Today’s first reading from the Book of Kings presents us with an overburdened Elijah. There is a fascinating parallel with the prophet Jonah: both of these prophets find themselves under a plant asking the Lord for death, but the Lord responds in two very different ways to their request. In the case of Jonah, when he asks for death, he was very angry at the way things had turned out. Jonah was angry at God’s providence, he was angry at being sent on a mission that – in his mind – was pointless. Jonah was angry that the plant that miraculously grew and protected him from the sun suddenly died and exposed him again to the blistering heat. The Lord’s response to Jonah comes in the form of a rebuke: God wanted Jonah to rejoice at His marvelous work of salvation, the sincere repentance and conversion of the Ninevites. God wanted Jonah to rejoice that they were forgiven, but Jonah was angry because they didn’t receive the punishment they deserved.
Elijah’s case is quite different and a good reminder that the external circumstances of life are secondary when it comes to God’s providence. We know that God looks at the heart. When He examines Elijah’s heart, He sees a man who wishes for death because he realizes that he is just as big a sinner as everyone who has come before him. The anger and unforgiveness of Jonah against the sorrow for sin and humility of Elijah. God’s providence for Elijah works in a very different way – sin is death, and God seeks to heal and bring life wherever death is. A miraculous meal is provided to Elijah, giving him strength, restoring life. The bread of God is that which gives life to the world. Just as we need food to recover our physical strength, we need God in order to recover our spiritual strength. Again we read the Gospel of John and receive the food that only God can give, Jesus the bread of life. It is so imperative that we receive God in our lives and in our hearts, that Jesus quite literally makes himself the food for our earthly journey and pilgrimage. When we receive the Eucharist, His most precious Body and Blood, we receive restoration from our vices and sin. If we have the inner attitude of Elijah, who recognizes that he is no better than anyone else, the Father’s bread, Jesus, feeds and heals our deepest hunger for life.