19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prophet Elijah, in today’s first reading, is being pursued by Queen Jezebel’s army of trained killers. He has been running away from them in the desert. That is where today’s first reading picks up: Elijah is in the desert… alone… terrified… exhausted… and has no way out.
We are invited to see ourselves in the person of Elijah. We are called to look into our own experiences of fatigue, weariness, and exhaustion, especially the spiritual kind. We experience life just like being pursued by enemies. We are running scared in the wilderness. We find ourselves alone and lonely. We are afraid of many things – from within and from without – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
You may have heard the expression “hitting the wall.” It is when you experience a sudden loss of energy – running, exercising, or playing sports. This is what Elijah is experiencing in the story. He is put in a situation so terrible that he prays for death: “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life.”
It is so intense, isn’t it? But then comes the turning point… An angel appears to Elijah and tells him to eat and drink. And it is only when he eats and drinks of what the angel gives him that Elijah is able to continue his journey to Mount Horeb. In other words, in his total exhaustion, Elijah is fed and quenched by an angel. And that enables him to walk to the mountain of God for forty days and forty nights.
We too are called to journey to Mount Horeb – meaning, we are called to seek communion with God. And we need to “eat and drink” as we make this journey. We will surely “hit the wall” unless we eat and drink. What? Food and drink from heaven.
As we journey, we experience spiritual exhaustion. Such experience of “spiritual exhaustion” happens in a lot of ways: being too absorbed with ourselves and with our own wants and needs; being consumed by worldliness and eaten up by materialism; being stuck in a pattern of envy and jealousy, of pride and egotism, of anger and bitterness, of resentment and unforgiveness. This is how we “hit the wall” and get “spiritually exhausted.”
Sad to say, there are people who do not even realize that they are already “hitting the wall” spiritually. Maybe they are able to “go on” with their relationships, marriage, family life, career, business, plans, projects; but they are “not going on” spiritually.
Indeed, there are a lot of people who are spiritually exhausted, but they do not recognize – or they do not want to admit. But deep down they are asking: “Why am I so lost? Why am I so unhappy?” “Why is it that even though my life seems okay – my career is successful, my business is doing well, I have a lot of achievements and accomplishments, but it seems that my life is not really going anywhere?” That is spiritual exhaustion. That is the problem. What is the solution? As the reading suggests, it is a matter of eating and drinking the food and drink God offers us. This point becomes much clearer in today’s gospel.
Once again, Jesus, in today’s gospel passage, presents himself as the Bread of Life. The Lord invites us to partake of this Bread so that we will live forever. Jesus’ invitation to eat this Bread of Life is continually offered at the celebration of the Eucharist. We draw spiritual nourishment and strength from the Eucharist. It is the only remedy to spiritual exhaustion.
The Eucharist is the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. The Bread that nourishes our body and spirit. The Bread that strengthens us to obey God’s will. The Bread that sustains us to follow Jesus. The Bread that empowers us to share in his mission. The Bread that enables us to live the fullness of life.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord, having been running away scared from the forces that want to do me harm, I come to you very much aware of and resigned to my spiritual hunger and exhaustion, like Elijah. Help me to believe, not just in my mind, but with my decisions and actions that You are the Bread of Life, the necessary source of my sustenance. Help me to believe and live in the Eucharist which is capable of nourishing and strengthening me for all of the trials and tribulations that life can offer. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the Eucharist. Amen.