The words for this week are eat and taste, and see.  The context for the words is fear and distress.  What is to be feared is the LORD and even of that fear, the LORD will deliver the Faithful.

 

Pope John-Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginia Mariae, does not cite any specific Scripture from the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The following section fits no special readings.  Mentioning nourish relates to eat, taste, and see.

 

The opening and closing

 

37.      At present, in different parts of the Church, there are many ways to introduce the Rosary.  In some places, it is customary to begin with the opening words of Psalm 70: “O God, come to my aid; O Lord, make haste to help me,” as if to nourish those who are praying a humble awareness of their own insufficiency.  In other places, the Rosary begins with the recitation of the Creed, as if to make the profession of faith the basis of the contemplative journey about to be undertaken.  These and similar customs, to the extent that they prepare the mind for contemplation, are all equally legitimate.  The Rosary is then ended with a prayer for the intentions of the Pope, as if to expand the vision of the one praying to embrace all the needs of the Church.  It is precisely in order to encourage this ecclesial dimension of the Rosary that the Church has seen fit to grant indulgences to those who recite it with the required dispositions.

 

If prayed in this way, the Rosary truly becomes a spiritual itinerary in which Mary acts as Mother, Teacher and Guide, sustaining the faithful by her powerful intercession.  Is it any wonder, then, that the soul feels the need, after saying this prayer and experiencing so profoundly the motherhood of Mary, to burst forth in praise of the Blessed Virgin, either in that splendid prayer the Salve Regina or in the Litany of Loreto?  This is the crowning moment of an inner journey, which has brought the faithful into living contact with the mystery of Christ and his Blessed Mother.

 

1 Kings 19:4-8

 

verse 4          Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert…

 

Elijah is seen as a new Moses, hidden in the desert.  At the Transfiguration, the relationship between Jesus and Moses and Elijah is set out.[1]  The point is that the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” are worth it in the Christian acceptance.

 

verse 4                    until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.

                     He prayed for death, saying:

                               “This is enough, O LORD!

                     Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

 

At the time, Elijah was fleeing from Queen Jezebel.  Moses had similar sentiments, “If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once, if I have found favor in your sight, and do not let me see my misery” (Num 11:15 NRSV).  The prophet Tobit had a similar idea, “Command my spirit to be taken up from me so that I may be released” (Tobit 3:6).[2]  These prophets, like Jesus, suffered in their revivification of the covenant.

 

verse 5          He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,

                               but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.

 

verse 7          After he ate and drank, he lay down again,

                               but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,

                               touched him, and ordered,

                               “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”

 

verse 8          He got up, ate, and drank:

                               then strengthened by that food,

                               he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God,

                                         Horeb.

 

A scholar notes that the forty is a “rounding,” similar to that found in other places in Sacred Scripture.  “I shall make it rain on earth for forty days and forty nights …” (Gen 7:4).  “The Israelites ate manna for forty years …” (Exod 16:35).  “… but, as for you, your dead bodies will fall in this desert and your children will be nomads in the desert for forty years, bearing the consequences of your faithlessness …” (Num 14:33).  “And at once the Spirit drove him into the desert and he remained there for forty days …” (Mark 1:12-13).[3]

 

Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

 

The antiphon fits well.

 

verse 9a        Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

 

Taste and see is a mixed metaphor, something that never bothered me until my professors began complaining about my using mixed metaphors.  These are two different senses for reaching God.  Bread nourishes all the senses.

 

Interestingly, Psalm 34 is an acrostic with including an intellectual as well as an emotional bent.[4]

 

verse 5          I sought the LORD, and he answered me

                               and delivered me from all my fears.

 

verse 7          When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,

                               and from all his distress he saved him.

 

Saint Jerome translates afflicted with pauper, or pauper or poor.  While the Poor Clare nuns may not be afflicted, they are pauper.  Hidden in their monastery, they are heard by God.

 

verse 8          The angel of the LORD encamps

                               around those who fear him and delivers them.

 

Ephesians 4:30—5:2

 

Versification is a later addition to Sacred Scripture.  That the Lectionary moves to gather in two verses from the next chapter, then, is all right.

 

verse 31        All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling

                               must be removed from you, along with all malice.

 

Shouting has special meaning for the Newport News Poor Clare Monastery Daily Mass.  When a relatively new convert told me how much he enjoyed the chapel singing, I mentioned the noise.  His response was that God must have been allowing that noise for some good reason.  Indeed.

 

verses 5:1-2  So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,

                               as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us

                               as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

 

To live in love carries the English sense of amble, where the Latin uses ambulate.  Live seems a little more intense than walk or amble.

 

John 6:51

 

verse 51        I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord;

                     whoever eats this bread will live forever.

