After purifying the religion of his people and restoring the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel, the famine ceased, rain came after the drought of three and half years. Jezebel the wife of Ahab sought the life of Elijah. At this, he fled for his life. He went a day’s journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. There, he prayed for death and lay down to sleep. The angel of the Lord touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. He got up and ate a hearth of cake and drank a jug of water, after which he lay down again. The angel of the Lord came again a second time, and ordered him to get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for him. He got up ate and drank, and was strengthened by it to walk forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God ( 1 Kings 19:4-8).
This was a kind of exodus experience for this prophet of God, in which he ate the bread of God’s angel as their forebears ate manna in the desert for forty years. Strengthened by this he was able to reach his destination, the Mountain of God. This too, is the experience of us all, as we journey through this earthly pilgrimage in the midst of the tribulations, trials and challenges of this life, as we journey to the heavenly kingdom. God cares for us as he sent his angel to care for Elijah and to provide him with the heavenly food that strengthened him all through his journey to Horeb.
In our gospel reading today Jesus offers us himself in the Eucharist, as the food for our journey. For that reason, his contemporaries began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying whether they do not know him as Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother they know. If so, how could he now say that he has come down from heaven.
And so Jesus asked them to stop complaining because everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to him. No one has seen the Father, except the one who is from him, who has seen him. At this, Jesus tells them the unalloyed truth that whoever believes has eternal life. And so, he goes on to declare, saying: “I am the bread of life.” Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:41-51).”
When we look at the Old Testament prefiguration of the eating of manna, sent by God himself to be their food for the journey to the Promised land, and God sending his angel to feed Elijah to reach his Mountain of Horeb, we see that Jesus who offers himself to us as our Eucharistic food, is now the food for our journey, our Viaticum. He strengthens us in our weariness, empowers us against Satan, sin and death. He gives us courage to continue to go ahead in our earthly pilgrimage to reach the heavenly kingdom, which is our ultimate goal and final destination.
Jesus wants us to have strong faith in what he is and in what he wants to do for us. For that reason, we should not be murmuring in protest asking how he is the food for our journey of life. We should not be explaining him away based on familiarity. We should be receiving him in faith. We should not do anything to sadden the Holy Spirit with whom we have been sealed against the day of redemption. Conformed into the image of Christ whom we have received in the Eucharist, let us be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven us in Christ. As St. Paul tells us, let us be imitators of God as his dear children, following the way of love, even as Christ loved us (Ephesians 4:30-5:2).
May God empower us now and forever.