I am the Bread of Life 19thSunday Ordinary Time (B)
1 Kings 19:4-8 Psalm 34 Ephesians 4:30-5:2 John 6:41-51
The first reading from the first book of Kings is on the prophet Elijah. Elijah is fleeing from the wicked queen Jezebel. Jezebel wants to kill Elijah. After traveling for an entire day and enduring the unforgiving heat of a desert, Elijah sits down, or, perhaps, collapses beneath the shade of tree. There he almost despairs of living and cries out to God, “Take my life”. God responds by sending angels to Elijah who give him cake and water. This food sent by heavenly messengers ensures that Elijah will live.
The Responsorial Psalm (34) in a sense rhymes with the first reading by referring to an angel of the Lord who protects followers of God who “taste and see how good the Lord is”.
The gospel passage for today from the “bread of life discourse” of John chapter six also echoes the themes of divinity, angels, goodness, eating, and life. As explained by Pitre, this chapter emphasizes these themes in two parts. The first part of the discourse is on divinity, while implying the presence of angels. The second part is on goodness, eating and life.
In the first part of the bread of life discourse, Jesus teaches that he is God with the words, “I have come down from heaven” as the “Son” of God the Father.
In the second part of the bread of life discourse, Jesus then promises that we will be invited to participate in His divine life, in the absolute goodness of God. He does so by saying that “I am the living bread” and that “if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever”.
The bread that Jesus offers, though, is unlike any other bread. Unlike ordinary bread which nourishes us even if we think we are eating something else, such as rice cakes, the bread that Jesus gives us, which is Himself, will not nourish unless we believe in Jesus’ divinity and believe that God wants to share his divinity with us.
Later, on Holy Thursday Jesus will fulfill his promise by instituting the Eucharist by which we receive His divine life, divine life that can transform us by divinizing us under the condition that we recognize Jesus’ divine presence hidden under the form of ordinary bread and wine.
The condition of faith, Jesus teaches, cannot be acquired by any human effort since, “No one comes to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent [Jesus] draw[s] people to Jesus”.
Today, may we ask the Heavenly Father for greater faith in the divinity of Jesus and by so doing properly prepare ourselves to receive Jesus hidden in the Eucharist.
Brant Pitre, “Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B),” catholicproductions.com.
Unknown, “The icon of Christ Pantocrator from Gavshinka, a village near Yaroslavl,” 1200s, By Anonymous (http://yarcenter.ru/content/view/32248/179/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.