19th Sunday Ordinary Time

top of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

Note: I am on vacation, camping up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire this weekend. Here is my homily from three years ago:

Homily — 19th Sunday OT B August 10, 2003
The Prophet Elijah Receiving Bread  and Water from an Angel Peter Paul Rubens

In today’s first reading, the prophet Elijah, probably the holiest man in the whole Old Testament, has had it with life. The whole nation of Israel has turned from the one true God, and is worshiping false gods. Just days before, Elijah had worked a great miracle and then called down rain after a three year drought, in the presence of King Ahab and thousands of Israelites. But this doesn’t turn them back to God. In return stopping a severe three year drought, the King orders Elijah’s execution. So Elijah flees from the King and his wife Jezebel, and here we find him in today’s first reading, 90 miles from the royal palace in Beer-Sheba, in southern Judaea, very discouraged, despairing, asking God to take his life.
Instead of taking Elijah’s life, God gives him life. An angel gives him bread and command him to eat it. Elijah obeys, he eats a little and then lies back down and continues to want to die. But the angel commands him to eat more else the journey will be too long for you.
And after eating this bread again he’s able to walk 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb, also called Mt. Sinai, and there God finally speaks to him and renews Elijah’s spirit to continue to fight for the conversion of his people.
Today at St. Joseph Church my brothers and sisters, an angel of the Lord will visit you and me. This angel will command us to get up and eat the Bread God has placed before us. We must rise and eat it, or else the journey will be too long for us.
The bread the angel gives us today is even better than that given to Elijah. It will not only sustain us throughout this life, but it will also give us the nourishment to journey out of this life and into the next life when the hour of our departure has suddenly arrived.

The bread the angel gives us today is called by Our Lord Jesus Living Bread come down from Heaven.
Living Bread. Those are two words which aren’t normally put together. Any science teacher, or any child for that matter would tell you that Bread is not alive. There are living dogs, living humans, living trees, but no such thing as living bread. And yet Jesus on the night He was betrayed, took bread and gave it life: this is my Body. I am the living bread come down from Heaven. He who eats this Bread has eternal life.
Believe my brothers and sisters that the Bread present in this tabernacle, and the Bread that will soon be consecrated on our altar is alive — more alive than you or I will ever be, for this Bread is Life itself. And yet if we eat this Living Bread, no matter how weary life has been for us, no matter how discouraged or despairing we are, eating this Bread gives us new life. We like Elijah will be given strength to move on in our journey. And like Elijah, it will not be a road to nowhere that we’ll be traveling on, but a road that leads to God’s Holy mountain, where we will hear God’s voice clearly speaking to us.
In today’s first reading, Elijah, the holiest man in all the Old Testament, didn’t realize just how much he needed to eat of the Bread the Angel sent him. And how much more can you and I not realize how greatly we need to nourished by the Holy Eucharist. So if we find we don’t have any real appetite for Holy Communion, or don’t desire to receive the Eucharist more frequently and fruitfully, we need to realize that we are really in serious spiritual danger and the journey to Heaven might be too long a one to reach for us.
And many of us, maybe all of us, need to receive the Eucharist more than we realize. I recently heard someone say that the great Churches of yesterday, such as St. Ann’s here in Woonsocket, which were the centers of the community in their day, have been replaced in people’s lives by the Shopping Malls of today. It would be interesting, but perhaps depressing, to see whether more people on an average Sunday are at Church or out shopping at the mall for non essential things.
My parents tell me that when they were younger, many working people would be seen coming to Church even during the week, before or after work or during lunch time, to pay a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. They would spend a minute or two in prayer, and then put a dollar in the poor box on their way out. Nowadays, we more often are seen paying a visit to Providence Place Mall, and on the way out we give eight dollars to the parking attendant! Not that there’s anything wrong with a good economy, but many of us seem to have forgot to put God and our spiritual needs first in life. May God stir up in our hearts a great hunger and appreciation for the bread of life, which today His angel brings to us, so that the journey which we all must take in this life will be a happy and healthy one, leading us to everlasting life.

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