Dearly beloved in Christ, once again you are all welcome to today’s Eucharistic celebration. Today the church celebrates the mass of the 19th sunday in ordinary time year B according to the Church’s liturgical calendar. The theme of our reflection this morning is, “Jesus the bread for the Journey” Jesus made it categorically clear to us today that he is the bread of life, we need him to live a meaningful and purposeful life, and the bread he will give for the life of the world is his body and blood. One of the most common commodities in the world is bread. For the “westerners “ especially the European bread is part of their everyday meal. It is thus relished and consumed in all the continents of the world. we have so many types of bread from the most affordable Agege bread to the highly priced wheat, cake, fruit, coconut and white bread. It could actually be said that around the world, a day is incomplete without a piece of bread. Lack of which can lead to hunger of course, we know that one of the immediate causes of the French Revolution was that the peasants had no bread to eat. In the first reading of today (1 Kings 19:4-8), we are presented with the event following Elijah’s victory over the 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. Jezebel, the wicked wife of Ahab, tried to kill him and he fled. However, he got tired and weak while being on the run.
In his desperation and fatigue under a shade he declared: “it is too much, Lord. Take away my life; I might as well be dead!” However, while he was asleep God sent an angel to wake him up and invite him for a meal of bread (cake) and water. This was repeated twice and thereafter he got the strength that enabled him to undertake forty days and forty nights journey to encounter God at Mount Horeb. In the gospel reading today (John 6:41-51) our Lord Jesus Christ continued his conversation with the Jews who were searching for him majorly for the sake of bread. I believe that the bread he miraculously multiplied was so sweet and nourishing that the people seriously desired a repeat of that miracle. However, they were to receive the shock of their lives. Jesus was ready to give them bread, but this time the living bread which came down from heaven, which is at the same time his flesh. The Jews were not ready to accept this kind of “cannibalism” and thus reminded him of his history which they were very familiar with and accidentally very ordinary to them. Jesus went on to reveal to them the connection which he shares with God the father and his readiness to give eternal life to all who come to him. He further established that he is the living bread that has come down from heaven.
The living bread that is far more satiating and life-giving than the manna their ancestors ate in the desert and died thereafter. The living bread is his flesh and through it the world is given life. In connection with Elijah in the First Reading, we see ourselves as pilgrims in life on our way to God. In our lives, we often experience trials like Elijah. Sometimes we are even down and hopeless. Often we wish we were dead than living with challenges. Sometime we are being pursued by some “Jezebels” in various forms and shapes. We face a lot of “Jezebels” in our families, places of work, in our studies, in our relationships, in our businesses and sundry. Jezebel here stands for challenges of life, she stands for obstacles and lacks in our lives. There are times we have “Jezebel” experiences that we believe that we cannot manage. In such situations, we should be confident on these: “God cares about us and He is ready to support us!” so no Jezebel experience can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 37-39).
God displayed His love for Elijah by providing bread for him which actually gave him the strength to walk the forty-day journey to encounter Him at Mount Horeb. From the experience of Elijah in connection with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ today, we see ourselves as privileged; perhaps more privileged than Elijah. Elijah ate bread and water and was able to reach Mount Horeb from the strength he got from the meal. In our own context, we are given the living bread, which is more powerful, more generative of eternal life than the bread Elijah took. We are also given the blood of Jesus Christ to drink which is thicker and more effectual than the water Elijah drank. Furthermore, Elijah was led by the strength from the bread and water to Mount Horeb, but the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is meant to lead us not to any physical location on earth, but to eternal life with God in heaven. In this sense Jesus Christ is really our “VIATICUM” (food for the journey). Our Lord made it clear to us that we can only have life from the living bread. Yes! Though we may have reasons to eat different kinds of bread available around us, there is this bread that is fundamentally very important for our well-being.
Beyond taste, texture, hygiene, size, packaging is the living bread which came down from heaven. This is the body (and blood) of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with his soul and divinity that contains all that we need in life, all the blessings that we cannot even imagine. As you approach the living bread today at the table of the Holy Eucharist, you only need to believe and you will be given all you need to walk through life and overcome all the raging “Jezebels”. As you approach the bread that came down from haven you need to anchor your hope on his power to translate your fatigue into favour, your shame into fame, your sorrows into joy, your challenges into chances, your disappointment into blessings and your bitterness into sweetness. As Elijah surrendered himself to God when His human power failed him, you need to surrender yourself to the living bread today. He says in Matthew (11:28) come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Yes! The journey may not be an easy one. But when Jesus Christ is with us it becomes a joyful journey. Hence, my dearly beloved friends in Christ, I encourage you to always invite Jesus to journey