Elijah was one of the great prophets of Israel. He challenged king Ahab for betraying the covenant and worshiping pagan gods. Ahab, driven on by his wife, Queen Jezebel, wants to retaliate against Elijah for his opposition. As the story picks up in our first reading, Elijah is running for his life with King Ahab in hot pursuit. Finally, Elijah falls down exhausted, in the desert. He’s ready to give up and just wants to die. But the angel of the Lord intervenes, gives Elijah some food so he can continue his journey. Elijah will make his way to the holy mountain where Moses received the stones of the covenant. There Elijah, too, will meet the Lord.
In the gospel, Jesus is preaching in the desert, having fed the crowd who followed him. Jesus speaks about the special food that he will give which is far more precious than the food God formerly gave to satisfy people’s hunger—food even more special than the manna that the ancient Jews received to support their journey to the promised land. For “This is the living bread,” Jesus tells them, which of course we identify with the Eucharist at Mass.
Our second reading reminds us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can overcome all our sins and limitations. Empowered with those graces we are challenged to be “imitators of God”—a truly startling phrase that should remind us of the miracle God’s grace can work within us.
—Walter Modrys SJ
This Sunday’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.