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In TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 6: 41 – 51] the apostle continues to develop his Eucharistic understanding of Jesus teaching. In this extract he commences a more specific focus on the Eucharist as we understand it. The focus will become sharper over the next two Sundays.
However, it would be beneficial if we made a slight detour into OUR SECOND READING [EPHESIANS 4: 30 – 5:2]. There because Paul provides us with a most challenging picture of what our discipleship should epitomise before and after we come together in celebration of Eucharist. This sets out a sharp and clear reminder that Catholics do not merely attend Mass. We celebrate it. So, BEFOREHAND, “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you.” Anything less actually borders on blasphemy. Before we celebrate, we must BECOME Eucharist.
However, AFTERWARDS – “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ, forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God …. and offering and sacrifice to God.” In other words, after we celebrate, we must BE Eucharist to the world in which we live. BECOME AND THEN BE!
We have to jettison entirely the approach that our Eucharists are a personal, one-on-one encounter with Jesus. It is an action of the community. After the action the community must be both revitalised and energised for its mission to the world. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Does this mean anything else?
To this challenge we must add the principal teaching from TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 KINGS 19: 4 – 8]. “It is enough; now O Lord …. .” How many of us have not felt the same quiet exhaustion and frustration of what, at the outset, once filled us with enthusiastic commitment and energy? This is exactly what Elijah was feeling. At once we need to know that the prophet was on a journey to “Horeb, the mount of God”. There he wanted to be alone, out of it all, feel comfortable that he had made his contribution and now deserved a break from it all. But it was not the purpose of the journey his God had directed him to make and TO DO! Stop the world – I want to get off is not an option for the Christian disciple. It maybe, from time to time, very tempting – but we all need to be wary of self-doubt and disillusionment.
This is the meaning of the angel’s message. The Lord God had called Elijah for a purpose. The Lord’s plan was not to be thwarted by the prophet’s sense of outrage and self-pity. ( Let us recall the double observation contained in the opening paragraph of last week’s reflection.) We all stand in constant need for the food and drink which is always provided by our God for the fulfilment of the call he has made to each one.
We are now faced with a fundamental truth from our Gospel extract. “No one can come to me unless the Father … draws him.” We face Jesus Christ, come to him, through the call given to each one of us. Once we have “heard” the call from the Father, we “learn” from the call itself. Elijah had to do this. He had, once again, to decide who he really was, and this decision involved deciding that he would not become someone who threw in the towel. It is in persevering that we continue hearing and learning how to become and BE A DISCIPLE.
This is where, for each one of us, the Eucharist takes on a special purpose and power. It took two visits from the angel for the prophet to get the message. After the first encounter the prophet “LAY DOWN AGAIN.” It took a further nudge for him to realise that he simply could not carry on lying down. “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” Remember that we have to become in order to be. I am drawn to the fact that the second message spoke about THE journey, and not YOUR journey. As we have noted, the Eucharist is not for our individual benefit. It is food for THE journey.
“And he arose, and ate and drank, and walked in the strength of that food … to Horeb the mount of God.”