I didn’t anticipate the ways in which this Sunday’s readings would speak to me, nor did I expect to rest in the message they share as I have over the past two weeks. Today, I hear about the relationship between God and God’s people. About the immensity of God’s love for us, how much we need the kind of holy intimacy that the Eucharist provides. About how Christ delights in this communion with us, how the Holy Spirit continues to move in communities that seek her out.
How many of us can relate to the Elijah of the first reading, crying out to God, “Enough!” Enough of what tires us, frustrates us, disappoints us. Enough of the things that make our lives feel burdensome. And in return we encounter the overwhelming love of God’s response—-food for the journey ahead, the rest that Elijah seeks. Even during the times when we feel we are too weary for what is to come, God has more faith in us than we have in ourselves, giving us what we need to meet the challenges ahead.
Then we meet the Jesus of the Gospel of John, who is often unsettling to me. It’s almost as if he floats above the ground, with an emphasis on his divinity so great that at times I am left wondering what happened to his humanity. His clear understanding of his mission is appealing to some, but I struggle with a Jesus who seems to know all of what is to come.
And this reading is no exception. Despite the criticisms of his community, he is confident that he is the bread that came down from heaven. And he says things that can be interpreted as exclusivist like, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” But the thing is, God draws all of us, in a variety of ways, through a number of traditions, to experience intimacy with the God of Many Names more fully.
That said, in this particular reading, given my particular tradition, I feel that draw from God to the Eucharist—-the essence of God caught up in the essence of us. I never thought I would be a daily Mass attendee. In my parish, that seemed to be a spiritual practice for other people, but not for me. However, there’s something about the in-between-ness of this summer that brings me face-to-face with my vulnerabilities, with my need for something bigger than I ever could be alone. And as much as I love the experience of community and communion at Sunday Mass, I found that I began to long for the quiet drama of the Eucharist that I encounter in a different way during the week.
Beginning the day with that encounter with Jesus, I can come to God like Elijah, pouring out what troubles me, having every faith that there will be a response filled with love guided by an understanding of my vocation. “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
These encounters with Jesus call me out of the depths of myself to attempt again to create the kind of beloved community that he originally intended, that we hear about in the second reading—-the invitation to follow the example of God through Jesus and to live in the kind of love that Jesus did. And through these encounters, I count on God and the members of this community to stir in me the strength to respond.
Jen Owens is one of the co-editors of From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism. She is grateful for the spirit of hospitality that the members of her Southern California parish continue to share with her this summer.