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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Columns
8/8/2012 8:38:00 AM
Jesus Gives Eternal Life

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Aug. 12, 2012
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:4-8
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51

Some name it “free-floating anxiety.” In its more persistent and severe forms, it’s a mental disease and can even cause physical symptoms. For most of us, it is simply that brief and temporary time when we feel uneasy and fearful and we don’t know why. We deal with it in a variety of ways. Sometimes we become testy, cranky and out of sorts. Perhaps that is why my mother simply named those occasions our “bad moods.” When we were children she cured them with a nap and a cookie. As we got older, she used comfort food. She knew that the meal that we shared would be an act of intimacy, a sign of hope and nourishment for our relationship as much as it was food for our bodies. I can never recall a time when such a meal—begun in discouragement—did not end in a joy and a renewed commitment to one another. More important at the time, the free-floating anxiety floated away.

In the First Reading, we hear about Elijah who is unhappy and seems not to know the reason for his own dejection. He was treading dangerously close to despair and the Scripture says he prayed for death. Poor Elijah thought that he had turned his people back to God and now feels that his triumph has turned to failure. In Elijah’s preoccupation with the Lord’s work and the journey, Elijah forgot the need to eat. The enthusiasm that prompted his forgetfulness caused him to lose his vigor. Elijah fell asleep and was awakened by an angel who fed him. The Lord solved Elijah’s problem with a meal and a nap. A bit of rest and a meal and Elijah was ready to take the journey that led to the mountain.  

St. Paul reminds us to remove bitterness from our lives by being kind and compassionate to one another. We need to encourage one another and give each other the strength to deal with the difficulties inherent in the journey of a pilgrim church.

The Gospel situation is more serious. Those who complained knew why they were dissatisfied. The Lord had given them bread to feed their bodies and still they murmured. Their anxiety was soul deep and their hunger entrenched within. It would not be enough for Jesus to multiply loaves and fishes. These were a people looking for an assurance of life. And Jesus made a promise. He promised life forever.

As we gather at this Eucharistic celebration, we remember in a special way those who live in chronic desperation. We pray for those who are temporarily without hope. We remember that ours is a community where hope is shared and commit ourselves to reaching out to those who are in need to give them a reason for the hope that is in us.

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