19th Sunday in OT (Cycle B)
August 7-8, 2021
Gospel: John 6:41-51
In an episode of “The Food That Built America” found on The History Channel, it tells the following story…
Back in 1940, two brothers, Dick and Maurice were feeling pretty good about themselves. They had finally, after numerous rejections by the banks, been able to secure a loan for $5,000.00 to open a small drive-in restaurant in San Bernadino, CA. They were a hit in the first year. Teenaged boys liked to frequent the place in their beat-up cars, lingering to flirt with the cute carhops. Young families seemed to enjoy the place, too, because it was inexpensive and relatively fast. After eight years of modest success, the brothers were not satisfied, so they took a chance. Guessing that their customers would sacrifice variety for speed, they closed for a while to make some changes. They fired all the carhops. They shortened their menu from 29 items to nine, focusing almost exclusively on hamburgers and cheeseburgers. They replaced the plates and silverware with paper bags, wrappers and paper cups. Then they re-opened and waited for the crowds.
NOBODY CAME. The McDonald brothers were stunned when business actually fell off. For a while, they had to ask employees to put their cars in the customer’s parking lot so that it would appear they had some business. One can only imagine the second-guessing that must have gone on. Should they have taken the risk and made the change? Was it too late to go back to the old way and be satisfied with that? The brothers decided to stick with their new system and see where it would take them.
The ambivalence of Dick and Maurice McDonald at that moment is something that most of us can relate to. There are times when we face an uncertain future. Lured by a promise of something better, we often take that risk. But uncertainty nags at us. We wonder if we have made the right choice.
So it is with the life of faith. Jesus beckons us onward to fuller life with Him. We hesitate, decide, have second thoughts and have to renew, from time to time, our commitment to stay with the Lord on this journey.
There is a risk factor involved in the decision to follow Jesus. In this age of “informed consent”, Christianity may need a label attached to it that says, “WARNING: commitment to this faith may be hazardous to your mental health, causing anxious moments, doubts and maybe even regrets about the choice you have made.”
If we are really living our faith, we might at times echo Elijah: “This is enough, O Lord!” He had to be wondering, as he fled Jezabel, if it was all worth it.
It may be the case if we find our faith safe and comfortable. Without the struggle and the risk, without the sense that something is at stake, we are merely play-acting.
NOSTALGIA: taking the best of yesterday and comparing it to the worst of today.
Nostalgia for an idealized past can be a roadblock on our journey of faith. Today’s Gospel begins with the murmuring of the crowd. They have just reacted to Jesus’ offer of “heavenly bread” by recounting the story of their ancestors who were fed manna in the desert. Jesus has called them to something marvelous and new; their reaction is to look longingly to the past. They repeat the mistake of their ancestors.
There is a kind of ironic parallel to this in the last chapter of the McDonald brothers’ story. Their earlier risk had eventually paid off. By 1961 they were making $100,000.00 from their own restaurant and even more from the franchises that had begun to spring up across the country. Yet, they were being pressed by their franchising agent, Ray Kroc, to expand even further, maybe to a thousand outlets. They balked at this. So they sold out to Ray Kroc. Today there are more than 37,000 McDonald’s Restaurants in 120 countries around the world.
Along with the risks of faith comes a promise that the Lord will be with us. On his trek to the mountain of God, Elijah was sustained by “angelic” food and Jesus assures his listeners that if they risk following Him, they will be given “heavenly” bread that satisfies completely.
Our pilgrimages of faith involve risks and challenges, but we are given something to sustain us on that journey: JESUS, the bread of life. We gather now to break the bread and pour the cup, confident that those who eat and drink shall life forever.