“GET UP AND EAT, OR ELSE YOU'LL GET TOO TIRED TO TRAVEL”
19th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B
During these Sundays we have been reading chapter 6 of John’s gospel. It starts with the multiplication of the 5 loaves of bread to feed the 5,000 people. Having performed that miracle – or sign – Jesus crossed the sea to escape from being made king. To the crowd that chased him and found him in Capernaum, Jesus explained that he is the ‘Bread from heaven’.
The Jews were caught by surprise by this statement. Among the many that had started to follow him, there were some who were familiar with his village and family. Soon enough, everybody knew that he was Jesus from Nazareth, son of Joseph, the carpenter of that town. Even today, a young man is not called by his own name, but is known by being “the son of Mr. …”. The crowd started complaining about the fact that Jesus said he was coming from heaven, the dwelling place of God the Father. What the people were sure of, that Jesus’ father was Joseph, became an insuperable obstacle to know who his real Father was. In the comment of last Sunday on our website, we were reminded of the well known saying: “If you point to the moon with your finger, the fool will look at your finger (not at the moon itself)”. Today, the same mistake occurs again: the crowd is misguided by what they think is true (the father of Jesus is the carpenter), and this certainty they posses makes it impossible for them to learn that the Father of Christ is the Heavenly one. There is a hidden risk in being a religious person: we stick to what we already know about our faith, and we fail to recognize the new ways that the Lord chooses to reveal his truth. We need to be on a constant journey of faith, the Promised Land not being entered already. Our life is a journey. The book of Wisdom, the last one to be composed before the coming of the Messiah, has this passage about the 40 year journey of the Israelites in the desert: “You nourished your people with food of angels and furnished them bread from heaven, ready to hand, untoiled-for, … That your sons whom you loved might learn, O Lord, that it is not the various kinds of fruits that nourish man, but it is your word that preserves those who believe you!” (Wisdom 16:20.26). Human beings live not on bread alone (Dt 8:3): the word of God is our daily bread. In every Mass we eat twice: with our ears, we eat the bread of the Word of the Lord; with our mouth we eat the Body of Christ. It is a two-course meal. During his mission, the prophet Elijah (first reading) encountered a time of crisis. He wanted to give up. He went into the desert, as if he wanted to do exactly the opposite of what God did with his people to free them from Egypt. There he felt drowsy, a typical sign of depression and delusion. But the angel touched him (reflect: how many times has the Lord “touched” you, to wake you up?) and told him: “Get up and eat, or else you'll get too tired to travel”. There is still a long way to go; it is not yet time to withdraw. The mission must go on. That bread gave him strength and courage. John 6 starts with a gift: a young man or boy realizes that Jesus is looking for something to feed the crowd. This young man has generosity in his heart. He forgets his needs, and decides to care for the greater need of the hungry people. He saw how Jesus cured freely the many sick, and decides to imitate him. This act, this gift, changed history. Ours and that of the world. For this reason Jesus left the command: do this in remembrance of me. It was much more than an invitation to celebrate the Eucharist. It was an invitation to become the Eucharist. We are citizens of this word; when we eat his Body, we acquire citizenship in heaven too.
Enjoy your meal!