Elijah’s journey stands as a model for each one of us in our Christian pilgrimage. Christ is our tree in the desert, the Eucharist is our food from heaven. When humanity sinned against God, what was a beautiful, fertile garden of life became an arid desert of death. Sin and death plagued humanity, but God responded with a tree in the middle of a desert, life growing among death. In our wandering through the desert of sin, we come to rest under the comforting branches, tired from our spiritual journey and needing nourishment. We are given a special salvific food in order to continue our journey to the Lord, to continue our long forty days or journey throughout our lives. This is not just any bread though. It is bread that has been given to us. It is bread that has emerged from a sacrifice, the sacrifice of a body. The bread is the body of Christ, “flesh for the life of the world.” Just as bread must be broken in order to be shared, so Christ’s body was broken on the wood of the cross in order to give life to those trapped in the dry desert of sin. This food emerged from a voluntary offering, not just of a person, but of God himself. Only God can create life in wasteland of sin. Only God can properly nourish us for our trip through this desert back to himself. After all, sometimes the world today feels like a desert. GK Chesterton remarked that the doctrine of Original Sin is the one doctrine which can be proven because people of all faiths and walks of life should be able to agree on the fact that there is something wrong with human nature which needs to be remedied. We are missing something that it feels like we ought to have. The world is constantly seeking a lasting joy and peace, meaning and freedom. All efforts to find that outside of the Lord have failed. Political parties have failed, kings have failed, entertainments have only provided short bursts of pleasure that quickly fade. Certain philosophies that have emerged from the world have placed people at the center of a universe geared toward them, which has brought destruction and misery. Like the Israelites in the desert, the world has exclaimed that, “We are tired of this wretched food.”
The Eucharist is God’s response to the world weary from its journey in the desert. We are a pilgrim Church and the Eucharist is our pilgrim food. It does not just lead us to God, it is God, the one that gives nourishment to the soul. God feeds us with himself, with the blood of his own sacrifice. Without this sacrifice, the world would remain a desolate wasteland of sin. The flesh given for the life of the world gives us nourishment, in God is our place of rest. Without God’s grace to accompany us on this journey we would find, as the angel said to Elijah in the first reading, that the journey would be too long for us. It would be all too easy to fall into despair and wonder where God’s presence is. It might be too tempting to wander back into that quagmire of sin and death. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his presence in the Eucharist is our compass that points us out of the desert and the strength to keep moving our souls away from sin and temptation. This is why the Eucharist is referred to by the Church as the source of our faith and our faith’s very height, because from that sacrifice of Christ everything is derived and our faith always leads us back to Christ as the one who gives life in the bread from heaven.