Friday, August 7, 2015

Homily(2) 19th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily(2) 19th  Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ps 34:2-9; Eph 4:30­-5:2 and John 6:41-51

 Tasting (Tā`am/etabi) the Lord’s Goodness!

I remember years ago, I lived in the same house with Fr. Charles (May he rest in peace). On free evenings, he would ask me to take a ride with him towards  Riverhead. On the way we would stop by in the farms to look at those green crops, animals the goodness of the Lord, and taste some wine in a few local wineries. Could you believe,  I was always afraid because I am not a huge wine drinker. But he would always say to me “just taste and see, you don’t have to drink it all. Some of them are quite sweet. You may like it.”  Of course, I tasted  some in faith, trusting what the priest of God told me. And truly, I saw, and I realized that some of them were quite sweet and less in alcohol content than I thought.

Today we celebrate the Lord's Goodness and I can hear repeatedly in today's Bible readings, an invitation  extended to us to come and taste not just ordinary wine, the type Father invited me to taste, but Christ the bread of life, his love, goodness, forgiveness and generosity. It would only take faith and trust to do this,  to respond to this invitation, to taste this type of goodness!
We hear this invitation in the  1st reading, where the fleeing Prophet Elijah is miraculously asked to eat and drink, or, is provided with food that gave him strength, not only to defeat Jezebel,  overcome the false prophets and false gods of his time, but to journey to the mountain of the true and living God. We can see it in today’s Psalm 34, verse 9a; which clearly says, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” We can see it in the 2nd reading where Paul admonishes the church at Ephesus to walk in love, which only Christ can give.

Above all, we can see and hear this invitation in today’s Gospel, John 6:41-51. Building on last Sunday’s passage, Christ, in today’s Gospel, insists that he is the living bread of life that came down from heaven. And that whoever eats this bread will live forever, overcoming challenges, sufferings and death.

Granted that these biblical stories are often presented to us in  coated  and symbolic language , challenges our faith and demands a second look at the text, by us with prayerful questions raised. After reading today's text one might ask, what is the meaning of tasting the goodness of the Lord?  Is God wine or food to be tasted?  Or how can one eat God like bread? What does this say to the poor or those who do not really have physical bread to eat. And how was it possible for Elijah to defeat false gods, and escape the onslaught  of Jezebel only to be fed by an angel of the Lord?

Answers to these questions root back to the Hebrew word for taste- Tā`am, used in this reading.  In my native (Efik/Annang) language, it is translated as etabi or tum. This word simply means “to discover by experience” the goodness of the Lord, which we have seen throughout the history of our salvation. It means to seek the lord, to bless the Lord, to walk in love with the Lord, to travel with God, to journey with God, to trust God in all things, especially in times of difficulties. It means to believe in God; to take refuge in the Lord, to have faith in God and in his teaching through the Church. It means to have God as our companion in our life's journeys- whatever we are doing, wherever we are!

With God everything is possible. Our faith and sacramental journeys in the Church are like that of Elijah. Sometimes the journey is long and bumpy? Sometimes they may also be modern Jezebels and forms of life challenges, on our journeys. But, we must endure and trust in God. Ta’am challenges us to re-examine how faithful we are to our promises, especially those ones we took at baptism, matrimony or holy order?  It challenges our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist?
Just as it takes some level of trust to taste or attempt a new wine, and food we are not familiar with, it takes deeper faith to believe the stories told us in the Bible, and the faith taught us by the Church.

Tasting the goodness of the Lord provides us a platform to review how we judge our neighbors, the church from a distance. Sometimes, we need to taste, to be closer to someone,  in order to know how wonderful and generous the person is.  We only need to encourage our friends and children, husbands and wives to come back to the church  then they would realize the benefit of trusting in the Lord or how much they have missed by staying away from the church.

In a predominantly secular and challenging times like ours, today, we can further taste the goodness of the Lord when we trust God at all times, in everything we do, especially when we visit with our doctors with faith in God, denounce idolatry of today, work hard to fix our broken families, bring our kids to the church, and endure with hope the loss of our loved ones.  We can taste the goodness of the Lord when we make effort to sincerely forgive those whom we once thought were our enemies; of course reach out to the poor and the oppressed and those who do not have even the physical bread to eat. We can taste the goodness of the Lord, who is love, when we love our neighbors, protect our family values, our children, grandchildren, persevere in our marriages, religious and priestly vocation, – above all trust in Christ, our Living Bread, the sweet source of life, our protector, and our fortress.