Bread of Life

20 Dec

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Christmas is only 5 days away. With most of the shopping out of the way, I can better concentrate on the real reason for Christmas Day. We celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8 ) Meanwhile, we joyfully and hopefully await the time when Christ will come again according to His promise: “Surely I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)

Christmas is a very busy time for most of us. I mentioned the shopping. It seems impossible to escape, especially when the advertisements for Christmas sale items begin on television as early as October. And then there are the parties with family, friends, at work…The list of activities is endless…

There I was tonight, then, baking a loaf of bread in the old bread machine my mom gave me when I left home. I meticulously added all the ingredients. Perfect, I thought. I was just about to add the last ingredient, yeast. Only then did it occur to me that I had added twice the salt the recipe called for! Surely that just wouldn’t do for tomorrow’s potluck at work, so I had to start all over again. I was somewhat upset at my lack of attentiveness. As a scientist in a lab, I am known for impeccable attention to minutiae- except when I fail to pay attention!

I did eventually get the loaf of bread started, and it smelled great. I really enjoy baking bread, even if it’s taking five minutes to put the ingredients together then letting a machine finish the job. As I was starting the bread machine, I thought of the Bread of Life that is our Lord whom we Christians worship. Every time Catholics attend Mass, we are invited to partake of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist:

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19-20)

This passage can have multiple meanings. Of course, Christ’s physical body and Human life was to be sacrificed on the cross for the sins of humankind. In that sense Christ gave us His body that we might remember our Redeemer’s free gift of salvation that humanity receives by the love and grace of God.

This is important, though there is a second sense to receiving the Eucharist in memory of the Lord. St Augustine (354-430) urged us to “be what you receive”. Our mission therefore is to strive to be Christ to others. In the words of St. Theresa of Avila, “Christ has no hands on earth but yours…” The Church is made up of many members of the one body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). Jesus commanded His followers to show this to the world by our Christian love. In His ministry, Christ gave us a recipe of how to accomplish this, much like a recipe for a loaf of bread. If we listen attentively and follow properly, we will be successful. If not, the result is sin and thus failure. But in Jesus’ forgiveness are the ingredients necessary to start afresh if need be.

So I offer a few thoughts on following Jesus, in the form of a bread recipe, that we may be parts (members) of the one living bread (body) that is Jesus to this world.

First, start with the most basic ingredient, flour. It is the ingredient of highest quantity. We do many things without necessarily thinking that we do them for the Lord. We perform basic instinctual routines necessary for our own survival, which take up most of our time.

The next ingredient is sugar. A smile and a sense of humour go a long way. Random acts of kindness also help us to see Christ in ourselves and in others.

For just a bit of flavour, a pinch of salt might be added. But don’t add too much (that’s a lesson I’ve learned, I hope :). Be salt for the earth (cf. Matthew 5:13). Preach the truth revealed to us by God, but practice it, too (that’s a lesson I’m still learning). The everlasting message of God’s love and the Father’s gift of His Son is lost on some through too much preaching with too little put into practice.

Then we need butter, margarine or shortening. Any of the three choices are acceptable. They all can contribute flavour to the bread while helping hold the loaf together. Here, another gem from St. Augustine rings true: “In unimportant things, diversity. In important things, unity. And in all things, charity”.

Then we get to the wet ingredients. The first is water. Jesus gives us living water to drink, and is an endless source for the asking. Sometimes, though, we’re as confused as the Samaritan woman when asked to get Jesus a drink from the well. (cf. John 4:4-42) Regardless of our background, culture, previous actions, etc…, we’re all asked to serve God as Jesus served humanity when he lived and ministered among us, died, and rose from the dead.

Next, milk is added. Milk is the first nourishment tasted by many human babies. We are called to humble ourselves to be like little children in accepting the eternal nourishment from the Lord.

Finally, we add yeast to most bread. In our lives, we are the leaven to the bread of life we receive at Communion. In living the Word of God the bread rises and fills us, and we are able to better carry out Christ’s will for us.

In our earthly lives, the bread we are called to be is kneaded and allowed to rise, then the knead-rise cycle is repeated as necessary, to make sure of our readiness for Heaven. The bread is then baked and God notices a pleasing, fresh aroma. That’s when we achieve God’s purpose for us: to be like Him. We become the united and perfect vessel for God’s Word, Jesus Christ Our King.



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