Needs vs Wants: it seems basic enough, but just so we’re all on the same page—a need is something that is required in order to survive whereas a want is something we do not need, but desire. A few examples:
- I want to look like brad Pitt in Fight Club, but I need chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.
- I want to read more books, but I need to get through all 147 episodes of The Walking Dead.
- I want to go to bed at a decent hour, but I need to scroll through social media until 2:00 a.m.
Maybe I’m missing the point. Let’s try a couple more:
- I want a fancy car, but I need reliable transportation to and from work.
- I want to be popular, but what I need are strong stable relationships.
You see the difference. And this is where we left off last week in our discussion on the Bread of Life. Our wants (we talked about cravings last week) are not always what we need, because what we need more than anything else and the only thing that will satisfy and fulfill our physical and spiritual hearts is this Bread of Life. If that is true, what purpose does it serve? What does this Bread of Life do for us?
Today in our lesson from 1 Kings, we read about the Prophet Elijah, but it is one of those lessons that drops us down in the middle of a story without much explanation on either end. It began, “Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree.” That’s nice, but why did he go off into the wilderness and why did he say to the Lord, “I’m done, just kill me now?”
At the time, Ahab was king over Israel and his wife was Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel did evil in the eyes of the Lord by worshiping the gods Baal and Asherah. Unable to tolerate this, Elijah said to King Ahab, “summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” Ahab did and it was on Mount Carmel that we have the episode of the dueling prophets.
Elijah challenged the prophets: he and they would both have the opportunity to sacrifice a bull, but then—and this is where it gets interesting—each was to call down fire from their god/God to consume the sacrifice. So the prophets of Baal did just that. They set up the altar, sacrificed the bull, and started calling out to Baal. Nothing happened. Elijah taunted them, “Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” Still nothing. After awhile, Elijah said, “Step aside, boys.” He set up the Lord’s altar, placed the sacrificed bull upon it, drowned it in water, then called on God, and “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” The people were amazed and feared the Lord and when Elijah called on them to kill the false prophets, all four hundred and fifty of them, they did. Yet, all this mighty display of power did nothing to turn the hearts of Ahab and Jezebel. She called for the death of Elijah and Elijah ran… now we are at our reading today.
Elijah ran for a day into the wilderness, fell down under a tree, and asked the Lord to kill him. He had done all he knew to do, had demonstrated the power of God, yet the people did not turn, but instead sought his life. He was done and could not go on, yet the Lord was not done with him. The Lord wanted to see him on Mount Horeb, the mountain of the Lord.
Mount Horeb is also known as Mount Sinai, the mountain where Moses encountered God in the burning bush and where he also received the Ten Commandments, but in order to travel for forty days in the wilderness, Elijah needed food for the journey, so twice an angel of the Lord brought him bread and water. When he arrived at Mount Horeb, he went into a cave and rested for the night, but the following day, the Lord called to him: “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then there was a great wind, followed by an earthquake, followed by a fire, but the Lord was not in any of those. Then “came a gentle whisper” and Elijah encountered God.
What purpose does the Bread of Life serve? What does it do for us? Just as the Lord fed the bread to Elijah to sustain and prepare him for the journey, the Lord feeds us with the Bread of Life. It is food for the journey to sustain us in the wilderness while we seek to encounter our God on the mountain. It is what provides us with a supernatural spiritual strength in the face of the enemy that seeks to destroy us. And this Bread is Jesus.
“I am the bread of life…. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
I want to stay home in bed, drawing the sheets up over me because I just can’t go back out into the wilderness of a world that seems to care so little… I want to hide, but what I need is the Bread of Life that will nourish my soul and my body, giving me strength and courage in knowing that my God allows me to truly make Him a part of myself. It’s not just me against the Jezebel’s and forces of evil of the wilderness. It is the power of God working in me.
I want to close my eyes to the injustices I see around me because there is nothing I can do about it, but I need to be an instrument of transformation in my world, my community, my family, my own life, but to do this, I need the Bread of Life to fortify my resolve and provide the daily sustenance I so desperately need.
I want to climb under a broom tree and just have it all go away, but my God needs me to go further than I ever thought I could and to be renewed into the image of His Son, so God gives me himself and makes it possible.
Sir, give us this Bread. Give us this food for the journey. Give us yourself that we may have abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world to come. And God does give us all this and more. When we hold out our hands to receive him in the Eucharist, God speaks to our soul and says, “Take, eat: This is my Bod, which is given for you… given that you may have food for the journey. Given that you may have abundant life. Given that you may have life eternal.”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you are the bread of life, the manna which sustains us in the wilderness of our daily lives. Without you, we hunger for righteousness but will forever be found wanting. Sustain us, O Lord, and keep us in your graces through the vessel of your most holy body and blood. Amen.