The prophet Elijah is one of the great heroes of the Old Testament. He was one of the few prophets in his day to remain faithful to the Lord amidst a period of great persecution and pagan corruption. While many of his brother prophets fell to the worship of Baal, he remained faithful to the Lord God of hosts. His fidelity was rewarded with experiences of God that far surpassed the ordinary. In today’s reading, Elijah is on the long journey to Mount Horeb, and the road is long and hard. God provides miraculous shade and food for Elijah under the broom tree knowing that without this assistance, Elijah would not make it to the mountain of God.
So too do we need God’s assistance on our journey to heaven. This journey has been long and difficult for every person, but we are not without hope. The Lord God in his mercy has come to us personally in Jesus, the bread of life, to provide to all humanity the complete help it needs to return to him forever. Christ is the food, rest and direction each of us yearns for in the long journey of life.
How does God provide this food? Each week we receive supernatural assistance through holy Communion to stay in union with God. We receive the grace to let go of sin and to embrace the call of love, sacrifice and fidelity to the ways of God. Our vocational path to heaven is a great one and God’s weekly and even daily providing of this eucharistic help is an act of merciful love.
The sacrament of confession is another means of feeding on Jesus, the bread of life. The journey of life can be very long and heavy as we accumulate many sorrows, guilts and fears through our sinfulness. God wishes us to feed on the mercy he has provided in Jesus, in the sacrament of reconciliation to absolutely forgive sins. What rest he brings to those who turn over to him the sadness of which St. Paul speaks, “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice” and in turn they receive from him the ability to again “be kind to one another, compassionate, and forgiving just as God has forgiven us in Christ.”
Beyond the external sacraments there is also our internal ability to feed on the bread of life, Jesus, through regular and even unceasing prayer. This is graciously made possible through his presence in the Spirit planted within us at baptism and sealed at confirmation. Within us then is access to Jesus, who is the food and rest we seek in the challenge of becoming saints along our path to heaven. Wonderfully, by our growth in holiness, we too can become an experience of Christ, the bread of life, able to be offered by God to others as food and rest.
Questions for Reflection
1. Who in my life needs me to be more faithful to Christ?
2. Am I making use of all the assistance God has offered for my salvation?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay.