Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Lectionary: 116 1 Kgs 19:4-8  Eph 4:30-5:2 Jn 6:41-51

Retama raetam (white weeping broom)

The broom tree is a large desert shrub in the juniper family. It produce very small leaves during the wet season but they are quickly dropped in order to conserve water white . It produces small white flowers which emit a honey fragrance. The plant is frequently a solitary shrub in a barren desert environment.

    Bible stories that mention plants are always intriguing.For those not familiar with that environment, it gives one a chance to do a bit of natural history  research about a particular plant and with that small amount of added background information it is easier to imagine a particular biblical scene. For the broom tree, it is a small desert shrub in a rather desolate environment. These trees are a place of refuge and a welcome sight for the desert traveler, but are hardly an oasis. The broom tree is where Elijah takes his refuge.  Adding some detail as to why he is there ; he is fleeing for his life from an angry queen. As the story tells us, he is in despair and he is tired. The tree offers him some small amount of comfort. Being worn down though, Elijah settles for it and is reluctant to move. If the imagery describes anything it is the succumbing to apathy and despair. The scene describing Elijah really describes a lot of people settling for something because it is a refuge from their own journey (their lives), but due to their particular circumstances they tend to make it and it’s negative emotions  a more permanent resting place. The Angel of God though has other plans, leaving a jug of water and a piece of bread to nourish Elijah for his Journey. Being so beaten down, Elijah consumes the food and water and goes back to sleep. As that is not Gods plan for him, the Angel returns, again gives him bread and a jug of water , and tells him “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” The food gives him strength , he gets up and continues for 40-days
The story of a journey, despair, defeat and rejuvenation  as told through God relationship with man are all apparent in the short excerpt. God gives Elijah all he needs to complete the task God has given to him. The story does come alive though when read in the context of John’s bread of life discourse where Jesus tells his disciples and critics “I am the bread of life’”. With that statement and the imagery of Elijah under that tree: Jesus’s ministry is uniquely described. Jesus’s mission is to bring that nourishment to us , to complete our journey. As Elijah consumed that hearth cake and jug of water, the Christian consumes the Eucharist “else the journey will be too long for you!” The truth is that few people get to live in an oasis, a perfect place. Most of the time we do settle for something that is not perfect, but good enough; a place of refuge. Jesus In his message is to remind us that we are on a Journey, and while the refuge of a broom tree might be a good place to rest, we do need to continue the Journey. To continue that Journey we need nourishment constantly, and the more we camp in a refuge, the more we need nourishment to continue that Journey.“I am the bread of life’” is the hearth cake left for Elijah so that he might continue his Journey.“I am the bread of life’” is the manna of the desert given to the Hebrews so that they might continue their Journey.“I am the bread of life’” is the multiplication of loaves so that the disciples could continue their journey and “I am the bread of life’” is the Eucharist so that we can continue ours.

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