Most persons eat some kind of bread almost every day. By calling Himself the Bread of Life, Jesus identifies himself and his ministry with a basic component of life. Manna, that mysterious feathery substance, had offered the Israelite wanderers in the desert enough food value to sustain them from one day to the next. Now, Jesus declares He is more than prophet or a miracle worker. He is the BREAD of LIFE, the manna in our desert. He feeds us with love and hope and grace and mercy and forgiveness. This is the very food we need to live the full lives God designed for us. As we consume Jesus His indwelling presence nourishes us spiritually and energizes us to put faith into action.
This week the liturgy asks us to share the bread of life. Not the only vaccines and medicine or the vitamins; not the chocolate cake, the animal crackers, the donut holes, the Cheez-Its or chicken or steak, but the very Bread of life -the substance of life, something essential for life itself. The smile, the wave, the “G’mornin” that warms the heart.
The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers, to see similarities rather than differences. We are called to share the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus. He reminds us: “…it wasn’t Moses who gave you bread from heaven. It was ABBA, my Father who gives you TRUE BREAD.”
What kind of “bread” can we offer our weary world? We can be like the blind lady, who waits three times a week at a corner bus stop in a busy city. She labors to climb aboard the bus and is warmly greeted by the driver. She sits down right behind him. In fact, she knows that he had saved this spot for her. They carry on an animated conversation. She asks how his family is. Then she tells him she is scared about losing her Social Security benefits and Meals-on-Wheels. When they reach her stop, the driver helps her off the bus and leads her across the busy street. When he returns to the bus, the woman is still standing where he had left her. “She won’t move till she knows I got back safely,” he explains to other riders. He honks the horn three times and she smiles and waves her thanks.
A blind lady and a lowly bus driver, two seemingly insignificant persons who had scarcely “five loaves and two fish” between them. Yet, Jesus blesses what little they have and hands it back to them. Each made a contribution from what little they had. They could have cursed and complained about having so little and hoarded their meager gifts to themselves. But, instead they fed each other from their small store of compassion and caring. Jesus tells His disciples on the hillside: “Bring me your loaves and fish and do not back off saying, ‘What can you do with so little’? I know your resources are tiny, but don’t give up. Bring them to me to be blessed.”
And, consider the old man who goes daily to the local diner and orders the soup of the day. One day he speaks up and asks for a little more bread. So the next day the manager tells the waitress to give him four slices of bread instead of just two. But that day the old man once again asks the manager if he could have “a little more bread.” So the following day the manager tells the waitress to give him eight slices of bread. The owner asks: “How was your meal today, sir?” The old man ponders a moment: “It was good…But you could give a little more bread?”
So…the next day the manager tells the waitress to give him a whole loaf of bread with his soup. And when the manager once again asks how the meal was, the old man replies by saying: “It was good, but you could give just a little more bread.” The manager is now puzzled but determined to hear this customer say that he is satisfied with his meal. So he goes to the bakery and purchases a six-foot-long loaf of bread.
When the elderly man comes in as usual the next day, the waitress and the manager cut the loaf in half, buttered the entire length of each half, and lay it right next to his bowl of soup. The old man devours both the bowl of soup, and both halves of the six-foot-long loaf of bread. The manager was sure he would get the answer he is looking for. So when the old man came up to pay for his meal, the manager asks “How was your meal TODAY, sir?” The old man replies: “Oh, it was good as usual, but I see you are back to giving only two pieces of bread.”
Doesn’t that sound just like us? Like the Isoraelites in the desert? And the people who chased after Jesus looking for more bread? We’ve a lot in common – hard to please. No matter how many pieces of bread…it’s never enough. It’s easy, so easy – to fall into the “more-more-more trap.” To be self-centered and self-absorbed with a ME agenda. This Gospel calls us to “look around” – goodness is happening! You’re the one that’s missing it. Notice and whisper thanks to God for the BREAD you’ve been overlooking.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB