Bread for the Journey

Bread for the Journey

August 12, 2018 | N W | Deacon Eddie, Eucharist, Ordinary Time, St. John, Strength

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 12, 2018 – Year B
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8 / Ps 34 / Eph 4:30-5:2 / Jn 6:41-51
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

Almost five years ago when I was ordained a Permanent Deacon, Father Sal gave me some advice for preaching. I was stressing out; speaking in front of people is not something that I ever wanted to do. He said “Just relax. You’ve been teaching for years. So just preach as if you were teaching a class.” That’s been good advice. It’s helped me direct my focus and concentrate on the points that I want to make, to just analyze it and think of it as a class.

If I’m teaching and you are the class, then I should be able to give tests. I will ask a question and want you to just think about it for a second, and then I will signal you and I want you to say the answer.

First question. This is easy. A true or false question. Is it true or false: Father Sal picks the readings for the Sunday Mass.

No, we work from a lectionary. The readings are specified throughout the whole year, not just for Sunday Mass but for daily Masses, feast days, solemnities, everything. They’re in a, book and it’s called the lectionary.

Question number two. True or false: We repeat the same readings every year.

No, we do not repeat the same readings every year. We have multiple cycles. We have three cycles: A, B, and C.

Next question. What cycle are we on now? Cycle B

Last question. In Cycle B, where do the gospel readings generally come from? Mark.
A, B, and C; Matthew, Mark and Luke. Was today’s gospel from Mark? No, it was from John.

We have three cycles; Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but what about John? John is unique among the gospels. So they use John in all three cycles at different places where it is particularly appropriate.

There is something unique about Cycle B: We get John for five consecutive weeks. When the Church does something odd like this, our Spidey sense should start tingling. We should start thinking “Why is this?” In Cycles A and C, we never get John for that long in Ordinary Time. In fact, this is the third week in this John detour.

Have you noticed, in each of those three Sundays (including today) where the readings come from in the book of John? John chapter 6, which is the Bread of Life discourse. John was written many years after all of the other gospels, probably twenty to thirty years later, so it’s different. John’s understanding is more developed and he has this unique chapter in his gospel, chapter 6. It’s all about the Bread of Life.

Often the gospel really comes to light in the other two readings, and for these five weeks I think that is particularly true. For each of these five weeks, the first reading pretty much sets the tone. It sets the message. Take this week for instance.

This week we are in the Book of Kings and we have Elijah. Elijah is probably one of the greatest prophets ever. Elijah just completely debunked the faith of Queen Jezebel. Jezebel does not like it, and Elijah does what probably all of us would do: he runs. This week we pick up with Elijah and he is running, because Jezebel has promised to kill him.

If you look back in this story, Elijah is tired and he goes to sleep. He is awakened by an angel, and he finds bread and water. So he eats, falls asleep again and gets woken up and he eats some more. There is a very important line in this: “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.” Elijah has a job to do and his job is not done. He would like it to be done but it’s not done. So this bread that he discovers, brought to him by the angel, gives him strength for his journey. We’re on a journey, too.

Another odd thing about this five-week cycle has to do with the second reading. For each of these five weeks, the second reading comes from Ephesians. Often the Old Testament reading is the promise, the gospel is the fulfilment, but the second reading is kind of a how to, the nuts and bolts.

St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is about what it means to be a Christian. It’s about how you are to conduct yourself. It’s about your mission. It’s about what you should be doing and who you should be becoming. Like Elijah was given strength from the bread, we as Catholic Christians are given strength by the Eucharist. Strength for our journey, so that when it gets hard we will have the strength to continue. St. Paul spells out the journey through the book of Ephesians. The Eucharist, the Bread of Life, the bread of angels, is the source and summit of our faith. It is fundamentally where we get our strength, day to day and week to week.

I’d like to share with you a translation of the hymn, Panis Angelicus, Bread of Angels.

May the Bread of Angels
Become bread for mankind.
The Bread of Heaven puts
All foreshadowings to an end.
Oh, thing miraculous!
The body of the Lord will nourish
the poor, the servile and the humble.
You God, Three in One,
We beseech;
That You visit us,
As we worship You.
By Your ways,
Lead us where You are heading
to the light where You live.

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