Reflections on the Readings
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 12, 2012 - Year B
The Living Bread
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:51)
It is said that we become what we eat. Too many pounds and too much cholesterol and high triglycerides reveal a diet too rich and too fat and too sweet. That is the way our bodies respond when too many meals come from fast food restaurants rather than from the fresh food and produce section of the store. Jesus tells us we receive eternal life and resurrection when we eat the bread he offers us.
Bread is common in many cultures and religions. Historically it is known as the staff of life; a necessary food. I have a colleague who tells of his mother's tradition of making fresh bread every Saturday for the family. Even though the family has grown up and have their own families, the tradition continues, and every Saturday his mom makes more bread. When my friend talks to me about the fresh homemade buns his mother makes I can smell the aroma of fresh bread. There's nothing quite like homemade bread! My friend's mother not only makes great homemade bread but she has created a lifetime of memories right in her own kitchen. She gives her family her life and love in the bread that she makes.
For the Israelites, bread from heaven fell on the floor of the desert, and every morning the families of that great nation gathered their daily bread. Remembering this miraculous help the Psalmist exclaimed, "Taste and see how good the Lord is." The manna had a hint of honey. And for forty years they marched through the desert in the strength that bread from heaven provided them. But this bread provided only for their physical needs. Jesus explains, "Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died." It was a divine provision but did not impart divine life. That life would come when Mary would give birth to the Son of God in the little town of Bethlehem, the House of Bread.
Jesus reveals and offers to us a unique and personal relationship with him. In the books of the Old Testament the Father taught his people. God's words and commandments reveal his everlasting love for his people. He gathers his sheep in his arms and he carries them out of bondage to a land he promises flows with milk and honey. In that land of promises he teaches his people not to be deceived nor to enter into covenants with foreign gods. He asks them to beware of gods made in the image of man with eyes that cannot see and with mouths that cannot speak. He warns them that to stray from him will bring them into poverty of soul and body. He laments the struggle and hurt of his people when they forsake him and he watches over them as their joys turn into heartache. And as they hang their harps on the willow branches, unable to sing the Lord's praise in a foreign land, they remember when God once fed them with bread from heaven.
Today is the day of salvation. For nearly 21 centuries the Church offers Jesus, the bread sent down from heaven. It is time we pursue again this bread for ourselves and for our loved ones. It gives us the life of Jesus. It is personal, life changing, and helps us to be authentic and true witnesses of grace. A personal relationship with Jesus is neither corny nor out of style. Sometimes I ask folks, "How are you and Jesus getting along?" When we gaze upon the sacrificial offering of Jesus we detect a fragrant and renewing aroma of heavenly bread, the bread of life come down from heaven. And that living bread imparts to all who partake of it an incorruptible life.
How does Jesus change us? He changes us from the inside out. He shows us the way out of bitterness, fury, and anger, all things that originate in our heart. But when we eat the living bread we no longer partake of the rancid ways of shouting, reviling, and malice. When we eat the living bread we receive the power and the courage to forgive each other as God has forgiven us in the Son of his love. From the very heart of fervent love, the bread of heaven came down to us. He is the loaf of love from which we receive the daily bread that transforms us into sons and daughters of the Father. (see 2nd reading)
St. Paul instructs us to beware of grieving the Holy Spirit. He points to the superior life giving ways of kindness and compassion. When we truly learn from the heart of the Father we will see the furnace of divine charity from which he give us the true bread from heaven. When we eat this bread we become the face and voice and hands of Jesus.
O my Jesus, how we adore you. We lay our lives before you. We beg your merciful love to flow over us and we ask again for that heavenly banquet. Fill us with the bread that gives us life even the life you promise to all who will partake. We come to you hungry for a new spirit and a new heart. Ever give us your life in this bread which is your body that we may have life and have it more abundantly. Amen
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com