Don’t Murmur. But If You Do …
User's Guide to Sunday, Aug. 9
Sunday, Aug. 9, is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
1 Kings 19:4-8, Psalm 34:2-9, Ephesians 4:30-5:2, John 6:41-51
“Stop murmuring among yourselves,” says Jesus in the Gospel today.
“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you,” says the second reading.
Today’s readings show that God really and truly does not like useless negativity.
But paradoxically, they also show that God is a ready helper even to the murmurers and the doomsayers.
In the first reading, from 1 Kings, Elijah the prophet gets about as negative as you can get, praying for his own death. “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am not better than my fathers!”
God responds to his angry, desperate prayer by giving him food and encouragement on his journey.
In the Gospel, Jesus answers his murmurers, too. After telling them to stop complaining to each other, he answers precisely the questions they were murmuring about.
He even offers them the same thing Elijah got: food and encouragement for the journey. He says: “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.”
The difference between Elijah’s complaint and the crowd’s murmuring is that Elijah addressed his complaint to God, and the crowd murmured among themselves. That’s an important difference. But the fact that God answers both anyway is telling.
It shows that God is a truly loving Father. He is not one of those persons who says, “I would have helped you, but because you asked me that way, I won’t.”
It also shows the importance of the Eucharist. He knows that the Eucharist is not just an answer to the murmurers’ complaint — it is a remedy for their complaining spirit.
“The Eucharist is a pledge of future glory,” says the Compendium of the Catechism (294), “because it fills us with every grace and heavenly blessing. It fortifies us for our pilgrimage in this life and makes us long for eternal life. It unites us already to Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, to the Church in heaven and to the Blessed Virgin and all the saints.”
The Eucharist, with incense no less, is exactly the sacrifice recommended in the Letter to the Ephesians: “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us, as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”
So the moral is: Don’t murmur. If you have tough questions about God, ask God directly, or go to someone who knows how to answer them.
Better yet, go to the Eucharist and learn from the God who hands himself over to you that you are called to greatness in Christ.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,
where he lives with April, his wife and in-house theologian and consultant, and their children.