Sunday, Aug. 12, is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle II).
Aug. 15 is the feast of the Annunciation, a holy day of obligation.
Aug. 14 is the feast of St. Maxmilian Kolbe. To see a nice YouTube presentation of his dramatic martyrdom in the Auschwitz concentration camp, search for his name and choose the one created by “forBernadette.”
Aug. 15 is the feast of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is Mary’s “heavenly birthday,” the day her Immaculate Conception and the grace she was filled with for the sake of her Son met its fruition, and she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven.
The Assumption is a national holiday in many countries, including Austria, Cameroon, Congo, Haiti, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Rwanda, Spain and Switzerland.
Why not make it a big celebration in your own family, too?
1 Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 34:2-9, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, John 6:41-51
How can the body of Christ, the Church, truly be fed with divine life when it is so very painfully human? How can we say the Catholic Church is “holy” when we have seen so many examples that didn’t just fall short of holiness — but shocked us by their wickedness?
As Pope Benedict XVI put it, shortly before he became Pope:
“How often is the holy sacrament of his presence abused; how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride; how much self-complacency!”
The Gospel comes to the heart of the problem: “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?” say the Jews. “Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’”
That’s the problem we often have, too. We forget that Jesus is divine. We make him merely human, and then the story of the Church is our sin and not his life.
Elijah in our first reading is experiencing a dark moment much like many of us experience in the Church today. It seems to him that his people have abandoned God, and the evil Jezebel has obliterated his ability to serve them.
He is ready to lie down in the desert and die, saying enough is enough.
But then something miraculous happens. “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.”
He ate and drank, but still didn’t have the heart to fight. 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!’”
Elijah “got up, ate and drank; then, strengthened by that food, he walked 40 days and 40 nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”
When we worry about the state of the Church and murmur about God’s place in it all, we are in Elijah’s position and stand in need of exactly what Elijah needed — Bread from heaven and a voice of encouragement.
Today Jesus gives us that. “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me,” he says.
It’s the Father who is drawing us when we are called to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” in today’s Psalm. “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,” it continues. “When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard. And from all his distress he saved him.”
We, too, have miraculous bread offered to us.
Said Christ, “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.”
Elijah was strengthened for his journey to the mountain of God. So are we. The Eucharist that we eat — when we eat it in response to the Lord’s call, when we eat it in faith — gives us what we need to make our life’s difficult journey to the mountain of God.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.