The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Sunday XIX-B in Ordinary Time, 08 August 2021 1 Kings 19:4-8 ><]]]]'> Ephesians 4:30-5:2 ><]]]]'> John 6:41-51
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death, saying: "This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers." (2 Kings 19:4)
Many of us can probably identify with the Prophet Elijah in the first reading today: so tired and fed up with all the sufferings and trials that seem unending with another round of lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“This is enough, O Lord!”
Elijah was not the only one to cry out to God in that way: there were Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonas who cried in a similar way while bent under the heavy load of responsibilities on their shoulders from God who never failed in coming to their rescue with his comforting and reassuring words of encouragement.
And this time as we have heard from the first reading, God sent Elijah with bread from heaven to sustain his 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb to escape the soldiers of Queen Jezebel out to kill him after a showdown with the priests of baal at Mount Carmel. God nourishes us not only spiritually and emotionally but also physically and materially if we know him, believe him, and love him in Jesus Christ his Son!
This is the context of the continuation of Jesus Christ’s second bread of life discourse at Capernaum, very timely in these two weeks of our fourth Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) as we rely on God’s mercy and protection against COVID-19 and its new Delta variant.
When the people finally caught up with Jesus and his disciples last Sunday at Capernaum, the Lord immediately began his bread of life discourse by declaring “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).
That is the first time in the fourth gospel where Jesus introduced himself with the “I AM” declaration very crucial for John in presenting him as the Christ, the Son of God. This would be followed later by similar statements when Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the vine”, and “I am the resurrection”.
Recall how God told Moses to say to his people in Egypt that he was sent by “I am who am”; hence, when Jesus says “I AM”, it was a cue of who he is – the One who had come down from heaven!
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?'” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.”John 6:41-43
Reminiscent of the desert experience when the people murmured against God for lack of food and water, John also begins referring to the crowd as “Jews” to indicate their lack of belief in Jesus, like their forefathers who doubted God in the wilderness. Here we find something so common even to our own time of “knowing” God we so easily claim with everybody even if what we know does not square up with the reality.
Knowing is not purely cerebral. In the Jewish culture, to know is to enter into a relationship. Unlike us Filipinos who are so fond of name dropping when we usually tell everyone how we know somebody’s name and address like on Facebook – even if we are not friends or related at all!
To know anyone especially God by entering into a relationship requires an opening of the mind. That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, telling them and us today to stop limiting ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is because so often, we hardly know him at all!
To know anyone especially God by entering into a relationship requires an opening of one’s mind. That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, telling them and us today to stop limiting ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is because we hardly know him at all!
We keep on receiving him in Holy Communion not as the Person but more as the Bread or Sacred Host; we go to Mass but hardly celebrate it with him; and lastly, we know Jesus more as provider and giver, rarely as companion and friend, most of all as Savior.
The Jews have refused to believe in Jesus at the very start because they have always been closed from knowing him, insisting they know better, that he is the “son of Joseph”. We have seen how last Sunday in their asking of “Rabbi, when did you get here?” in Capernaum was cloaked in suspicion at how was he able to cross the lake at night when winds were strong and waves were huge, unmindful of the signs he had shown in feeding them all at a deserted place.
Their knowing of Jesus as well as of God and the Scriptures have remained superficial, stuck in the material level manifested in their being too legalistic and ritualistic in religion without any regard for the people especially the sick and marginalized. Most of all, they did not seem to really believe in God as they saw more of themselves as God himself who knows everything!
Believing, loving Jesus.
All these words and actions by Jesus during his public ministry at Galilee and Jerusalem later would be used by his enemies against him, wrongly accusing him of blasphemy and disregard for the Laws or Torah. Their minds were all closed to God’s coming in Jesus or at least to his heavenly origin.
Jesus tried to clarify it with them by referring to God his Father, citing the prophet Isaiah:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written by the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listen to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 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.”John 6:44-45, 47-48, 50-51
Now here we find Jesus taking off to higher level in his discourse, from knowing to believing that is perfected in loving. As we have said, knowing is relating. It is through our relationship with God that we are taught through Jesus Christ in knowing all about him. Yes, God in the Old Testament revealed himself to the Chosen People through the prophets and his Laws. But now, Jesus is telling the people that God is revealing himself through him, the Son who had come from heaven with the gift of faith.
As a gift, it is not like an ordinary present given to just one or several persons privileged to receive it like the Israelites in the Old Testament; faith as a gift from the Father is freely given to everyone for all time. Jesus is now inviting his audience in Capernaum including us today to open one’s mind, to level up in thinking and understanding because it is above the realm of material world but of spirituality that leads to relating, believing, and loving to be expressed later in the Eucharist, the sign of his self-sacrifice on the Cross.
Recall how last Sunday Jesus stressed that it is a work of God, not of men – that is faith! It is a gift from God freely given to everyone which every individual must “turn on” like a switch and make it operate. In that discourse also, Jesus added that the ultimate fulfillment of this faith in God as work of God is faith in himself, the Son sent by the Father.
In this scene alone, Jesus had mentioned the word “bread” five times, repeating it to the crowd like in a crescendo, rising from a sapiential or cerebral and material meaning into something so profound, higher level inviting us to put on our faith in him as he continues to reveal the Father’s plan for all mankind for all time leading to eternity.
And what is it that remains into eternity? LOVE!
"Love is fully sufficient to itself; when it enters the heart, it absorbs all other feelings. The soul who loves, loves and knows nothing more." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
Jesus is now hinting at his discourse the Eucharist as the meaning of the sign he did at the deserted place when he fed and satisfied the more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two fish. Notice the words “eats” and “flesh” – indications of the elevation of knowing into believing, blossoming in love.
To eat his flesh is to accept Jesus, to be one in him and with him through one another. Knowing Jesus, relating with him means believing him, loving him through one another.
Faith is closely linked with love, they always go hand in hand because whoever believes truly always loves!
St. Paul sums up everything that Jesus had taught this Sunday with his call to us to “live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma” (Eph.5:1-2).
It is very difficult to dissect knowing, believing and loving, of finding the very cause of faith and love except in Jesus Christ who had come to us and continues to come in every Eucharistic celebration. There are times we can be aware of the reasons why we believe and love God and our beloved, even explain what we find so lovable in them but still difficult to locate with precision the starting point of everything. That is why at the end of this discourse two weeks from now, we find everybody leaving Jesus except the Twelve who chose to remain with him.
In this life, we may know so many things but we cannot know everything like God.
Let us stop murmuring, stop all talks and sink into silent prayer, opening our minds and our hearts to Jesus to receive him not only in words but in himself as Body and Blood in the Holy Mass so we can start loving him in one another to make life more bearable in these trying times. Amen.
Have a blessed and safe week ahead!