19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

 

Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

The Word of Jesus, Bread of Life.

 

The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply:        Amen

 

Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply:        Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader:          Very few people really know who we are and what we can become. The people of Nazareth thought that they knew Jesus, but they didn’t really. Do we try to discover the buried treasure hidden in the hearts of the people around us?

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: 1 Kings 19:4-8

 

Introduction to the reading: The prophet Elijah lived about 800 years before Christ. Because he was loyal to God, he fell into disfavour with the King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He had to flee for his life to Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai). Today’s passage takes place as he begins his flight.

 

A reading from the First Book of Kings

In those days:
Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness,
and came and sat down under a broom tree;
and he asked that he might die, saying,
“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life;
for I am no better than my ancestors.”

And he lay down and slept under a broom tree;
and behold, an angel touched him,
and said to him, “Arise and eat.”
And he looked, and behold,
there was at his head
a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water.
And he ate and drank, and lay down again.
And the angel of the Lord came again a second time,
and touched him, and said,
“Arise and eat,
else the journey will be too great for you.”
And he arose, and ate and drank,
and walked in the strength of that food
forty days and forty nights
to Horeb the mount of God.

 

The word of the Lord.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3.4-5.6-7.8-9 (R. 9a)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
praise of him is always in my mouth.
In the Lord my soul shall make its boast;
the humble shall hear and be glad.

Glorify the Lord with me;
together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free.

Look toward him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This lowly one called; the Lord heard,
and rescued him from all his distress.

The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who fear him, to rescue them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Blessed the man who seeks refuge in him.

R/. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

 

Second Reading: Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Introduction to the reading: As in the past four Sundays, our second Scripture reading is from the letter to the Ephesians. This part of the letter contains advice for Christians living. The author says that actions which cause division in a community are simply unacceptable. In today’s reading, the author sees mutual forgiveness as essential for any group that calls itself Christian. There is an echo here of part of the Lord’s prayer.

 

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger
and clamour and slander
be put away from you, with all malice,
and be kind to one another, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
as God in Christ forgave you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
And walk in love,
as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven, says the Lord;
if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.
Alleluia.

 

Gospel: John 6: 41-51

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

At that time:
The Jews murmured at Jesus, because he said,
“I am the bread which came down from heaven.”
They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph,
whose father and mother we know?
How does he now say,
‘I have come down from heaven’ ?”

Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves.
No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me draws him,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets,
‘And they shall all be taught by God.’
Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father
comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except him who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Truly, truly, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness,
and they died.
This is the bread which comes down from heaven,
that a person may eat of it and not die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven;
if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever;
and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world
is my flesh.”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

John Krakauer wrote a book entitled Into Thin Air, the story of an expedition to Mount Everest during the spring of 1996 which resulted in a great loss of life. One of the most unfortunate stories was about a young man named Andy Harris, who was part of the expedition. He had stayed at the peak past the deadline that the leaders had set, and as he was coming down, he was in dire need of oxygen. He radioed his problem to the base camp telling them what he needed and told them that he had come upon a cache of oxygen canisters left by some of the other climbers, but they were all empty. The problem was they were not empty – they were absolutely full, but because his brain was already so starved for oxygen and he wasn’t thinking clearly, he died arguing with them that the canisters were empty when in reality they were full. The lack of what he needed so disoriented his thinking that, even though he was literally surrounded by what he needed, he never took advantage of it. The very life that he needed he held in his hand. He just didn’t take it.

 

What oxygen is to the body, the Bread of Life is to the soul. Without that Bread of Life, we will never satisfy our real spiritual hunger which is why every day we need to feed on the Bread of the word of God.

 

“The angel of the Lord … touched him, and said,
“Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.”
And [Elijah] arose, and ate and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”

In the first Reading, Elijah was frightened, exhausted and dispirited. But the Bread from Heaven revived him and strengthened him for his journey to encounter God at Mount Horeb.

 

It is a fascinating turn of events that led to this moment. Elijah had just come from a dangerous showdown with 450 prophets of a god called Baal, in the land ruled by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Jezebel was from Sidon and had brought her pagan gods and rituals with her when she married King Ahab. Jezebel wanted to replace worship to the God of Israel with her own religion’s worship to Baal. But Elijah, faithful prophet of God, would not allow the people to turn away.

 

Elijah had arranged a contest between the god of Jezebel, called Baal, and the one true God. He had the Baal prophets arrange a sacrifice for the burning of a young bull, but he would not allow them to light the fire. Baal himself should do this. They agreed and for much of the day they carried on with incantations, calling out to their god, hopping around, and even slashing themselves with swords, but nothing at all happened. “There was not a sound; no one answered, and no one was listening” (I Kings 18:29). Elijah taunted them with the famous lines, “Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

 

Elijah then arranged an exactly similar sacrifice, this time to the God of Israel. He was so sure of God that he doused the wood with jar after jar of water. Then, after his short prayer, the wood burst into flames (I Kings 18:21-40). The Baal prophets threw themselves to the ground and worshipped the God of Israel. Nevertheless, Elijah had all the Baal prophets killed. (We can’t imagine that today, but that is in this ancient story.)

