then said, “Well, I suggest you go back and pray more, perhaps God will tell you something different.” The next Sunday, the homeless man was there again, and the same usher stopped him at the door and asked, “Did you get a different answer?” The homeless man nodded and said, “Yes, I did, I told God that you don’t want me here, but God said to me, ‘Keep trying, Son. I have also been trying to get into that Church for several years, and they wouldn’t let me, but I have not given up.’”
The first reading gives us the story of God’s miraculous provision of food for His prophet Elijah when he was running away from the wicked queen Jezebel. The same Elijah who called down fire from heaven; the same Elijah who was able to withstand and kill the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal is now running from Queen Jezebel. At this point, Elijah becomes so hungry and discouraged that he feels death is a better option. He says, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Then God intervenes. St. Paul would say that God’s strength is at its best when we are at our weakest point (cf. 2 Corinthians 12: 9).
The Gospel passages since the past two Sundays have been about God’s provision for us in the person of Jesus, who is the Bread of life. It all began with the feeding of the multitude by Jesus with five loaves of bread and two fish. After the crowd heard the declaration of Jesus that he is the Bread that came down from heaven, the crowd began to do what crowds are famous for: they gossip, judge, criticize, accuse, backbite, disapprove and protest even when sometimes they are not sure of what they are protesting against. They said, “Is this not Jesus, the Son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’” The crowd did not know that Jesus was in their midst as the New Adam. Just as the first Adam brought about the spiritual death of humanity by food, Jesus as the New Adam came to bring life to humanity by food. They closed the doors of their hearts and would not let Jesus in to bring them life.
When Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life, we may wonder if there is a bread of death. At the beginning of his public ministry, the devil tempted Jesus to turn stone into bread and eat, but Jesus rejected that and chose the word that comes from God. The bread that the devil was offering Jesus is an example of the bread of death; the bread that is an expression of pride, the bread that is an expression of selfishness, the bread that dethrones God and enthrones the self.
The bread of death does not satisfy us when we are hungry; the bread of death only makes us hungrier and hungrier until we are exhausted. The effect of the bread of death is what we experience in the various forms of addictions that have turned our world upside down. We keep taking in more and more but cannot seem to get enough of them until they kill us. Instead of us devouring them, they end up devouring us. They destroy not just our bodies, but spirits, relationships, families, sense of mission and many good things around/about us.
On the other hand, the Bread of Life satisfies us always. Our sacramental encounter with the Bread of Life is at the celebration of the Holy Mass. We encounter the Bread of Life in the Word of God proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word, and we also encounter the Bread of Life during the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, the Body, the Blood, the Soul and the Divinity of Jesus Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine. According St. Thomas Aquinas, “[In the Holy Eucharist] Faith will tell us Christ is present, when our human senses fail.”
My dear friends, Jesus continues to knock on the doors of our hearts. He has great plans for us if we let him in. He wants to feed us with the Bread of Life. Someone once said, “Jesus is like a computer. When he enters your life, he will scan your problems, he will edit your tensions, he will delete your worries, he will download solutions for you, and he will save you.” Would you let him in?