After enjoying natural food and pleasures that do not give everlasting happiness, people tend to hunger for spiritual food. They yearn for meaning in life, enduring happiness, satisfaction. Some expect to get that satisfaction from their spouses, or from their children, places of work, hobbies, or from the community. Unfortunately, none of those can give eternal happiness. This causes some people to despair about life.
In 1 Kgs 17-19, we read about prophet Elijah who punished the disobedient Jews with a drought and the slaughter 450 prophets of the idol Baal. Queen Jezebel threatened him with death. So, he ran into the desert. Exhausted and hungry physically and spiritually, Elijah wished himself death, praying: “It is too much, Lord, take away my life” (1Kgs 19:4).
God did not take his life, because Elijah had not yet completed his mission. An angel brought bread and water to Elijah and urged him to eat and drink, otherwise the trip would be too much for him. He ate and drank and regained enough energy and walked for forty days to Mount Sinai. (1Kgs 19:5-8). He continued with his mission until God took him to heaven.
The bread and water that the angel brought to Elijah prefigured Jesus, the Bread of Life, that came down from heaven to give us energy for reaching eternal happiness. Jesus declares in John 6:47-51: “I am telling you the truth: He who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. … If you eat this bread, you will live forever. The bread that I will give you is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.”
With that Jesus announces the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into his body and blood. During the Last Supper, he instituted the Holy Eucharist for that purpose.
“Then he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.’ In the same way, he gave them the cup after the supper, saying, ‘This cup is God’s new covenant sealed with my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Lk 22:19-20).
Actually, on Good Friday, at Calvary, Jesus gave up his body and blood to satisfy our spiritual hunger, so that we may have eternal happiness. Jesus, who multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish and satisfied about five thousand men, now multiplies himself at the altar to satisfy the spiritual hunger of millions of people. He, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the way, the truth and the life, found it necessary to give us his glorified body and blood as the best way to reconcile us with the Father in heaven.
Jesus whom we receive in Holy Communion assimilates us in his divinity and challenges us to be bread to others, by offering our time, talent and treasure to bring happiness to others. Holy Communion unites us more deeply with the Church, so that we are not alone. But brothers and sisters who share the same divine DNA.
The first reading and the gospel caution us never to despair, because, when we are stuck like Elijah in the desert, God provides us with what we need to fulfill the purpose for which he created us. He protected Joseph from his brothers and promoted him (Genesis 37-45). And through him He saved the Israelites from starvation. He liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus) and fed them in the desert. He saved Ruth from famine (read the book of Ruth in the Bible, David was protected from Saul (1Sam 18-31). Jesus healed a woman free of charge, after she had suffered hemorrhages and wasted money on physicians for twelve years. (Mark 5:25-34). He raised Lazarus who had been buried for four days! (Jn 11:38-44). He himself was raised from the dead! Remember also the miracle of loves and fish that sparked off this meditation. I am enumerating all this to assure you of God’s providence, so that you may NEVER DESPAIR.