August 12, 2012 - Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:2-9
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51

Nothing is impossible if God wants us to do it. God will provide what we need so that we can do what he wants us to do. He wanted the Israelites to wander in the desert for 40 years, so he provided bread that fell from the sky. He wanted Elijah to walk to Mount Horeb so he provided cake in the desert. The Israelites complained that the manna lacked variety after 40 years, but it was enough. The angel of God made sure that Elijah ate and drank enough for his journey. God has provided what we needed to do what he wants us to do.

Sometimes I think that I do not have enough time, but enough time for what? God has given us all the time in the world, 60 minutes every hour. It is enough time to do what God wants you to do. Perhaps I cannot impress in that amount of time, perhaps I cannot succeed at some self-appointed task in that amount of time, but it is plenty of time. What does God tell us to do? Love him and love our neighbor. How much time do we need to do that? None at all. We do that in the moment. We work at a task, maybe we finish, maybe not, but if we work with all our strength in the moment that is all we are responsible for.

Jesus tells us in another place that we ought to look to the flowers of the field that live in the moment and are provided for by God. They do not have bank accounts. They are not racing against time. They grow and then they die. In every moment they have enough to do what God wants them to do. We always have enough to do what God wants us to do. We might not see tomorrow’s sufficiency today, and we might not have enough to do what we want to do, and we certainly do not have enough to do what the world tells us we ought to do, but we do have enough right now to do what God wants us to do.

St. Paul tries to spell that out in the letter to the Ephesians today. Get rid of bitterness. Get rid of fury. Get rid of anger. Get rid of shouting. Get rid of mocking. Get rid of all evil desires. If we do that, we will be amazed at how much energy and time were consumed by them. Be kind to each other. Be compassionate. Forgive one another. Be imitators of God. So we have to ask ourselves whether, right now, in this moment, we have everything we need to do all that, and the answer is yes. Life is not easy. In fact, God promised Adam when he ate the fruit that it was going to be hard from now on and end in death. That is our lot. Heaven is our future. Right now we have enough to love other people.

So when God gives us something above and beyond our daily bread, our daily enough, we ought to respond by asking a simple question: “What is this for?” Is it just a little present to be enjoyed in the moment, to make us happy. Is it a gift for someone else that we are responsible for, given to us so that we can give it to another? Is it part of someone else’s daily bread?

And so what about the gift that Jesus gives today in the Gospel, or rather promises to give and then does give later? “The bread that I will give”, he says “is my flesh for the life of the world.” So he tells us what he is going to give, and then he tells us the purpose. He is going to give his flesh. And he gave his flesh, his Body and Blood. All of us are gathered here today to receive this gift. We could stay home and read the Bible, and we could listen to somebody preach on TV, and we could gather together at a park, and there are coffee and donuts at any number of fine restaurants in this city. The reason we are gathered here right now is to receive a gift: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

And the purpose of this gift, according to Jesus, is the life of the world. What sort of life? Eternal life. When we eat this living Bread and drink this living Wine, the life is in us and we become alive. Normal bread and wine simply keeps us alive, staves off death another day, but this living Bread and living Wine imparts life to us that we previously lacked. It is the final piece of enough. Before we had enough to do what we could do, but, with this gift, we now have enough to do something more, to be imitators of God, to become like Christ.

An old proverb says: “when you sit down to eat a meal with a king, before you reach out your hand and take the food, observe carefully all the different dishes, the quality and the quantity, knowing that you will have to provide the same kind of meal.” We come to a meal provided by a king, our Lord Jesus Christ. Every day we approach the altar and partake of this meal. So, let us take a moment to consider the kind of meal before us, knowing that we will have to provide the same.

It seems to be just bread and wine, but in reality it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Our king provides himself for the meal. He gave his Body and Blood on the Cross. Before we receive it, we ought to know that receiving obliges us to provide the same. He has given us his Body and Blood, so we must give him our body and blood, our very selves. Some Christians do this in martyrdom. Their blood is spilled and their bodies are beaten and they give themselves to Christ. There are some martyrs dying right now. Every day 500 Christians are martyred. Every day 500 Christians fulfill in their own bodies the suffering of Jesus Christ. Who knows if we will be called to be martyrs someday! In the meantime, we give ourselves completely according to the witness of the martyrs. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and every day we return the gift by using our strength, our time, our possessions, and everything we have been given to love God and serve him, to love other people and serve them.