“Elijah got up and ate and drank, and strengthened by that food he walked for 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” These words touch upon the desolation that must afflict every life from time to time.
Elijah, Israel’s most outspoken prophet, had been forced to flee for his life. In the wilderness he had found himself threatened and alone. The confidence that had accompanied his ministry thus far had evaporated. His was the frailty of despair. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
As the narrative unfolded, Elijah was woken by an angel and invited to find strength in the food and drink set before him by God. “Get up and drink, or the journey will be too long for you.”
In the strength of this food from heaven Elijah journeyed on for 40 days and 40 nights, coming at last to Horeb, the mountain of the Lord. There, in the still small voice of the wind, he was drawn into the presence of God.
We each make our own journey into the presence of God. At times we shall know the wilderness whose loneliness touches on despair. It is there, sometimes at the darkest moment, that the Lord awakens our faith. His living presence becomes our food, sustaining our lives for the continuing journey, a journey whose ending is the still, gentle embrace of the Father.
Elijah’s journey through the wilderness, fed by angels, was an anticipation of the Eucharist. “I am the living Bread that comes down from heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live for ever; and the Bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the World.”
In the preceding verses Jesus had explained the mystery that we encounter in Christ as the living Bread. “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me. It is written in the prophets: they will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me.”
As we approach the Eucharist we are already accompanied by a loving Father, a Father who brings us into the presence of the Son in whom he has rejoiced from all eternity.
The celebration of the Eucharist is always begun with the celebration of the Word of God. Jesus explained that the Father, who brings us to Christ as the living Bread, is the same Father who leads us to Christ as the living Word.“It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me.”
Each and every Holy Communion places us at the heart of an exchange beyond any human expectation. In this dialogue it is the Father himself who speaks to our hearts, revealing in us the presence of his Son.
Jesus emphasised that when we come to him as the Bread of life, we live already with a life that is eternal.
The quality of this life is not simply that it reaches beyond death, but that even now it enables us to live in the intimacy of the Father and the Son.