 

John 6:41—51

 

verse 41        The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,

                               “I am the bread that came down from heaven,”

 

Jerome translates because with quia that I might translate that.  Later, in verse 46, quia is translated with that.

 

verse 44        No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draw him,

                               and I will raise him on the last day.

 

The grammarian points out that draw carries with it the meaning of drag in the Greek.  Saint Jerome uses traxerit that brings to mind traction.

 

I wondered whether these readings were used in the Funeral Rites,[5] but only verse 51 is.

 

verse 45        It is written in the prophets:

                               They shall all be taught by God.

                     Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

 

According to the grammarian, the translators take the English, who listens to my Father from the Greek, who has heard from the Father.  In English those are two different connotations with regard to the activity of the one receiving the message.

 

verse 46        Not that anyone has seen the Father

                               except the one who is from God;

                               he has seen the Father.

 

verse 49        Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;

 

verse 50                  this is the bread that comes down from heaven

                               so that one may eat it and not die.

 

verse 51        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.”

 

Verse 51, with a different break in the line, also appears in the reading for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  This is the Nineteenth Sunday.  These readings used to be read for the Feast of Corpus Christi, where they are elaborated in the Sunday Sermons.

 

God is found in hidden recesses.  One must pay attention to find the Creator in the midst of his creation.

 

From the Sunday Sermons:

 

Saint John Chrysostom (354-407): “…  He was wont in the Old Testament to promise men long life.  Here he promises Life without end.”

 

Saint Justin Martyr (100-165):

 

And the offering of fine flour (Lev. xiv. 10, 21), which … was prescribed to be offered by those who were purified from leprosy, was also a Figure of the Eucharistic Bread which Our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed should be eaten in memory of His passion by those whose souls are purified from all iniquity that we may at the same time thank God …

 

St. Ephraim, Confessor and Doctor (+373): “For if you pry curiously into these things [The Mystery of the Eucharist] you shall be called curious rather than a believer.  Be therefore a believer, and without blame”

 

St. Gregory of Nyssa, Bishop and Doctor (+394): “For in man’s nature, pleasure is of two kinds: one has place in the soul through calm, and one in the body through passion.  … Because of this the soul, as it takes its delight in the sole contemplation of Him Who Is, will be stirred by none of the things that awaken pleasure through the senses.”

 

St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor (339-397): “Give us this day our daily bread. … But the Latin calls daily bread, what the Greeks call bread for the coming day. … If it be daily bread why do you receive it after a year, as the Greeks do in the East?”  Both are correct, daily bread is also bread for the coming day.

 

St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor (354-430): “The rock was struck twice with a rod.  The two blows signify the two beams of the Cross.  This then is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it he may not die …”

 

 

It profiteth nothing, as they understood it: they had understood His Body as though He were speaking of a carcase [sic], to be cut into small pieces, or as sold in the meatshops; not as made living by the Spirit.”

 

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor (+444): “The Angels beheld Him, and wondered.  Heaven saw it, and was afraid.  Creation looked, and trembled.”

 

To engage what contemporary scholars are writing, As the bread of God, he (Jesus) gives “life to the world” (John 6:33, 51).  He is “the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5; 12:46, and 11:9).[6]

 

In the final analysis, these readings point to a purpose in suffering.  Eat, taste, and see are about strength in the face of difficulties. In 1 Kings, Elijah sets out on a forty day journey to Mount Horeb, like the life-long journey of the Faithful to the Jerusalem of their souls.  Psalm 34 is about deliverance from fear and distress. Ephesians is about loving through the sacrificial offering that is Christ.  Finally, the Gospel according to John is about Jesus being the Bread of Life for the world.  Love conquers the indignities of the world through suffering into eternal glory with Jesus.

 

For an overview of sources used see the Appendix file.



[1] Kathryn L. Roberts, “God, Prophet, and King: Eating and Drinking on the Mountain in First Kings 18:41,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 4 (October 2000), 634-635.

 

[2] Anathea Portier-Young, “Alleviation of Suffering in the Book of Tobit: Comedy, Community, and Happy Endings,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 63, No. 1 (January 2001) 43,

 

[3] Craig A. Evans, “Jesus’ Action in the Temple: Cleansing or Portent of Destruction?” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 2 (April 1989), 266-267. The Biblical translations are from Henry Wansbrough, General Editor, The New Jerusalem Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1985).

 

[4] Hanan Eshel and John Strugnell, “Alphabetical Acrostics in Pre-Tannaitic Hebrew,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 3 (July 2000), 443.

 

[5] International Commission on English in the Liturgy: A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, The Roman Ritual: Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and published by Authority of Pope Paul IV: Order of Christian Funerals: Including Appendix 2: Cremation: Approved for use in the Dioceses of the United States of America by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1998)

 

[6] Stanley B. Marrow, “KosmoV in John,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 1 (January 2002), 97.