By Dina Dow

The liturgical readings for the upcoming 18th and 19th Sundays in Ordinary Time (Year B) inspire us to a deeper faith in God through Jesus Christ. The words we will hear are those that will serve as the invitation to everlasting life. The act of believing will open hearts to conversion and transformation, and thus answer God’s call to holiness.

“It is enough, now O LORD … ”
(1 Kgs 19: 4)

Both Old Testament readings begin with people in flight. The Israelites are fleeing from slavery in Egypt with Moses guiding them to safety, while Elijah is escaping impending death from Jezebel. The Israelites are hungry and thirsty, stating it would have been better to stay in Egypt, where Elijah is scared, exhausted and without strength to find safety. The Lord hears their cries, sending food for sustenance, thus fortifying their journey with belief that God will provide. He ministers through Moses, once a shepherd, and an angel, one who constantly holds the heavenly vision of God. The Israelites ate “bread from heaven (Ps(s) 78),” as Moses tells, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” (Ex 16:15) Elijah ate the bread of the angel. Yet, the bread of this fortification points to something greater, perfectly substantial and everlasting.

Think about a time when you have run out of energy to fuel the body, mind and spirit.  As senses weaken, you cry out for some type of reprieve saying, “I am done with (fill in the blank).” You want to give up, throw in the towel, plop on the couch, and go to sleep! Yet, also recall when God has nudged you, awakened by an angel, of sorts, saying, “ ‘Here, eat this,’ to get you moving again.” There is an open invitation to come home to God through Jesus. He gives us more than the world can ever promise to provide. He gives us everything needed to draw near to him today, tomorrow and eternally.

“Be renewed … put on the new self …” (Eph 4:23-24)

The closer we are to Christ, the more we grow in holiness. St. Paul reminds the Ephesians to walk away from the evil of non-believers, knowing Jesus’ path is truth and life. He invites us to a constant renewal of the promises made in baptism as we adorn the garment of his glory, pure in color, stitched with sacrifice, fitted with love and worn with humility. Similar to the woman who touched the tassel of Jesus’ garment experienced healing, so too should another who “touches our garment,” be aware of the life-giving love and joy of Christ, our Lord. As we clothe ourselves in this garment, we are embraced by the power of the Holy Spirit and are enabled to be immersed in the mission of his ministry. We believe in his truth, and thus are open to the graces that transform us into a newness of life.

This is conversion, “a radical reorientation of the whole life away from sin and evil, and toward God. This change of heart is a central element of Christ’s preaching, of the church’s ministry of evangelization, and of the sacrament of reconciliation” (Catechism Para. #1427-1429). Of course, with this call to holiness comes also the reality of “life in Christ is not that easy.” How can we, like Elijah and the Israelites, remain conformed to, strengthened by and united with God and others? What actually feeds us?

Bread from Heaven

St. John’s Gospel illuminates the teachings of the manna from heaven, as recalled in the Book of Exodus, now placed before Jesus by those following him. They long to see him perform another sign because it was not enough to be one of the 5,000 people just fed by him.  Jesus offers an invitation to work for “food that endures for eternal life” (Jn 6: 27). They naturally ask, “How?” Jesus invited them this time into a deeper union with the Trinity, as he tells them to believe in the one whom God sent, thus revealing,For the bread of God is that which comes down from   heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35). In other words, he tells them, “I am he who is sent by God to feed you.” Despite their murmuring Jesus goes further, saying “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” (Jn 6:51). We will hear their reaction to this statement in a few weeks.

Let us stop here and think about this for a moment. We are to fuel our body in order for our organs to perform duties as oriented. If we neglect our body, our lives will be limited until we die. Starvation is slow and painful.

It is also true for the soul. If we starve the soul, we die a spiritual death. So how do we feed our soul? Where can we get such food? Who ultimately feeds both our body and our soul, providing the best and perfect way of nourishing our very being in order for us to live for today, tomorrow and eternally? What does this look like? How can we obtain such a gift? Where can we find this? Here is a hint, “Have you been to Mass lately?”  Stay tuned for the next issue.

“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 5:2).

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.