 

Queen Jezebel, understandably enraged, sent a message that she would do the same thing to Elijah and more within that same day. In spite of his great triumph, Elijah had to flee for his life.

 

Exhausted in the desert, Elijah prays to God to give immediate death to his worthless self. As despondent people will sometimes do, he went to sleep. He lay himself under a broom tree (a tall hedge that desert people used to shield themselves from the sun in the day and the wind at night).

 

God could have been harsh to Elijah as a result of this depressed prayer. But instead, a quiet touch from God’s angel awakened the man. The angel whispered, “get up and eat.” And, lo and behold, “there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water.”

 

Elijah did eat and drink, but then settled right back to sleep again. The angel whispered tenderly, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” Elijah did and was strengthened.

 

We are witnessing a mother’s care, giving food to the discouraged child.

 

We see God’s kindness, his goodness even in small things in the responsorial Psalm: “Taste and see that the Lord is good … I sought the Lord, and he answered me; from all my terrors he set me free.”

 

Jesus offers us nourishment, and this time the living Bread is for a very long journey indeed, the journey to eternal life.

 

The people listening will not have a bit of it. They argue among themselves, ridiculing Jesus’ silly offer of miraculous food. They “murmur” or complain that they knew his parents, which made him just a local boy acting crazy. Jesus ordered them to stop grumbling and listen. He made the same comparison that we saw last week, between manna that came down from heaven in the desert, and himself, who was “the living bread that came down from heaven.”

 

Just concentrate on the deliberate kindness of God: feeding the people, giving them drink, pursuing them again and again in order to offer the greatest gift of all, God’s sacrificial love for us.

 

God follows us quietly, gently.

 

How might we respond? To start with, how about receiving the living bread in Communion? At the moment only 50 people are allowed in the church for Mass. So I encourage those who are participating virtually in this Mass by watching on YouTube, to make an act of Spiritual Communion during the time of distribution of Holy Communion. We express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us

.

If you are unable to watch Mass on YouTube, then I encourage you to gather as family and friends at home using our Sunday Church At Home material. This is available both on our website and the parish app.

 

Another way could be to pray on the mellowness of God.

 

Also, simply slowing down, stopping the running away and instead letting the Lord find us.

 

God’s kind hearted love, which is also tough, proves to be quite worth the struggle.

Here is how Paul puts it in the second reading:

“Be imitators of God, as beloved children.
And walk in love,
as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

 

From today’s 1 Kings reading:

Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked that he might die, saying,
“It is enough; now, O Lord!”

Reflection:

God has not left us hungering and lost in one desert or another, but has come to nourish us, stay with us and with our human family. In Jesus our life has purpose and hope. We trust that God will not let us down, even when we want to cry out, as Elijah did, “This is enough, Old Lord!”

So we ask ourselves:

  • What part of life feels strained and testing these days?
  • How is God feeding your hunger and fatigue these days?

 

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader:          Let us bring our prayers to God our Father, knowing that he hears even the unspoken yearnings hidden in our hearts.

 

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis: (pause) that he may continue to lead us to an ever-greater love and appreciation of the goodness within the people around us.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all who have been wounded by the anger and malice of others in South Africa: (pause) that God will heal their hearts, renew their spirits, and free them to live life fully.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for strength to fulfill our responsibilities: (pause) that renewed by Word of God, we may lay down our lives in sacrificial love to those to whom we are committed and for those who have been entrusted to our care.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for relief from the Covid virus: (pause) that God will guide researchers to a better understanding of the virus so that the human family may be protected, and that the rollout of vaccines may reach all our people.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for Joyce Sathekga, Teresa de Freitas Morno and Stephanie Kallides who died during the week.  Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

 

And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.  Amen.

 

Leader:          Let us pray a Prayer for Healing:

 

God of life,

you have created the beauty that we call the universe,
help us to enjoy fully every moment of our lives,
for every moment of life is a gift.
Help us to enjoy this wonderful and great gift –

the heavens and the earth,

the rivers and the sea,

the dark night full of stars

and the fields that feed us each day.

We long to walk down the road that leads to joy

and to the peace of your Kingdom.
Unfortunately, the storm clouds have plunged us into darkness, sadness, and illness.

Lead us to those springs of life-giving water

where we can be refreshed in your gentle mercy and compassion.

God of Hope, without you we are nothing.

Many of our brothers and sisters are suffering terribly from the Coronavirus.

We stand in solidarity with all those who are suffering,

and we lift them up to the God of mercy and compassion.
Let us draw closer to you, Lord,

during these difficult times,

and teach us to love our brother and sister

who suffers as well.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 

All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:          God, our Father and provider,
whose Son has given his flesh for the life of the world,
sustain your pilgrim Church on its journey
with the word of life and the bread of heaven.

Draw us nearer to him in whose name we gather,
that, following his way of sacrificial love,
we may come to the banquet of eternal life.

We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

 

All:                  Amen.

 

Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All:                  Amen.

 

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