Bread In The Wilderness

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Fr. Carl Diederichs

As I was growing up in the little farming community of Marytown, Wisconsin, the church was literally and spiritually at the center of life. The church, built in 1849, stands on the highest hill in the town. You can see it for miles around. And today it is as beautiful as ever.

Over the last few years I have returned to Marytown with friends so they can see the church of my youth. And when I am inside, I think of my First Communion and the many communions after that. It did have a life-long influence on me.

It was the place for worship, and more specifically the Mass. It was the Mass that captured our attention. The wonderful rituals and singing, the incense, the vestments, the candles, the bread and wine, all combined to provide a lasting impression. But is was only with time that I came to truly appreciate the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ given to us for the journey. The Gospel of John 6: 51-58 has Jesus telling his disciples and us that He is “The living bread that came down from heaven.”

This “Living Bread” is not only meant for eternal life, or life sometime in the future, but now. He says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” So, right here right now we are living the life of Jesus. The wonderful statement of St. Augustine that I often use just before we receive communion, “We become what we eat,” is such a proactive statement. We are fed by God to become like God. Sure, we receive grace from God in so many ways and we know that the Spirit of Jesus has been with us since the moment of our baptism, but the Eucharist focuses on our need to be fed by God to do the works of God. We need strength for the journey. And we need to gather around a common table with all the rest.

The journey isn’t a solo walk with Jesus. We are fed along with our sisters and brothers to work for peace and justice. So the works of Jesus must become our work too. And that means reaching out to the people Jesus reached out to; the marginalized, the children, the poor, the sick, the old, the sinners, and the folks without enough of the very things you and I take for granted.

If we become what we eat when we approach the Welcome Table, then our lives ought to reflect the life of Jesus: kindness, mercy, love, forgiveness, and a prophetic voice for the marginalized. Yes, we can take time after communion to remain in silence and reflect on what just happened, but then we must get up and move into action for those who need us so much.

We become what we eat.