Bread in the Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

August 2, 2015

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Gospel reading is: 6: 24-35

Last week we read about the five thousand who were fed by Jesus after a young boy came forward with some bread and dried fish. They were all fed and the Apostles gathered up 12 baskets full of fragments.

This week many of the same folks who were fed follow Jesus to the other side of the lake, not knowing how he got there. They ask Him when He got there. Jesus doesn’t answer their question but does let them know that He knows why they got there; he fed them and they wanted more.

Jesus then begins to preach and tell them not to search for the bread that feeds only the body. He says look for the bread that endures to eternal life. They then ask that all-important question: “What must we do to perform the works of God?”

The works? They ask Jesus what work He is performing and they allude to the manna their ancestors were given in the desert. Jesus said God gave them the manna, bread from heaven to eat. And He is now that “Bread.” The crowd wants that Bread always, they say. Jesus promises: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

In our Tradition, we speak about Jesus, the Bread from Heaven, in many ways. The Word of God is Bread from heaven. We hear the Word and take it in as food for the journey. It strengthens us. We also see Jesus in the bread and wine we consecrate at the holy Eucharist, the mass.

We call this presence the “Real Presence,” to distinguish it from the many other ways Jesus is present to us on our journey. We recall the words of Jesus on the night before He died when He took bread and took a cup of wine and told the ones He loves: “This is my Body, this is my Blood. Do this in memory of me.”

So, whenever we come together to worship, we listen to the Word of God, we take it in and make it our own. We come to the Welcome Table and take the Body and Blood of Jesus, we eat and drink and we come away from the Table fortified by the Food from Heaven. It is not easy to live the Word, but when we eat the bread and drink the cup we become what we eat—Jesus. As Mass end we are sent to go in peace and love and serve our God and each other.   We now leave the church and the “work” of Jesus in us begins.

Our worship now moves from the sanctuary into the marketplace where the strength we received to be Christ is put into action. The challenges we experience in a broken society, one in which lives, especially the lives of African Americans, don’t count for much. If our worship meant anything it meant that we must confront these injustices.

And that’s not all; we will see other people hurting and in pain from broken relationships, physical or mental illness and hungry people who do need bread. If our worship and our receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ is muted by our own selfishness, then we need to go back and ask Jesus to crack our hard hearts open to be able to see the hunger and hurt of others and respond as He did. And keep coming to the Welcome Table.