Do You Know Me?

Do you know Me?
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
[1 Kgs 19:4-8. Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9. Eph 4:30—5:2. Jn 6:41-51.]

I wonder if you remember the series of American Express credit card commercials where the speaker looked into the camera and asked, “Do you know me?”

Those spokespersons were the likes of Robert DeNiro, Bob Fosse, Mel Blanc (remember him – the voice of Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig?).
There was even William E. Miller, who ran for Vice President in 1964 on Goldwater’s ticket.

Now, if you remember those commercials, none of those people actually said their names, but they gave hints to their identities. Only at the end of the commercial did you actually see the card with the person’s name on it.

Well, in today’s readings, we wrestle with identities again.

First we hear about Elijah, the man on the run, fleeing from the murderous threats of Queen Jezebel. He is in the desert alone, and he prays to God to take his life!

And then he falls asleep.
That’s how close he is to the point of despair – he has lost his way, he is overcome by his own circumstances.

And what is God’s answer – food!
God sends the angel with food to wake Elijah and to fill him.
The angel says: “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”

The response to Elijah’s request for death is food for the journey! God doesn’t grant Elijah’s death wish. Instead, He affirms Elijah’s life!

Perhaps God has asked Elijah: “Do you know me?”
Elijah has told God who he is; he has said: “I am no better than my fathers.”
We might say that God's act tells Elijah – You are worth the price of a meal—and more!
Your life is precious to me.
You are beloved in my sight – Elijah, you don’t really know Me.”

What also wasn't said, but might have, is: “Don’t grumble, Elijah.”

The second reading tells us not to grumble: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”
It tells us to try and be like God – “be imitators of God, … and live in love…. ”
This is the identity that we should strive for – to be the people who imitate the love and the compassion of God.

In the Gospel, there is more grumbling, more “murmuring.”
The people that Jesus encounters say they know Him: He is the son of Joseph, they know His parents and His family.
Or shall we say, they think they know Him.

Well, they do know Jesus, but only in a very basic and imperfect sense.
But in the light of more complete knowledge,
these people aren’t even close!

The more you say you know somebody, the more you limit them.
And by that, I mean you don’t limit them—you limit yourself by closing them into a precise definition. In your mind, they don’t rise above that.

And that’s just the mistake that the people make in this Gospel.
Jesus says:
“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.”

Flesh? They say. He is going to give his own flesh?
Jesus is clear and straightforward on that.
He offers us a part in his flesh, so that we can become like God, imitators of God, as St. Paul said.
Jesus reminds them that when the Exodus people grumbled in the desert,
God sent manna to feed them.
When Elijah complains, God sends food to uphold him.
That was food for the body.
But now, this new food….
Jesus offers Himself – for the life of the world!

Jesus is food for the abundant life.
Food that will help us to live forever. The bread of life.

It is too much for the people who hear this. It is far beyond them.

The question today, dear friends: Does Jesus’ message today, his ‘hint’ at his divine identity, his “Do you know me?”: Does this message challenge us?

In a way, we can hope that the Gospel does challenge us, because we move in the way in which we perceive the world and God by the river of our own experiences. Do we have a tendency to box the identity of Jesus into small definitions when He is so immeasurably more?

Jesus speaks in His identity to eyes and ears and hearts of faith today, as He talks to us through the Gospel.

When we receive Holy Communion through the hands of a minister who announces “the Body of Christ” or “the Blood of Christ”; the “Amen” of our response is not a mere ritual. By our Amen, we say “So be it; I believe in You.”

God feeds us and brings us to hope!
He gives us strength to continue on the journey.
It is food for our journey to God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus givers strong hints to a hardhearted people about who He is.
Jesus asks them and us, “Do you know me?”

If we look with eyes of faith, we who have been introduced more properly to Jesus; we who know who He is in our own imperfect way—because we can never know Him perfectly this side of heaven—we can say in our encounter with Him, “Amen, Yes, Lord. We know you.”