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Pastor's Letter 20210808 - 08 August 2021 - O Lord, Bread of Life

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August 8th, 2021

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

  A Message from Father Michael


Today’s Theme:   “O Lord, Bread of Life"

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

The prophet Elijah thought his career as a prophet was at an end.  He assumed the religious reform of his people—that goal to which he had pledged his life—was tumbling down in shambles around him (1 Kings 19:4-8.)  Having squared off against Jezebel, the Phoenician queen of weak king Ahab, against her bringing the cult of Baal into Israel, Elijah became her nemesis and was banished.  (So cunning and evil was Jezebel, that her name became synonymous with wicked and vengeful women throughout the ages.)

Elijah eventually learned God’s lesson, when his human resources were wanting and his hopes dashed.  An angel bearing food came and renewed him, speaking in the name of God, and working wonders as His mediary.  

For Christians, to be sealed with the Holy Spirit, means to be legally bound and contractually committed to Jesus.  By that seal, the Christian would be identified as a believer and a child of God.  Our Second Reading today (Ephesians 4:30-5:2,) incorporates the meaning of “the seal,” originating in ancient times (6th millennium B.C.,) conferring upon one sealed the duty to avoid evil, and live a life in conformity with the values made incarnate by Jesus.  Mutual forgiveness required not merely the remission of debs, or faults, but the magnanimous forgiving and self-forgetful love, which was the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry.

All those who had heard about the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 in the desert, did not automatically believe in Him as the Messiah, sent by God.  The signs worked by Jesus were powerful challenges, accepted by some, rejected by others, as evident in the dialogue that comprises today’s Gospel (John 6:41-51.)  In today’s selection, we read how the Jews grumbled, not about “the bread,” but Jesus’ claim of heavenly origin.  Jesus ignored their petty objections and pressed them to focus on matters of greater concern (i.e., their acceptance, in faith, or rejection of the gift of life eternal.)   When Jesus offered Himself (His teaching,) as life-giving bread, He was, in their understanding, putting himself above the Torah, which the rabbis had long considered the source of bread which feeds, gives life, reveals God, etc.  

Only in faith could His hearers accept the bread of His teaching as the revelation of truth…and only by faith would they be able to open themselves in hungry acceptance to the Eucharistic revelation which follows (in next week’s Gospel.)

Human Limitations

Many people are loathe to admit to weakness, wanting to appear strong, all the time.  Their thinking is that they will lose face before others if they show weakness and fear.  However, people generally are touched and moved to help us when they see we are “human” like them.  In the words of Picasso: “You are overcome with compassion when you find in each person the source of tears.”  Still, some may feel that such feelings aren’t worthy of someone who has faith in God.  But weakness is not incompatible with faith.  Besides, how can we get help if we won’t even admit our need?  Modern psychology teaches us that recognition that we have a problem is the first step on the road to rehabilitation.  

On the strength of the food that Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist, we are enabled to walk all the way to God’s eternal Kingdom.  Along the way, we may have the privilege of being God’s angel to another human being who is experiencing a low moment.  This is the kind of love and support that you would expect from people who eat at the same table….

Recognizing God’s Help

Prayers are not answered when God "does things for us," but in His helping us "do things for ourselves" and for one another.  We will wait in vain for a heavenly angel, but God quite often sends us human angels.  Most everyone can recall instances when the ministry of such people was meaningful in our lives.

We also get opportunities to be such an angel to someone in distress.  It may mean doing something, or providing some basic service such as a hot meal.  Other times it may mean saying a word of encouragement.  Still other times it may mean just being there beside someone, providing a comforting presence, so the person doesn’t have to suffer alone.

Many people go through bad periods.  It is only the care of some human angel that helps them get through it.  Ultimately, the angel that God sent us is His Son, Jesus Christ.  He stays by our side and gives us, not ordinary bread, but the “bread of life.”  In the strength of this bread, He will walk all the way to the mountain of eternal life.

Religion is not Escapism

Meditative prayer is not meant to be an escape from life but rather, to help us face it.  From our daily journey in search of God; in our effort to live the life of a Christian; we return again and again to prayer and the sacraments--not, however, for escape and refuge, but for rebirth and renewal of courage and energy--so we may recommit ourselves to the journey.

Our religion is meant to comfort us in times of trouble and to console us in times of sorrow.  But if it did not do more than that, then it would involve neither risk nor strain.  It must give us something to “work us up”--to give us a good cause to energize us.  It should challenge and stretch us to our limit and beyond, so that thereafter, we have new standards by which we can judge ourselves.

There is a religion of devotion, and a religion of commitment.  Faith can be a crutch…or a pair of wings….

The Christian life is not about evasions, escapism, soft options, or comfort.  It is about the very opposite of these—the God Who loves us, and expects the best of us—nothing less.

God gives us a special food to nourish us.  The food that Elijah received enabled him to walk to the mountain of God.  The food that Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist enables us to walk all the way to His eternal Kingdom.

It is for this reason that we, as modern Catholic Christians, partake of the Holy Eucharist at every opportunity.  That is why every Holy Mass you attend contains Holy Communion as an integral part of the celebration.  Jesus comes to us in a fatherly sense of renewal to assist us against the problems of everyday life.

May God Richly Bless You!

“The cost of food in the Kingdom is hunger for the Bread of Life.”

~~ John Pipere~~

To view a recording of today's Mass, click here: https://youtu.be/96aHcF9pgis

Edited by Father Michael
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