Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 8, 2021 — Year B
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8 / Ps 34 / Eph 4:30 – 5:2 / Jn 6:41-51
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story I heard when I was in the Philippines: A young boy from a very remote province went to a city to look for a job. One day he posted a picture on Facebook. He was leaning on a very expensive car, a Lamborghini. His mother saw the picture and posted a comment, “Oh, son, I’m glad that you were finally able to get a job, and that you got such an expensive car.” But the son sent a private message to his mom, “Mom, I have to lean on the car or else I’ll pass out, because I have not eaten in days.”
What the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, says is true: “Every person has secret sorrows, which the world knows not. Oftentimes we call someone cold, when actually he’s lonely.” Very true. Sometimes we easily judge people, thinking “He’s doing good,” but actually not. Or, “This person is unkind,” but actually they are just sad.
We also know that there are some people who don’t eat not just because they are not hungry, but because they have lost the will to live. This is exactly what we hear in our first reading. The prophet Elijah has lost his will to live. He’s tired. Tired of being pursued relentlessly by the authorities, by Queen Jezebel. Elijah walked for days and sat under a broom tree. And there he prayed for death. He said, “Lord, I’m tired. Please take my life. I’ve had enough.”
This mental health condition is called depression. If people feel as if a heavy dark cloud has descended on them or enveloped them; or when they find themselves in a no-way-out situation; when they feel like there’s nothing more to wake up for or to look forward to, then they start to make a death wish. Because they feel that they don’t have enough energy and strength to continue their own life. And some people pray to God to do it for them, to take their life.
After Elijah prayed for God to take his life, he fell asleep. That’s a good sign. Why? Because in reality, people who feel depression can’t sleep and don’t want to sleep. Then an angel awakens Elijah and gives him food and water and tells him to eat. And Elijah obeys and sleeps again. The angel stays with him, wakes him up again, and tells him to eat again, because he still has a long journey to the mountain of the Lord.
Here we can see that the Lord knows when to send angels into our lives, just to keep us going. We don’t have to give up right away. Just go on, move on, and trust the Lord’s will in your life.
When Elijah reaches the mountain of the Lord, he has an encounter with God. There Elijah receives the real food that he needs most, and this is the will to live. Elijah gave a report to the Lord. And after that conversation, Elijah again felt his sense of mission and purpose. He was able to go back and assume his duties and his mission as a prophet of the Lord.
Beautiful. Here we can see how the Lord works in very mysterious ways. Just don’t give up. Just keep moving on. Just keep trusting the Lord. There will be an end of all our trials, of all the challenges that we are facing on this earth.
In our third reading Jesus tells us, “I am the Bread of Life.” I will give you what you need. And what was the response of the Jews when they heard Him saying, “I am the Bread of Life”? The very first verse of our gospel said, “The Jews murmured about Jesus.” “Ehh, that’s not true. How could He become the Bread of Life? Isn’t He the son of Joseph?” And Jesus continued by saying, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever eats My flesh will have eternal life.” And the Jews said, “Isn’t he the son of Mary? Isn’t he a carpenter or a laborer?” “I am the Bread of Life.” “How could he say that? We know him very well. That’s not true. That’s stupid.”
“I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus did not back down. He continued telling the people, “I am the Bread of Life.” The Jews continued to murmur. I think it’s the same thing we are seeing at this time. A recent survey reports that more than sixty percent of Catholics are not really convinced that what they are receiving at Mass is the real body and blood of Jesus.
That’s very sad to know. When we say “the body of Christ,” “the blood of Christ,” they’ll say, “Ehh, that’s just made of wheat. That’s just made of grapes.” The body of Christ. The blood of Christ. And they’ll say, “Ehh, how could that be? That’s stupid. Maybe I could say that it’s just a symbol of His body and blood.”
We should ask ourselves: How sure are we that what we are receiving is really the body and blood of Christ, that it is what Jesus really meant: that the Eucharist really is the body and blood of Christ?
We have to know, we Catholics, that we are not only following the scriptures, we are not only following what the Bible tells us. We also have Tradition. The Bible and the Tradition are not in conflict. They go hand in hand, and the Tradition explains the scriptures, the Bible. And who holds the Tradition? The Catholic Church.
The apostles heard directly from Jesus, when He was holding the bread and the cup with wine. He said, “This is my body. This is my blood.” They were the direct receivers of Jesus’ words. And how did they behave, when Jesus died and went to heaven, how did they behave every time they had Mass? They considered the bread and the wine, after consecration, the real body and blood of Jesus. And that is the Tradition we are following still. That’s why we cannot say, “That’s not what Jesus meant.”
There is a saying: “You are what you eat.” If we eat a lot of meat or fats, then we end up having high cholesterol. If we eat a lot of sweets, then we get diabetes. We are what we eat. That’s why, every time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, it should transform us into what we are eating, into Jesus’ likeness.
In our second reading, St. Paul tells us, “Be compassionate and kind to one another, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” (Eph 4:32 – 5:2)
In this Mass we continue to thank the Lord for giving Himself for us, to nourish us every time we come to the Eucharist. When I visited the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, one of the priests said in his homily, “If you suffer from depression or problems, go to confession and receive Jesus in the Eucharist, and God will heal you.” I believe his words.
Sometimes we just take for granted the sacraments that Jesus instituted a long time ago. Every time you come to Mass, right after Mass when you leave the church, there is that feeling of joy, of peace within you. Nourish that feeling. Nurture that feeling, because it is God who is working in your hearts. It’s up to each one of us how we let that feeling, that grace grow in our hearts. It is up to each one of us how we cooperate with the grace that the Lord is allowing us to experience.
So again, in this Mass, we pray to the Lord and ask Him to give us the wisdom and the grace to continue with the faith that what we are receiving every time we come to the Eucharist is His real body and blood; that by receiving it, we may continue to grow to become more like Jesus. May Jesus Christ be praised!