Introduction: The first reading and Gospel today speak about nourishment. In the first reading it is Elijah who needs to be nourished. In the Gospel Jesus is trying to move the people beyond simply physical nourishment of bread to spiritual nourishment.
In our passage today Elijah the prophet has fled in fear from Queen Jezebel and her husband the king. They are seeking his life to destroy him. Elijah had won the contest with the 150 false prophets of Baal and slaughtered them. But Elijah seems to have gotten worn out in his work of calling the people to Conversion. We meet him in the wilderness. He wants to die and prays for death, “This is enough Lord.” He lays down to sleep and it would seem with the hope that he will not arise.
But God has other plans for him. He sends an angel who touches him and tells him to get up and eat the food that has been provided by the Angel. Elijah does but then goes back to sleep. Again the prophet is told to get up and eat the food the Angel has provided. This time he is ready for the long journey of 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb.
We can say that Elijah was depressed. Depression is an illness that can affect a wide range of people. Some of the symptoms are fear and tiredness. But depression takes on many different forms in different people. Some people when they are depressed can’t sleep at all. Some people only want to sleep. Some are anxious and paralyzed at the same time. There may be a free floating anxiety. The person doesn’t know why they are so anxious. Some people eat too much; other people can hardly eat at all. When you are depressed it is very difficult to face people and things. Often times we avoid things, put them off, deny that a certain situation exists. Depression is usually characterized by a lack of energy. We have to live with disappointment and loss and failure, and not give up on other people or on God. But some times this is a real struggle.
In our day, thanks be to God, there are very many different types of help available to depressed people through therapy and drugs.
But perhaps some of us are called to be messengers or angels of God in assisting persons experiencing depression. In some ways it is a very simple thing that the angel does, he touches Elijah and provide him with food and invites him to get up and eat. We might ask ourselves what simple gestures of other people have touched us in our life and perhaps in our dark moments.
In the Gospel, the people are murmuring against Jesus. This was the behavior of the Jewish people in the desert, they murmured against Moses and Aaron. Some of those who had just witnessed Jesus’ ability to supply them with food, turned away when he explained the source of his mysterious power. They had had enough. Their response: I doubt it.
But Jesus in the Gospels often times does what the Angel did in the first reading. He invites people to “get up and eat”. After he cured the daughter of Jairus he lifted her up and told them to give her something to eat. “Get up and eat.” After calling Zacheus, Jesus invited himself to eat with him. “Get up and eat.” Jesus was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners. “Get up and eat.” When Jesus saw people hungry he provided food. “Get up and eat.”
But to the people in today’s Gospel Jesus is trying to move them beyond their need for physical bread, to an understanding that he was Spiritual Food. He was to be nourishment for their souls and selves. The angel God sent to Elijah never told him that the way would be easy or the journey brief. In fact, the angel is pretty blunt in saying that the journey would be long! What the angel tells Elijah—and all of us, is that we don’t need to be hungry along the way. “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn. 6:35) Now get up, and eat!
Jesus is offering himself to us too as Food for the Journey. We must ask ourselves what part of my life needs the nourishment of Jesus? He is our bread of life our living bread. We are called to share by believing in Jesus and receiving Him. When we leave Mass we are invited to examine our relating to others and where we might be called to perform simple but important gestures. We might just be the angel God is sending to assist someone.