Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Readings: 1 Kgs 19:4-8; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51

“If God is the reason to live; then you will never have a reason to quit.”

Jesus the Bread of Life that satisfies our spiritual hunger on our journey to eternal life is the good news from the Gospel this Sunday. But, let me first tell you a true story about Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa of Portugal who died in 1955. She is one of the great mystics of modern times. Alexandrina was paralyzed and bed-ridden after jumping through the window of her home to escape from someone who wanted to rape her. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004. The amazing part of her story is that for the last thirteen years of her life, she miraculously lived on the Holy Eucharist alone, a medically confirmed fact. I tell this story because the Readings this Sunday speak about the Lord who nourished the prophet Elijah with bread and water for his long journey of forty days and forty nights to the holy mountain.

One of the most prominent converts to the Catholic Church of the last century was Cardinal Henry Newman of England. He was a highly paid leader of the Anglican Church at the time of his conversion. His friends and colleagues at Oxford University tried desperately to dissuade him; they argued, “Think of what you are doing. If you become a Catholic you will lose your job and forfeit your annual income of four thousand pounds [about $120,000 in today's terms].” The then future Cardinal responded, “What are four thousand pounds when compared with one Holy Communion?”

Cardinal Newman had in mind Christ’s great promise” The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

People have many reasons to believe in God. There are just as many reasons to stop believing: 1) cultural indifference and scepticism, 2) a feeling of personal abandonment by God and others (i.e., the Church or family), or 3) hostility toward public display of religious activity. All three are common in our day; Elijah also experienced these situations.

Daily trust in God is a chief reason to believe. But, what can we do when the pressures of daily living overwhelm this trust? What can we do when we want to give up? In today’s First Reading, Elijah’s answer was prayer and openness to God’s will. With prayer and an open heart, we, too, will be strengthened by God for our faith journey.

How has prayer and openness to God’s will helped you through the tough times? How has God brought you back when the tough times caused you to give up on faith?

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians encouraged them to live the life of the Spirit and treat each other with respect and true affection. In other words, to treat each other as God had treated them. The challenge of in-fighting vs. love is as acute today as it was two thousand years ago in Ephesus. Those who love bind the community together and raise it to another level. While those that bicker…well, you’ve seen the result.

How have you shown love and respect to your fellow Christians, as well as neighbors? How have you built up the community? How has such love helped your prayer life and worship?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asking the crowds to believe in him.

Despite the mean jokes about insurance sales people (and my apologies to lawyers, politicians, and car sales people), they provide a valuable service. We pay them in life, so they will care for our loved ones if we should die unexpectedly. It’s a gamble, but one many of us are willing to take. If so many of us accept the illogic of life insurance, why do so few of us accept the offer Jesus makes: trust me and live forever. He makes us this offer in the Eucharist.

What a life insurance policy Jesus offers us! In the bread and wine of Eucharist, he gives us the means to life everlasting. It is not a hedge against the unexpected, but a sure promise that we will live despite what will happen.

The cost is so small, yet so few want to pay. It seems parting with our money is easier than parting with our trust. Yet, who else should we trust with our lives?

What spiritual experiences have you had in Communion? How has the Eucharist helped you live, renewed your faith, and given you hope?

Our Christian life is centered on a table where we are fed with the heavenly Bread. The Eucharist is the greatest gift of God to mankind. For us believers the Eucharist is the source of our joy, food to our souls, and an antidote for our all our spiritual ailments.

Some of us receive communion once a week and others every day. Let us know the effects of the Holy Eucharist, so that we may frequent this heavenly food.

1. Holy Communion physically unites us with Christ himself- we actually receive into our own bodies, Christ’s body and blood. There is a physical union between Christ and the person who receives him.

2. Holy Communion increases sanctifying grace within our souls and makes us more pleasing to almighty God. It gives us special actual graces.

3. Holy Communion is a pledge of our future resurrection from the dead. Christ said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”

4. Holy Communion has the effects of cleansing our soul from venial and the temporal punishment due to sin.

Just as we need holidays, so also do we need spiritual recreation. Our Eucharist is a source of re-creation, a source of new life in us. Here we can find new inspiration and vision through the Word of God. Here we can have our faith renewed and we are given the strength to live it out.

TRUST IN HIS TIMING

RELY ON HIS PROMISES

WAIT FOR HIS ANSWERS

BELIEVE IN HIS MIRACLES

REJOICE IN HIS GOODNESS

RELAX IN HIS PRESENCE

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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