In describing a recent illness, someone was overheard saying, “I was so sick I thought I was going to die and was afraid I wouldn’t.” Sometimes life’s events are so painful and sad that we wonder how we are going to make it through another hour, let alone another day. In the Book of Kings as Elijah was journeying in the desert, he got so tired and discouraged that he prayed for death. After he fell into his desolate sleep, he was touched by an angel who told him to get up and eat. There next to him was a little cake and a jug of water that turned out to be so good and nourishing that he was able to walk for forty days across the desert (I Kings 19:4-8).
As Elijah was given the cake and water to sustain him for a forty day walk, we are reminded in John’s Gospel that we have been given “living bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:41-51)” to sustain us forever. This is the bread of the Eucharist Jesus gives to us every time we come to Mass. This is Jesus telling us, as the angel told Elijah, to get up and eat, else the journey will be too long.
At every Mass, we eat this Bread together as a reminder that we are not alone on the journey, in our joys and our sorrows. We eat together to give us awareness that perhaps an angel is out there for us in the person of a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, fellow parishioner or someone we do not even know, trying to encourage us and to be a source of strength for us. We eat together to remember that we are called to be angels for others. We eat together to renew our call as a Church to bring the merciful touch of God to the world, especially to those who are in pain or suffering the oppression of discrimination and injustice.
Every Mass is an opportunity to hear Jesus tell us to get up and eat because we have food for the journey. It is a time to open ourselves to recognizing the angels who are trying to touch us with the merciful hand of God. It is a moment for us to consider that the next angel being called to touch someone else with God’s love just might be us.