Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart
Sunday BibleTalk: AUGUST 12th, 2018
Sunday BibleTalk with Sunday Video Chat!
Greetings, SBT Readers:

This is the second issue of SBT with a new format. So far, the feedback I have received from readers is positive, and this encourages me to continue my experiment-- please continue to send me your thoughts on the changes, especially on the video feature, Sunday Chat!

Today's readings continue to focus on Jesus as the Bread of Life. Given all that is happening in the world around us-- from horrific fires both in Greece and California to gun violence, from the uncovering of pedophilia in the highest ranks of church hierarchy to the mistreatment of refugees in U.S. detention centers and so forth-- how can Christians possibly "keep the faith" if Jesus is not the "Bread" to which we turn? We are living in disheartening times-- if we are to travel 40 days and 40 nights, we need the sustenance to keep going!

Many Blessings!



I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died; this bread comes down from heaven so that you may eat it and not die. 
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the
bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
Jn 6: 41-51

The mystical number of "40" appears yet again, this time in our first reading, 1 Kgs. 19:4-8, in the story of Elijah lying down under the broom tree. Let me place all this into context. Elijah has basically given up on life. Having demonstrated the power of God v. the impotence of Baal, Elijah put to death the false prophets of Baal (all 450 of them!) and runs from the fury of Queen Jezebel, a devotee of Baal. Now, utterly despondent, he prays that God will take his life; then he falls asleep. Next comes the angel's touch, the command to get up and eat. Finding a hearth cake and jug of water, Elijah complies, but promptly falls asleep again, a sign that he is still in a state of despair. This holy man of God needs to be coaxed back to life and to faith in the God he serves. There is a second angelic touch and the instruction to eat for the journey: "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you." This time, Elijah not only eats but, strengthened by the food, walks 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God -- not only a literal mountain but also a symbol of spiritual consciousness. Elijah's 40 day/night journey takes him from a state of despair to awareness of the Presence of God, from suicidal wishes to fullness of life. 40 days/ 40 nights is the measure of the distance between these two points.

Today's gospel presents Jesus as the "hearth cake and jug of water" -- not in these words, of course, but as "real food," the source of sustenance and of life itself. On a human plane, we can lead very superficial lives, preoccupied only with satisfying our material needs and wants; what we crave, however, is the equivalent of Baal; it is not going to sustain us for 40 days and 40 nights , that is, for the journey of life. We may have "the lifestyle," but will it carry us from where we are today to God's holy mountain? We only have to look at the sad litany of all the celebrities who have taken their own lives in recent months -- actors, musicians and athletes who have everything materially speaking (fame, fortune, looks, and anything else to which one might aspire). None of this, however, was enough for the journey. They did not feel the angel's touch, nor find a hearth cake or jug of water when they needed it! Perhaps the touch was there and they missed it; perhaps there was a hearth cake and jug, but they failed to see it.

Jesus invites us to turn to him as the source of endless spiritual sustenance, as the "Bread of Life." This is not merely an invitation to imitate him, though imitating the Christ is something that disciples need to commit to. Nor is it enough to be nominal Christians, that is, Christians in name only who might be religiously observant but who never discover what it means to live in Christ and have him live in us as the very ground of our being. Rather, we are called into a relationship of radical intimacy, built on mutuality, love and trust. Jesus is the hearth cake, the jug of water and the angel's touch, the grounding we need for the 40 days and 40 nights of our lives. It is he who invites us to move beyond mere material satisfaction so that we yearn for all that will carry us to God's holy mountain; it is he-- and he alone-- who satisfies the hunger of our hearts, immunizing us against despair.

  1. Elijah believes he is the only prophet left and this fuels his discouragement; have you ever felt like the "only one" who stands up for truth and justice and, if so, what was that experience like for you?
  2. Elijah, the most revered of all the prophets, experienced discouragement and loss of faith-- what is the lesson to be learned from this?
  3. Jesus is "the Bread of Life"; to what extent is he the bread of YOUR life?
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Mind-Shifting Imagery

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