Bread with an Attitude: 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time B

Father Jim Valk's picture

Father Jim Valk

July 30, 2012

“I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never be hungry again”. Do you believe?

I was in Bolivia at a time when food was scarce. Bread, the food of the poor, was especially in short supply. As I stood in line at the open ovens, waiting for my turn to receive one piece of bread for each person in my house, I noticed a little boy watching. There were nine of us waiting for bread but the people told the baker to give us what we needed. As I turned away, the little fellow followed me. It was obvious that he was very hungry, probably hadn't eaten for some time. I asked him if he was hungry and he said yes. Well, I gave him one of the pieces of bread. (I hoped it wasn't my piece!!). He stuck it in his shirt and took off down the path. I followed him expecting that he would wolf down the bread. He entered a hovel. Looking in the window (no glass) I saw 3 little children sitting on the dirt floor and the mother, sick on a straw mattress. The little fellow shared half of the bread with his siblings and then with some tea, soaked bread in it and fed his mother. Off he went to another hovel where there was an old grandmother. She got the last of the bread. When the little fellow saw me he panicked but I asked him if there were others who needed bread. He nodded, yes, so I gave him all the bread. The boys at the house, anxiously waiting for bread, never got it. But together we arranged to have a bread line so that everyone would be fed. The attitude was not in the bread. It was in the men who shared bread.

When Jesus spoke of the bread it wasn't to be just bread, but rather about the gift of life. He knew the hungers of the people- hungers for God's love, hungers of freedom, of healing, for hope. What hungers do you and I have? How do we satisfy them? Jesus tells us not to go after the perishable food that will not give life for the soul, nor for the heart. See beyond! Reach out!

In the first reading we see the Israelites hungering for the freedom from slavery. (What enslaves us?) On the journey they complained- no food, no water. Why leave Egypt- slaves but fed? Yes, they were fed by God, the manna and the quail and they had water. But they were not satisfied. What was needed was a trust that God would take care of them. What was asked of them was faith in the love, the goodness, the hospitality of God.

The theme is carried on in the Gospel. Jesus sees that the people are not satisfied- they wanted more than bread- they wanted the bakery. They had seen the multiplication of the loaves and yet asked for a sign. Why did they not see? They were tied up with the material things and so could not see. They saw the miracle but missed the sign, the message Jesus wanted to share. Am I blind to the signs of God in my daily life?

I once asked my Dad why we were not rich. We had been complaining that we didn't have “all the stuff” that other families seemed to have. His answer was very simple but right on the mark-“We are rich, we just don't have money”. Is God the center of my life? Three men were building a church. When asked what they were doing, all gave an answer. One said I'm tired of putting in these foundations. One grumbled, I'll be glad when this is done. The third man, with a smile on his face, responded- I'm building a cathedral for God. What an attitude! Some people around Jesus saw things and Jesus not as they were but as they saw them, and so missed the boat. It reminds me of a man who wanted a pet. He got a bird that could sing. The first day home the man heard the beautiful music and was enthralled. He took the bird out of the cage and what did he see- a bird with only one leg. He took the bird back and complained. The owner only asked him - did you want a singer or a dancer? Jesus invites us to choose his way, to accept his message. Sing together, walk together- listen to the music of life. Do we work for food that does not satisfy? Do we nourish each other? Do we have the right attitude? We are called to be companions on the journey. The word companion comes from the Latin words- cum panis- meaning with bread. A companion is one with whom we eat bread, share the journey of life. Jesus is our bread and he walks with us. It's scary to think that when we die, if we have not been companions with one another, God might say, sadly,- did you come alone? How could you?

Jesus touched the hungers in many; he awoke hungers in others; he nourished the hungers of still others. He asked us to do the same. Jesus gives us his life- he stays with us! The bread of life, the Eucharist is God's life to us- to bind us together, to strengthen us, to support us. With that bread he calls us to not just perform the works of God, but to do God's work. He says- this is my body, given for you. Take and eat, but for many this gift, this attitude was too much for people. Is it too much for us? To have “wonder” bread is to see the wonder of God giving his life for us.

Jesus took bread, blest it, broke it, and gave it to us. Four things. He TOOK bread. He takes us with all our talents, hurts, joys. He calls us to follow him, be faithful. God chooses us, inspires us. The angel asked Jesus- is this all there is? No second team? What if they fail? We are it. He BLEST it. He blesses us in so many ways and often- in forgiveness, in compassion, in hope. We are never alone, always with his encouragement and support. Have you blest someone recently, a touch, a word a call? He BROKE it. He sees the good in us. He transforms us through his love and care. His healing gives us the strength we need in the hurts of our lives. Are we aware of his presence? Dying to self we give life to others. In the end, with Jesus, we are wounded healers. He GAVE us to one another. There was not enough bread to eat for all the people- until they all gave. And then, there was lots left over. Jesus gives us to each other. There may be someone in your life who will never know God's love if not for you and me. I have come that you might have life, life in abundance. I have told you this that my JOY might be in you and your joy be complete.

What a wonderful attitude! Today, let's build something beautiful for God and let's do it together.