Sunday, Aug. 12, is the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). Mass Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 34:2-9, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, John 6:41-51.
Israel’s wicked king and queen had slain the prophets of the Lord and threatened to kill the prophet Elijah, too. In despair, and aware of his own unworthiness, Elijah fled into the wilderness and begged God to take his life. Instead, God did the unexpected. He sent an angel who miraculously provided bread and water for the prophet, to give him strength for a long journey to the mountain of God.
When we are at the point of despair, God can reach into our lives also and draw us to him. Depending on where we’re starting from, that may involve a long journey. But God will provide for our needs, even in surprising ways. Then, like the Psalmist, we will be able to share the good news of what he has done for us: “This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble.”
God’s love for us precedes our love for him. He is the one who takes the initiative in drawing us to him. Jesus tells us, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” In his love, God offers the possibility of salvation to everyone. The Second Vatican Council taught: “Since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).
Our task is to respond to God’s call and to trust him to provide for our needs, no matter how long or difficult the journey may seem. Just as God provided for Elijah with miraculous food and drink, he does the same for us. Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist: “Growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1392).
No gift is greater than that of Jesus himself. “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.” But Jesus is “the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” The idea that Jesus would give us his own flesh and blood in the Eucharist is amazing — as is the fact he would willingly die on the cross for our salvation.
In response to such surprising acts of love, we have a duty to make them known to others: “My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.” We also have a duty to love others and make sacrifices to help them, for they are also on their own journeys and will one day meet God face-to-face.
We must allow God to use us as a means to help them, to provide for their needs, by following Jesus’ own example: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Jimmy Akin is the senior apologist at Catholic Answers,
a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine
and a weekly guest on Catholic Answers Live. He blogs at NCRegister.com.