How many times has the weight of the world brought us to a place of darkness, the place of Elijah, where we say, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life!” Each one of us has endured different difficulties, different sufferings. Immigration, separation, finances, sickness, all of these things weigh on us, and sometimes it is difficult to see the ray of light burning through the darkness. What path should we walk, is there any hope, my life is a mess, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life!” But through grace we find prayer, and through prayer we find strength, and this strength has a shape, it is the Eucharist. Jesus Christ has given “his flesh for the life of the world”, for our journey through the desert to the Father.
Let us look more closely at this first reading about Elijah. His life was messy, not by his own doing for he was a great prophet and was living a holy life, but because Ahab, the King of Israel at that time, and Jezebel his wife, were not serving God, but were persecuting God’s prophets and seeking to kill Elijah. This is where we find Elijah in the first reading, tired from being on the run, tired and wanting his life to be cleaned of this mess that Ahab and Jezebel were creating. From this, we are told, that Elijah escaped and, “lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree” – a broom tree. Isn’t it interesting that in the scripture it was a tree that looked like something we use to clean that Elijah fled to and fell asleep under. Elijah was tired of the messiness of his life, and offered to God his life in hopes that God would clean it up. In response, God awoke him and fed him bread and water which wasn’t there before.
Can you guess what is the meaning of the bread and water? The bread is a symbol of the Eucharist and the Water is a symbol of baptism. And of course through the Eucharist we receive the Son of God and through baptism, the Holy Spirit. Afterward, Elijah was able to get up and follow where God led him, to the mountain of God. The bread of life, and the water of life, the Son and the Spirit, through this Old Testament story of Elijah we learn how God will strengthen us for the journey through the desert to heaven. He journeyed forty days through the desert, and thus we will still encounter difficulty along the way, but with the Son of God and the Holy Spirit, with Baptism and the Eucharist, we will leave some of the messiness behind and be strong enough for the journey all the way to heaven.
Now Elijah was not the cause of the messiness and difficulty of his life, Ahab and Jezebel were. They were the King and Queen of Israel, but they were worshipping another God, and not the one true God who created heaven and earth. Sometimes the messiness of our life is because of others, because of Adam and Eve, and the fall of the world, or because of our governments or businesses, or even because of our family members and friends who choose not to worship God but to worship some other thing. But we cannot always place the blame on others. All of us have been the cause of messiness in our own lives as well. Our flesh is weak, we fall, and we grow separated from God by sin. This is why God cleans us through baptism, and this is why God offers us the flesh of his own Son. Only his flesh is without sin, and when our flesh is united to his, we become strong like him, strong enough for the journey through the desert.
For the last three weeks we have been reading from the Gospel of John chapter 6. This chapter is about the Eucharist, about Jesus being the food from heaven for the journey back to the Father. Earlier we were reading from Mark, and the last words from Mark were about how Jesus was moved with pity for us because we were like sheep without a shepherd. We were told that in response to our situation of being like sheep without a shepherd, Jesus began to teach us many things. But the Church knows that words are not enough. This is why we detour into John and learn about the Eucharist. Words tell us who God is, who we are, and what God’s will is for us. But even if sheep know where to go, they still need the strength to go there. Do we have food for the journey? This is why we are reading about the Eucharist. The Word of God cannot be followed unless we are given the strength to follow it, and we need a divine strength within our flesh, we need the flesh of Christ.
The Word of God and the Body of our Lord, these are two things given to us by God so that we will become one flock with one shepherd heading in one direction, and with the strength to journey through the desert to the Father. Because of the sin in the world, our lives will always be messy. Like Elijah, Ahab and Jezebel will always be after us. This is why the Church urges us to come and rest under the “broom tree” every week. This is why the Church offers to us the the Holy Spirit firstly in the waters of Baptism and then through the Sacrament of Confirmation. And this is why the Church feeds us the Body of Christ at every Mass. When we feel like exclaiming, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life!” let us remember what is the source of our hope and our strength, rather, who it is, Jesus Christ. Through the Word of God and the Eucharist we are continually led and strengthened. As long as we keep going, we will reach our heavenly Father in heaven where he awaits us.