Sunday reflection by Rev. Michael MacInnis, Director of Human Formation - August 8, 2021
Winston Churchill in a speech on October 29, 1941 at Harrow School said, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense”. I heard the shortened expression in a poorly attempted British accent “Never give in, never, never, never!” many times in my childhood from my father who, in the spirit of Churchill, was inspiring me and my siblings to persevere in the face of a challenge or task.
Elijah, who has had difficulty with Queen Jezebel, flees from her presence and goes to Beersheba, the southernmost town in the land that was under Judah’s control. Elijah still loses hope. He has had enough. Now, he wants to give up and he wants to die. Even in Elijah’s hopelessness, darkness and doubt, God does not give up on him. God believes in Elijah and invites him to believe in himself. The bread that Elijah is given by the angel sustains him and enables him to continue on his way along the path that he has chosen. The Prophet Elijah would travel forty days through the desert until he reached the mountain of the Lord.
Both Elijah and Jesus are at transformative moments in this Sunday’s readings. Elijah is depressed and afraid for his life until a messenger from God reorients him onto a pilgrimage to the holy mountain. Jesus draws strength from the Father and reveals that He is the Bread of Life to people who didn’t accept Him.
Sometimes we can become discouraged because we forget who Jesus is in our lives: the Lord of all! Perhaps the ordinary ways in which God reveals Himself are too familiar and we stop recognizing the God who is ever near. The people in the Gospel knew Jesus. They knew he was the son of Mary and Joseph. They have seen and experienced his miracles but still could not accept that he came from God. Through faith, we can recognize Jesus as the one who God sent to be our food and strength on our journey.
Our Gospel today is a continuation of the “Bread of Life discourse.” During these Summer weeks we have been reflecting upon Jesus as “I am the bread of life.” He promises eternal life through this bread that is given for the life of the world. Jesus lifts us up, strengthens us, feeds us, relieves us of burdens, refreshes our souls, breathes life into our souls, makes us new.
We have all experienced moments when we felt tired, weary, and worn on our journey of faith. Even at those moments of difficulty, the bread of life, Jesus gives us the strength to continue. No matter the situation even deep within the desert of our lives and with tears in our eyes, we are reminded that we are never alone for God always provides.
This Sunday’s gospel reminds us that even in the desert moments of our lives, God always provides. When we are tired and ready to give up, it is the hand of God that feeds us with food for the journey. Today’s psalm reminds us, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
Elijah was strengthened by that food and walked to the mountain of the Lord. So, too, may we be strengthened on our journey as we receive the living bread that came down from Heaven. Jesus’ promise of hope should inspire and spur us on: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”