“Jesus said to them: ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
In John’s gospel, Jesus tells us: “I am the bread of life,” and adds we will never hunger, nor thirst. What a remarkable statement!
For the weeks in late July and August, we read Chapter 6 and consider the multiplication of loaves and fishes and Jesus’s saving acts of healing and teaching. People are following him and coming to Jesus with their own needs and genuine hunger.
Take note of the reading from Exodus. Moses called on God to feed his people and witness the miracle of the manna in the desert. Thus, Jesus identifies himself as the bread of life, central to his message and prophetic calling. I’m reminded of Psalm 34: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Let’s taste and see.
Here is a simple and well-stated truth: “The people you eat with — are the people you belong to.”
I’ll explain by taking you to a familiar place, namely our Andronico’s Community Market on Lighthouse Ave. It’s an interesting choice of name or branding. Not just a supermarket; it’s a community market.
While shopping, a new product on the shelf in the bakery section caught my eye several months ago — an item called “Cici’s Handmade Italian Cookies.” Looking very much like Ladyfingers, or more precisely Lemonknots.
Nicely packaged and wrapped in cellophane, they come in several varieties of lemon, anise, and vanilla sprinkles. So appealing, I purchased the lemon favored cookie or biscotti. Taste and see, so the psalm says — and what did I taste?
Later that evening, I sampled that lemon cookie, and I tasted a memory, a fond memory of my grandmother who baked such a handmade cookie when I was a child – so many years ago. She and her platoon of helpers, her daughters, my mother, and yes, us kids would assist her in the annual baking of cookies, bread, and treats for Christmas and Easter.
Something extraordinary, and in my memory bank, this was a work of love. Do you want to call it a community market? My family marketed a community in my life – now all I have left of those loving people is a fond memory for them and those cookies. Memories that sustain me so, so many years later.
A simple and well-stated truth: “The people you eat with — are the people you belong to.”
Recently, I re-read a commentary on John 6 from pope-emeritus Benedict. He reminds us that the manna in the desert was not heavenly food. Instead, this bread was earthly food or a food substitute for the Jewish people on their journey to a promised land. He states: “A person hungers for more. We need more. The gift that feeds us must be greater, must be on a wholly different level.”
Pope Benedict directs us to Jesus on Palm Sunday, where the Lord embraces Jews, Greeks, and all people of the world. In the Lord’s words, he tells us: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Jn 12:24).
The retired pope concludes: “What we call “bread” contains the mystery of the Passion. Before there can be bread, the seed – the grain of wheat – first has to be placed in the earth, it has to die, and then a new era can grow out of this death.”
Such comments help us fathom our gospel passage and Jesus’s self-identification when he says: “I am the bread of life…that gives life to the world.”
Back to my initial point: “The people you eat with are the people you belong to.” In a way, this, too, is a love story. In celebrating this Eucharist, can we taste the memory of Jesus, the very bread of life!
Here we are in a ritual meal. Jesus is revealed in the “breaking of the bread.” Jesus’s ongoing presence is a comfort and healing support for our daily lives.
And most significantly, on this journey of life, this food satisfies our spiritual hunger in such a way to assure us that those around this table are the very people we belong to.
Again, as Pope Francis reminds us, the Eucharist is not so much a prize or reward as it is a healing bread of forgiveness, mercy, and tenderness for our life’s journey. Since we don’t live perfect lives, this bread is there to sustain us on the bumpy and sometimes challenging road of life.
Saint Angela’s place is where we listen to words of praise for a God who has been so generous to us by providing his Son as an example of such love that we might live the good life and serve those most in need.
That we may share the good things of this life, and most of all look out for and assist those whose hunger from day to day requires us to stop and pay attention to the needs and hurts of humanity.
The people you eat with today — at this Eucharist, are the very people you belong and are part of.
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Remember, like those cookies at Andronico’s, people come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors — lemon, anise, and vanilla sprinkles!
Saint Angela Merici, Pacific Grove, CA.