19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: 1 Kgs. 19:4–8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death saying: “This is enough, O LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

Second reading: Eph. 4:30–5:2

Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, 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.

Gospel: Jn. 6:41–51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “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’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

In other words Fr. Joey Miras, SVD (Canada)

“Bread is important. Freedom is more important. But the most important thing is unbroken fidelity and adoration that is never betrayed.” These are the words of Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest who was one editor of the monthly journal on faith and culture Stimmen der Zeit, and was executed by the Gestapo in 1945.

From this passage, it appears that bread, though a basic element in satisfying a human need, ranks third only behind freedom, unbroken fidelity, and unbetrayed adoration. The Bread of Life Discourse by John that ended with an emphasis on eternal life has to mean something more, more than the bread that we eat and see and that which satisfies human hunger. Bread fulfills a basic need. It alleviates physical hunger, but a filled or satisfied stomach is not the ultimate need. Another kind of hunger seeks satisfaction in something else. Freedom is one.

Freedom has proven to be a strong motivating force that drove human lives to unimaginable heights. The freedom fighters honored on Remembrance Day (November 11) is one example. The movement that led to the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa is another testament that there is more to the longing of bread that could move people. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 may have been precipitated by the desire to fill the table with bread, but ultimately people wanted more breathing space for their thoughts and deeds. 

Unbroken fidelity and unbetrayed adoration are even more valuable than bread. This was the spirit behind the willingness of Christian martyrs to die for Christ, or for the modern victims of persecution, or those who simply die for the sake of their faith. One can remember well the events of Cristiada in Mexico during the Civil War of 1912. José Luis Sánchez was a 13-year-old boy who witnessed the murder of the priest Fr. Christopher by the Federales. He was taken in and made protégé by an atheist and retired general, Enrique Gorostieta. When José was captured in a firefight, he was tortured to renounce his faith but did not, and so he was executed. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2005.

Both Christians and Muslims displayed cruelty and barbarity during the time of the Crusades, but pieces of evidence also show that followers of both religions showed steadfast faith, sacrifice, and generosity of spirit.

Saleh al-din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, the 11th century Muslim warlord, known to the Crusaders as Saladin, has these words about the fervor of Christians, “And all they have done, and all their generosity, has been done purely out of zeal for HIM they worship, in jealous defense of their Faith.” From this staunchest opponent of the Crusaders, it was not gold that motivated these men. This is one example of the hunger that the bread of eternal life satisfies.

What kind of bread can we share with the world?

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