LITURGY AND LIFE
By Tom Saretsky
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:4-8
My wife’s parents have two classic pictures hanging in their kitchen.
One depicts an elderly man, elbows resting on a table with his hands
folded in prayer. On the table is a Bible and near to the Bible is a
loaf of bread. The other picture is somewhat the same — an elderly
woman posing in the same prayer posture with the Bible and a loaf of
bread beside her. Inherent in the picture is the theme that, before eating,
one pauses to give thanks and pray. Both pictures echo the line from
the eucharistic prayer: “He took bread, and giving thanks, broke
it . . .”
Those pictures make sense hanging in their kitchen. They
are people with a deep faith conviction, and prayer is central to their
even more is that the symbol of bread in these pictures reflects a great
gift my mother-in-law possesses: she bakes delicious bread. When we have
visited on weekends, many times the smell of baking bread has greeted
us with a warm and inviting welcome.
Is there anyone who can resist the smell and taste of freshly
baked bread? I think it is one of the most pleasurable smells in the
world. But the taste . . . oh the taste . . . fresh out of the oven,
golden brown crispy crust, steam rising as you cut a slice, butter melting
being spread, and when you taste it, you begin slicing another piece
even before the first slice is eaten. This is a taste of heaven.
Scripture abounds with references about bread. Bread was a vital food
staple in the lives of those with whom Jesus lived. Many times when Jesus
cured a sick person, his first order was that the person be given something
to eat. One could assume that the person might have been given a piece
One of Jesus’ temptations in the desert was an order to turn stones
into bread. Jesus fed 5,000 people with only five loaves and two fish.
The disciples, on the road to Emmaus, recognized Jesus in the breaking
of the bread, and in today’s Gospel Jesus states, “I am the
bread of life that has come down from heaven.”
In the first reading Elijah is at the end of his journey.
As a prophet, he’s tired of doing God’s work. He’s tired of the insults,
persecutions and even the threats to his life. Elijah feels he has no
more to give, and he asks the Lord that he might die: “It is enough;
now, O Lord, take away my life. For I am no better than my ancestors.”
An angel comes to Elijah, twice in dreams, and tells him
and drink” in order to gain strength for the journey ahead. Elijah
was provided a little spiritual and physical sustenance in order that
he might continue doing God’s work.
Do you ever feel like Elijah? Do you get frustrated because
you might have a differing perspective on faith than what others believe?
Is your voice listened to, even though your voice might be contradictory?
Do you feel like giving up when you’re persecuted for believing in
something or supporting a position not always in line with what everyone
else thinks or believes? Despite your best efforts to do God’s
work, you can still be made to feel worthless.
Think about the prophets in our own church today. The prophetic voices of progressive theologians, open-minded pastors, forward-thinking teachers and enlightened and liberal women religious are sometimes persecuted and condemned for even daring to challenge established church teaching or practice. They are the contemporary examples that demonstrate how food must be tasted and chewed before it is swallowed. Through their example, if something is found distasteful, then we must develop the courage to speak out and use our minds.
However, these individuals, and
many like them, are ruthlessly condemned because they have the nerve
to speak up and speak out when necessary. They are slandered in publications
and in cowardly anonymous online forums and blogs, and they are made
out to be enemies of the church. I’m sure they can relate to the
struggles and frustrations of Elijah.
God still seeks to provide, however. The Spirit attends to the prophets
whose spirits are sinking. Those of us who derive nourishment from their
teachings and writings must help them in their struggle. Our faithfulness
and support for them must be the bread for their journey, in order that
they continue, with courage and confidence, to keep saying what needs
to be said, to write what needs to be written and to teach what needs
to be taught, despite the vitriolic opposition from those who disagree
St. Paul, in the second reading, encourages us to “be imitators of God.” He says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” These actions are the key ingredients to make heaven a reality on earth. As believers, all journeying toward the same end, can we ever hope to live in this way?
Does it really matter if we have differing viewpoints or perspectives when it comes to our faith? Diversity is what makes our church alive.
Despite what another may believe or teach or write, we
are all brothers and sisters in Christ and, therefore, let us follow
St. Paul’s other challenge to “Put away all bitterness and
wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.” It’s
important that we take this command to heart and strive to live this
challenge on a daily basis.
In Jesus’ response to the command to turn stones into bread, Jesus
said, “(One) does not live on bread alone, but on every word that
comes from the mouth of God.” God’s words are words of kindness,
mercy, gentleness and forgiveness. These are the words of love and life
and, as Ursula Le Guin once said, “Love doesn’t just sit
there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time,
May we all resolve, on a daily basis, to make the bread
of love and life in order to share it with one another, regardless of
the positions we hold, the morals by which we live, the church we attend
attend) or the lifestyles we lead.
If we all shared in this one bread of love, then no one would ever hunger, and if it tastes half as good as my mother-in-law’s bread, we would always be enjoying a taste of heaven.
Saretsky and his wife Norma have two children, Nathan and Jenna. He is a teacher and chaplain at Bishop James Mahoney high school in Saskatoon.