Have you ever felt so sick and tired of everything that you found yourself saying, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m sick of everything. I wish I was dead’? I think most people can relate to this every now and again. I know I can. I find it very consoling that the prophet Elijah also said this. This is what he says in the first reading, ‘Lord I’ve had enough, I wish I was dead.’ This is the prophet Elijah talking, one of the most extraordinary prophets in the bible. He raised people from the dead, cured people, multiplied food miraculously, made the waters of the Jordan separate, and here he is just like any one of us saying, ‘Lord I’ve had enough. I wish I was dead.’ And then he goes to sleep as people often do when they are feeling down. It’s a kind of escape. But it is interesting what happens next. The Lord doesn’t say, ‘oh poor Elijah, I’ll make everything better for you.’ Instead he says, ‘get up and eat or you won’t have enough strength for the journey.’ Take nourishment, you need nourishment.
In the Gospel Jesus is talking about food again. He is saying that there is a food that we need. I am that food. I am the bread of life. The food that I give is my flesh. When he said this most of the people left him. They thought he was crazy. They said, ‘who can listen to this? He is nuts!’ But he didn’t change what he said, or take anything back. He let them walk away, not understanding.
What he had said was, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you can not have life within you.’ He was talking about the Eucharist, Holy Communion. He was saying, ‘You need me.’ If you don’t have me you are empty, you are dead, you have nothing.’ My body and blood are the food that you need for the journey. We need to feed ourselves properly, both physically, but also spiritually, or we will die spiritually. And sadly many people do die spiritually, you can almost see it in their eyes. There is a darkness, an emptiness. I notice it especially in cities, where people are more inclined to lead crazy lives running after money as if it will bring them happiness, but they have nothing else, they are empty.
There is a terrible spiritual poverty in many people at the moment, especially in the so called ‘developed’ world. People are spiritually empty, and they don’t know what’s wrong. They are searching to find some kind of meaning, some kind of depth to their lives but they don’t know where to look. Jesus is telling us where to look. He is saying that he is the only one who will satisfy this emptiness in us. We who already believe in Jesus are very fortunate or blessed. You mightn’t think of yourself as blessed because you believe, but if you have any little bit of faith you are very fortunate. And you do have faith, or you wouldn’t be here reading this.
Jesus has given us an immense treasure by giving us the Eucharist, because this is the gift of himself and we can receive him every day if we wish. Through this extraordinary gift he nourishes us, gives us purpose, gives us direction. It is the spiritual strength we need and the more open we are to him the more he can guide us and lead us deeper in faith. The journey of faith is the greatest adventure if you are open to it. The Eucharist is God’s gift to us.
‘The angel said to Elijah, “get up and eat or the journey will be too long for you.”’