19th Sunday O T Year B
1Kings 19:4-8; Eph.4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
Once there was a stonecutter who was bored and unhappy with his job. One morning, as he was cutting stones, he saw the king pass by. He prayed to God: “Lord, please make me that king because I am tired of being a stone cutter. It seems good to be king.” The Lord made him a king instantly.
While he was a king he was walking along a road one day, he found the sun much too hot that he was perspiring heavily. He said to God: “It seems the sun is more powerful than the king. I would like to be the Sun.” instantly, the Lord made him the Sun.
As he was shining brightly one morning, he found that the clouds were blocking his sunshine, then he thought to himself: “It seems as though the clouds are better than the sun because they can obstruct my sunshine.” So he said: “I want to be the clouds.” He became the clouds. Later on, he became the rain that poured down on the earth causing a flood. He said: “I’m now very powerful.”
Then he noticed a big rock that blocked his flow. He said to himself: “It seems the stone is more powerful than I am. I want to be this stone.” Then he became the stone. One morning, a stonecutter started to cut him to smaller pieces. He said: “it seems the stonecutter is more powerful than I am. I want to be stonecutter.” Then he instantly became what he originally was.
We are the people who love to complain. We are a people who love to murmur. We all do our fair share of complaining, and sometimes with good reason. We complain about the weather a great deal. We complain about all kinds of things. If we are not careful we can find ourselves complaining about nothing in particular, just complaining.
We can easily get ourselves into a very negative frame of mind. We see the problems but we see nothing else. We fail to see the bigger picture which will nearly always have brighter shades in it. Our vision can be restricted to what is wrong or missing or lacking.
The gospel starts by saying that as soon as the Lord said to the Jews: “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews murmured to one another. They started to say: “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?’”
As far as they were concerned, he was a problem, and they could not see beyond the problem. They had always known him as the son of Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth; they knew his family and his mother. Yet, here he was claiming to be the bread that came down from heaven.
They were scandalized that one of their own could make such claims for himself. Their response to Jesus was to complain about him. Complaining on its own is rarely an adequate response to anything or anyone; it is certainly not an adequate response to the person of Jesus.
Yes, Jesus had a difficult time trying to teach the people that He is the bread of life because their minds were already filled with complains.
When the mind is filled with complaints, the heart is already closed. And when the mind is filled with complaints, then life can be a pain.
Joke for the day: After his return from church one Sunday a small boy said, “You know what, Mommy? I’m going to be a preacher when I grow up.” “That’s fine,” said his mother, “but what made you decide to be a preacher?” “Well,” said the boy thoughtfully.
“Since I have to go to Church every Sunday anyway, I think it would be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit still and listen.”
In the 1st reading, we hear of the prophet Elijah, who seemed to be complaining and even wishing he were dead. His words of complaint were these: Lord, I have had enough. Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors. Yet his complaint was not about the small stuff. His complaint was about a real mortal danger.
He was being pursued by his enemies, and they were hunting him down and bent on taking his life. So even as a prophet, he felt he can’t take it anymore, and hence those words – Lord, I have had enough. Take my life! Well, those are indeed prophetic words coming from a prophet in distress.
Because we too have our own complaints about life. Especially when all the work is arrowed and pushed to us, and no one would help us, whether it is at home or at work. Or when our problems keep mounting and no one understands us. All they ever say is: Don’t worry, be happy!
Or when one is old and sickly, and no one bothers or cares, and loneliness has drained the meaning out of life. In such situations, we will be tempted to say: Lord, I have had enough. (Take my life) But God being God, He won’t take our life just like that. Rather He will give us the bread of life.
For the prophet Elijah, God sent an angel to bring him bread and water to help him go on. The bread has a deeper meaning than just food to fill the stomach and to satisfy the hunger. It was a sign for the prophet Elijah that God will be with him in the journey ahead.
So for his complaint, God did not give a solution; rather God became his companion. Yet in our all complaints, whether it is about life or about God, let us realize that we are not asking for answers. For the questions about life, pain, and suffering and even about God, the answers won’t be of much help, even if we can get those answers.
Yet for all our questions and complaints, God comes to be with us and to be our companion on the way. And that is actually what we really need – a companion to be with us in our difficult and painful moments of life.
With that, we will understand what Jesus meant when He said: the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. The language of the gospel is very graphic. Jesus speaks of himself as the bread that comes down from heaven and calls on us to eat this bread.
When we hear that kind of language we probably think instinctively of the Eucharist. Yet, it might be better not to jump to the Eucharist too quickly. The Lord invites us to come to him and to feed on his presence, and in particular to feed on his word.
In the Jewish Scriptures bread is often a symbol of the word of God. We may be familiar with the quotation from the Jewish Scriptures, ‘we do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
We need physical bread, but we also need the spiritual bread of God’s word. We come to Jesus to be nourished by his word. The Father draws us to his Son to be fed by his word. The food of his word will sustain us on our journey through life, just as, in the first reading, the baked scones sustained Elijah, until he reached his destination, the mountain of God.
When we keep coming to Jesus and feeding on his word, that word will shape our lives. It empowers us to live the kind of life that Saint Paul puts before us in the second reading, a life of love essentially, a life in which we love one another as Christ has loved us, forgive one another as readily as God forgives us. That, in essence, is our baptismal calling.
Indeed, the best service we can render to someone is to be a companion, to be a spiritual companion to be with that person even if it’s just being there quietly, especially when that person is in difficulty. Because no one would ever complain against a companion, especially a companion who shares in the bread of pain and suffering.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.