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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Accepting God’s word into our hearts helps us become more like Christ

‘Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from Him comes to me.’

The readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time demonstrate how God’s word enters man in order to transform man into God. We are immediately reminded of that passage in the Book of Hebrews which states: “Indeed, the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

The Word of God comes to Elijah because he’s in trouble. He gave miraculous witness to God on Mount Carmel against the false prophets. Now he’s running for his life because Jezebel sent an army to kill him.

He is far into the desert and just wants to die. “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” We might say that he’s touched with more than just a tinge of self-pity.

The angel of God prepares food, awakens him and orders him to eat. He ate and wanted to sleep more, but the angel said that he’s to go on a long journey. He ate, then walked 40 days and 40 nights to the mountain of God, Horeb, where God was waiting with a message. He truly needed God’s word to enter his heart and set him free.

There God spoke to him, not in earthquakes, or thunder and lightning, or the rending of rocks, but in a tiny whisper. Essentially, he’s told to go back to prophesying in Israel, and God will send support. When acting on his own, Elijah was a failure. With God’s words to rouse him, he again became a powerful prophet.

The responsorial psalm reinforces this theme: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Again, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them. Taste and see how good the Lord is; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

The angel delivered Elijah from his self-pity and God’s word became food to re-energize him for ministry.

The letter to the Ephesians tells us that the word of God leads us to reject “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling.” That word, when accepted in our hearts, will lead us to be “kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven (us) in Christ.” Accepting God’s word into our hearts enables us to become more like Christ who “loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the Jews, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” When they murmured against Him, He said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day…Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from Him comes to me.”

What does it mean to be drawn by the Father? It means that God puts into our hearts a hunger to delight in the person and teachings of His Son Jesus. Psalm 37 tells us: “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.”

St. Augustine tells us: “There is a certain craving of the heart to which that bread of heaven is sweet. … A person is drawn to Christ when he delights in the truth, when he delights in blessedness, delights in righteousness, delights in everlasting life.”

When you delight in the teachings of Jesus, when you are drawn to the Jesus in the Eucharist, know that this is the work of our heavenly Father.

Jesus continues, “I am the living bread that has come 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.”

St. John Chrysostom explains, “This is why He has mixed up Himself with us. He has kneaded up His body with ours, so that we might be one distinct entity, like a body joined to a head.”

In the world of nature, higher forms of life absorb lower forms. Plants absorb minerals and animals eat plants. Man feeds on plants and animals. Christ’s life in the Eucharist is more powerful than our human nature, so the Eucharist absorbs us into Christ. We are transformed into Christ when we receive Him worthily.

That is why the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist takes away venial sin. Christ’s love for us in the Eucharist is more powerful than our attachments to sin. We need to allow His love for us in the Eucharist to have a freedom in our lives. We need to allow the Holy Eucharist to absorb our attachments to sin. We need to allow Jesus in the Eucharist to love us as we are.

St. John Chrysostom continues, “Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil, ruminating on our head and on the love that He has shown for us.” In other words, we need to become aware in our head and in our hearts that Christ’s love for us in the Eucharist is more powerful than our sins or than Satan.

When you receive Him in the Holy Eucharist, just know that His love in you is more powerful than your sinfulness. In silence, give Him permission to allow His love to inundate your body, soul and spirit. Surrender totally to His transforming love. His love will enter you silently and inundate your unredeemed desires.

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