Monday, August 3, 2015

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 9, 2015

First Reading Commentary
Elijah is feeling overwhelmed and frustrated in his service to God; and on top of everything else his own life was being threatened.  Frustration is a stranger to no one.  Having a daily prayer life or performing charitable works tends to result in a search for the fruits of those prayers and labors with the hope of seeing some improvement not only in the individual but also the world over. 

With all the immorality that exists in today's world, plus the times that we ourselves surrender to temptation and commit sin, eventually the weight of experiencing all of this can become very discouraging and lead to a kind of luke-warmness in the spiritual life.  One could easily fall into a trap and start to develop a mindset which is deceptive and leads to an acceptance that prayers and works are useless. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) to show the necessity for praying always and to not become weary. 

In John 15:5 Jesus also offers this echoing reminder, "Without Me you can do nothing." 

In the book, "The Prayer of Love and Silence," the author, an anonymous monk, comments on this verse and writes: "Knowing that of ourselves we can do nothing but that in Christ we can do all things, we should no more be discouraged by our faults than proud of the virtuous acts His grace has made possible.  And not only that, once we are convinced that we are nothing and God is all, our very weaknesses and failings need no longer be obstacles." 

The angel gave Elijah “a hearth cake and a jug of water” to give him strength to continue on his long journey “to the mountain of God, Horeb.”  Our journey is the life we now live; and this journey leads to “the mountain of God” - heaven and eternal life.  This journey has many set-backs which can be discouraging.  But our Lord is not sending us an angel to offer us “a hearth cake and a jug of water”; instead He is offering us His own precious Body and Blood to give us the strength we need to continue.  And this Eucharistic Food which gives us strength and encouragement is available to us daily.

Second Reading Commentary
Following Christ's example of love certainly is not to be found in “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling” as these are not acts of love but acts that “grieve the Holy Spirit.” 

If you were able to place yourself into a scene of Christ's suffering what would you see?  In the scourging at the pillar, for example, certainly you would see our Lord's Back being brutally beaten by Roman soldiers.  But is the reason for this brutality revealed in this scene?  Yes, but it is not found on our Lord's back. 

If you could walk around and look at His Face you would see a Face that loves until it hurts and Eyes that express an incomprehensible love even for all those responsible - which is all of humanity. 

Consider the Blessed Virgin Mary, who at the foot of the Cross can only stand there with a sword piercing her soul as her Son's Blood drips off His Body while He delivers to her what logically should be the devastating words that she is to be the Mother of all those responsible for her Son's Sacrifice.  Could she have been any more of an imitator of Him than at this moment?  Kindness, compassion and forgiveness are enemies of the darkness witnessed by our Blessed Mother on that day - and being an enemy of darkness she would forever remain.

Gospel Commentary
In the book of Exodus (16:2) are the words, "All the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron."  In this Gospel, “the Jews murmured about Jesus.”  This is a great aid in seeing a similarity between Jesus and Moses; but when comparing the manna ate in the desert to the “Bread of Life,” there is also clearly seen a major difference.  Moses was a servant of God; Jesus, in His Human Nature, was also a Servant.  Moses received the manna from God to satisfy the temporal needs of the Israelites; Jesus, Who is God, gives us the True Bread and “whoever eats this Bread will live forever”; and this Bread is the Flesh of Jesus which He gives “for the life of the world.” 

In this Gospel, Saint John makes it very clear that those who “ate the manna in the desert died”; but the Flesh of Jesus “comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” 

The murmurings about Jesus which occur in this Gospel continue in our own time with movies, books and documentaries which attempt to discredit Who He is.  Our Lord's command for them to “Stop” may take on a more consequential meaning today. 

“No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draw him.”  This is a great mystery of His grace.  We are drawn to Him by a mysterious desire and love for Him which can only come from His grace and the gift of being able to see with eyes of faith. 

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”  Certainly this verse reveals that belief or faith is a major ingredient that is needed to approach the Blessed Sacrament.  Let us always thank our Lord for His gifts.  With His remarkable gifts we are inspired to love, serve and worship our God even though our physical eyes have never seen Him.  With the gift of faith we are able to approach the altar and receive what our physical eyes see as ordinary bread and wine; but our eyes of faith tell us that this is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.