Jaime L. WatersJuly 15, 2021
Nadya Spetnitskaya via Unsplash

Both the first reading and the Gospel today remind us to look for ways to encounter God. The second reading speaks of ways to imitate God, fostering our connection to God and one another.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself over for us. (Eph 4:1-2)

Liturgical day
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
1 Kgs 19:4-8; Ps 34; Eph 4:30-5:2; Jn 6:41-51

What actions can you do to imitate God?

Do you encounter God in your interactions with others?

How can you increase love in the world?

In the first reading from 1 Kings, the prophet Elijah finds safety in the wilderness during the reigns of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. These leaders were hostile toward the prophets of Israel, especially Jezebel, as she promoted worship of Canaanite gods. While fleeing for safety, Elijah bemoans his circumstances and wishes for death, but an angel urges him to care for himself and prepare to continue his journey. Elijah’s dire circumstances and the divine response offer us an example of how to deal with hostility in our lives, seek refuge and also resist persecution. Ultimately, Elijah’s journey takes him away from his moment of distress and leads him to a dramatic encounter with God at Horeb.

The Gospel, too, speaks about divine encounter. Jesus again speaks of himself as the bread that nourishes and sustains life. With parallels to the story of the Israelites complaining in the wilderness to Moses, today we hear the community complaining and murmuring because of Jesus. Jesus reminds them that he was sent from the Father in heaven and an encounter with him leads to eternal life.

The second reading reminds us to be like God in our thoughts and actions. This principle is often referred to as imitation of God (imitatio Dei), and it instructs believers to see God as an example for how to live. This concept builds on the idea of humanity created in the image of God (imago Dei). Ephesians offers examples of actions to avoid and to embrace. “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”

As the passage continues, believers are reminded that the love that God gives humanity is a model for how we should love one another. This text is vitally important, today and always. In particular, it requires that we look at Christ’s sacrificial death not only as a saving act for us but as an example to us. Love and sacrifice are exemplified in Christ on the cross, and we are challenged to embrace and embody this teaching in our lives. How can we live selflessly and sacrificially for one another? The simple answer is by treating one another with dignity and respect while condemning hate. These are the conditions of an authentic imitation of God, recognizing that in encounter with one another, we encounter the image of God.

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