August 12, 2012 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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I remember going camping as a kid with my family. My mom had this big wooden box that she filled with plates, cups, silverware, pots and pans….and food. Lots and lots of food. As a kid you don’t think much about the fact that in the mountains there isn’t any food. We had to bring our own (I do recall that was the only time we ever got Froot Loops, so I loved camping for that reason alone). The readings today are about food. Food for our journey. Not a camping journey, but a life journey.

In the first reading Elijah was tired and fed up. God knew that Elijah needed to be re-energized, and He knew that the best place that he could do that was if he went to Mt. Horeb (which was considered a holy place, as this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments. {Deuteronomy 4:10}). So two times God wakes him up and tells him to eat and provides him with food and drink. After that Elijah was able to walk for FORTY days and nights to get to Mt. Horeb where, scripture says, God was. God fed Elijah and he could continue his journey.

In the gospel Jesus tells the people that His Body is their food, and that only through Him can they find true life. He talks about the food that people had eaten on earth but still died, but that His food (His Body) would allow them to live forever. He talks about the manna from heaven which was the bread that came down like snow when Moses and the Israelites were in the desert. They would have died without that manna, and Jesus is now saying that we will die without His bread, the very gift of Himself. I can’t imagine what it was like for the people of Jesus’ time to hear those words. “I am the bread of life”?? How strange that must have been. Today we have the gift of knowing the history, of understanding scripture, of having thousands of years of information to understand that over and over through the bible a “Savior” was promised. One who would take our sins, who would give us eternal life, so that we, hungry, “would be filled with good things.” (Luke 1) Being full, being filled, is talked about over and over. God knows that we hunger and thirst for much more than food. We hunger to be loved, to be needed, to be touched and to be satisfied. And we seek ways to fill that hunger. We attempt to use music, movies, boy/girlfriends, sports, academics, friends, family, Facebook, Twitter and even more dangerous things like drugs, alcohol, pornography and reckless sexual activity.

The truth is, nothing will ever fill our hunger but God. That’s what Jesus was trying to say that day. Jesus spoke these words to the people right after he fed the 5000 – so they were all looking at Him like He was amazing!! And now He tells them that the food they just ate was nothing compared to His Bread, His Body, Himself. And His gift to us is still present today. Each time we come before the Eucharistic table we stand before Him, Jesus the Christ. In the bread and in the wine, Jesus becomes present. Not a symbol, not a sign, but Jesus Himself….offering Himself in Love for us. And nothing else will truly satisfy. God knows that. He has always known that. He is the only thing that will fill our hunger and our thirst. And he wants to give us good things. This is why the Psalmist, in today’s readings, says “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”! (Psalm 34). And it’s even better than Froot Loops.

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