Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Readings
THE BREAD OF LIFE
Chapter 6 in John’s Gospel is often referred to as the Bread of Life discourse, perhaps because this is where Jesus makes his strongest claims for being the bread that has come down from heaven, bringing eternal life for those who believe in him. This is one source of our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the first reading, the prophet Elijah has come to the brink of despair, but an angel comes with food and tells him to eat, “else the journey will be too long for you.” The Responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 34; from very early on, the Church has applied the line, “Taste and see how good the Lord is” to the Eucharist. The second reading describes an ideal Christian community characterized by mutual love and service, which is the greatest fruit of its eucharistic celebrations.
THE READINGS AT MASS DON’T ALWAYS SEEM TO FIT TOGETHER
On the greatest feasts and solemnities of the Church’s liturgical year, the three readings are chosen to all apply to the theme or the event being celebrated. During Ordinary Time, however, only the Jewish scriptures/Old Testament selections are chosen to go with the Gospel. The second reading makes its way independently through the New Testament letters and often appears to have a very different message. Today’s readings, however, present us with that happy coincidence of a Sunday in Ordinary Time when all three readings are very much closely connected-a connection that we might describe as God’s generosity in nurturing the people so that they can in turn “nourish” each other by their acts of service and charity.
BUT TODAY THEY DO
In John’s Gospel, Jesus insists over and over that he is the bread of life; when he sees that some of his listeners find this hard to believe, he insists on it even more strongly. Note that centuries before the Christians celebrate Jesus as the Bread of Life in the Eucharist, the psalmist sings, “Taste and see how good the Lord is!” John’s Gospel contains no blessing of the Bread and Cup that the Church uses to consecrate the bread and wine. What John does have is Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and commanding them to wash each other’s feet, which is to say, to serve each other without regard to station or rank. He also gives a long, prayerful discourse in which he gives the “new commandment” to love one another. Receiving Holy Communion is much more than a “me and Jesus” moment, although that is undoubtedly a precious encounter. Ultimately, our reception of the Bread of Life attains its fullness only in our mutual love and service in our communities and beyond. God fed Elisha to strengthen him on his journey. God fed the Israelites with manna on their journey in the wilderness. Today, we receive from God the Bread of Life for strength in whatever journey we are on.
1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2
© J. S. Paluch 2021. All Rights Reserved.