Branching Out Blog

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Aug 7, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time_2021_CP_imageA reading from the First Book of Kings

(Chapter 19:4-8)

Here we have another story of intrigue from Israelite history, this one about an evil king, Ahab, and his pagan wife, Jezebel. Israel was constantly surrounded by powerful pagan nations, and sometimes Israelites were corrupted by worship of pagan gods. In this story, the corruption is in the most powerful place, the ruling king and queen.

In the midst of this disaster is the prophet Elijah who ordered the deaths of pagan prophets and was therefore being chased by the queen’s men. Elijah is exhausted, so ready to give up that he even asks God to take him in death. But God feeds him and quenches his thirst, and Elijah goes on for the biblical symbolic 40 days into the desert.

How many times have you been so tired, depressed, or stressed that you almost gave up? You did not know what to do or where to turn. The interesting point here is that God restored Elijah’s hope after the prophet had turned to God in despair. God is always attentive to us even when we do not expect it or even believe it. The Spirit of God is never far away from us, even when we seem lost or detached. Jesus has told us that the Spirit of God lives within us. Do you believe that? Have there been times when you felt lost and then something happened that helped you get back to who you really are. Yes? Well, that is the work of the Spirit who never leaves you and comes to you in many different ways from many different sources, including some that you may least suspect.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 34)

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” God’s goodness is delectably delicious. You say you have fears? “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Do you have fears that are intruding in your life or even controlling you? For example, the virus? Ask the Lord to deliver you from the worst of your fears.

A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

(Chapter 4:30-5:2)

“Live in love as Christ loved us…. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Love, compassion, and forgiveness: these are first among the qualities that help us to imitate Christ. Can any of us actually do that? That is not the point. Our life as followers of Christ is not a competition or a test to see who scores the highest. Our life is gift, a whole series of gifts starting with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our challenge is to accept the gifts, be truly grateful for them, and share them with the people in our lives, starting with but not limited to those closest to us. Is there someone in your life who needs your love in an immediate way—forgiveness, consolation, or just a hug?

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

(Chapter 6:41-51)

We have often heard that bread is the staff of life. That may not be literally true for us who have such a rich variety of nutritious foods, but it certainly was true for the contemporaries of Jesus, especially the poor with whom he spent most of his time. Bread was their staple, and during a drought many people starved. Poor people were constantly obsessed with having enough bread to stay alive. So when Jesus says that he is the “bread that came down from heaven” the people do not believe him. They know who he is. “Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother?” They see Jesus as an ordinary Jew like themselves. How could he be bread from heaven that might feed their physical hunger? His answer was, “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

That is what the Eucharist is about. We need physical bread and many other types of food for our bodily health. We need the Eucharistic bread that is Jesus to nourish our souls. There are several good reasons why we come to the Eucharist, but that is the deepest and most important, to receive the Bread of Life.


Photo by Silvain Brison on Unsplash

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.

Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.


Topics: celebration of the Eucharist, Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, bread of life, RENEW International

Bill Ayres

Written by Bill Ayres

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