What kinds of diets are in the news currently? Do they still include Weight Watchers, Dr. Atkins Diet, vegetarian diets of all sorts like the cabbage , peanut butter diet? Many people would like to have diet on which you could eat all the chocolate. I understand there is one like that. Some diets are effective and some are not but each of them requires conviction and expending some energy. Some have a time limit on them and some are meant to be a way of life.
It just happens that our readings today deal with diets. In our first reading Elijah, who was in the desert fleeing Queen Jezebel who wanted to kill him and he was given a hearth cake and a jar of water by an angel of God. As the story goes by way of that little food he was able to travel forty days and forty nights until he met God at Mount Horeb. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have strength for forty cays from cake and water, but God does work in mysterious ways especially when we are in dire need. Elijah was fleeing for his life after he had done marvelous things by ending a drought and showing the power of the one true God by defeating and destroying many of the prophets of the false god Baal, the god of fertility. Queen Jezebel was a worshiper of Baal and didn’t appreciate what Elijah did. Without question Elijah was in dire straights and God came to his rescue. Elijah continued on to be one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, the Hebrew scripture. He was the representative of the prophets who talked with Jesus at the Transfiguration. I would like to invite you to pick up your Bible after Mass today and see how the story began and what the final results were.
Just as in many diets our conviction wanes when we become dissatisfied with the results we have gotten, Elijah’s conviction waned when he thought he had done great things and the result was not what he wanted or expected. As a result he became depressed to the point of wanting to die, but he had done the work of God and God came to his rescue with real nourishment. Just as in a diet, Elijah’s conviction returned, he expended the energy necessary to continue to be God’s prophet and was rewarded with a lifetime of good results.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus was getting the same kind of results from the Jews as Elijah received. He had done many marvelous things, curing the sick, raising the dead feeding 5000 men along with many women and children with 5 small barley loaves and 2 fish, but as soon as he told them that he was The Bread which came down from heaven their conviction was gone. They were no longer willing to expend the energy to follow him and they were able to have him killed. That’s what happens in a diet when the results aren’t what a person expects, we lose our conviction.
Of course the things Jesus was talking about was not physical food but rather spiritual food and for both the Jews and ourselves that is kind of abstract and as a result not easily understood and therefore not easily accepted.
Jesus wants each of us to be on a spiritual diet centered on him, The Bread of Life. It is by way of that diet that we will, in his words, “never die.” As he continues, “We will live forever because the bread he gives is his flesh.” By never dying he means that even though we physically leave this world, we will continue to live with him in heaven. Of course the bread he gives is his living body and blood in Communion, the Eucharist.
Back to our diet comparison. The spiritual diet Jesus wants us on is a diet exclusively him. Believing him, loving him, trusting him and living a life which pleases him. As with a physical diet, it takes conviction to stay on a diet of him, return to it when we fall of it, and be willing to expend energy to do what it takes to stay on it. The duration of this diet is forever and the results are true happiness both in this life and in the next. Can we ask for any better results from a diet than that?