My grandmother, Annie, used to make bread in her small kitchen. She had five children and was very poor. She had to make sure she made enough bread to feed the family. She made her own bread because she could not afford to buy store bread. When she was making the bread she put in it, along with flour and yeast, the love she had inside of her knowing that she was making food to nourish her family. She made the bread freely, without grumbling or complaining because she was giving sustenance to the family. She would not explain it that way because all she knew was that she was feeding her family. Her husband, my grandfather, always ate first. My mother recalled that she always hoped he did not take too much so she would have enough.
Bread is the universal food throughout the world. It comes in many flavors, sizes, textures, and ways of being prepared. Always, always, the poor of the world struggle to have enough bread to feed their family. It is easy to make, it does not spoil easily, it is easy to transport, and even little ones can eat it. I go into the grocery store and am faced with a plethora of items. I feel guilty with the choices I can make because I am constantly aware of the poor in our midst who would love to have just enough to eat. The feeling passes so quickly when I get home, open the bags of groceries, and eat my favorite food before I can put it away.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking about Living Bread in the Eucharist. “Whoever eats this bread will live forever”. Jesus is telling us as we eat the Bread of the Eucharist we will desire to be the best we can be in this world. We will grow evermore in strength and courage to act in ways that will help the poor and needy and not put ourselves first. It means that we must change our thinking and attitude about what we say and do. Also it means that we must look at the world with new eyes and open our hearts even more to urgings of God to “Feed my Lambs” not only with physical food but spiritual food.
How can we do this? This is a quote from Pedro Arrupe SJ, Servant of God.“First of all I must realize that if there is hunger in the world, then our celebration of the Eucharist is somehow incomplete everywhere in the world. (Repeat)
In the Eucharist we receive Christ hungering in the world. He comes to us, not alone, but with the poor and oppressed, the starving of the earth. Through him they are looking to us for help, for justice, for love expressed in action. Therefore we cannot properly receive the Bread of Life unless at the same time we give the bread of life to those in need wherever and whoever they may be.” (Pedro Arrupe SJ, Servant of God.)
There are some of us here at Jesus Our Shepherd that are saying right now to ourselves that we cannot do this. We are ordinary people with a limited budget. How can we feed the people of the world? I say that to myself as well. It helps me to think of the many ways we can feed the world. I would like to suggest a few things that makes me aware of the many opportunities around me.
First of all, I try to make myself aware world news that shows the needs of children. I see the refugee camps outside of Syria, the outbreaks of disease in Africa, the terrible destruction that is coming to Baghdad unless something miraculous happens. I see the hordes of army soldiers pointing guns at each other and try to remember that they were little children once and their mothers will grieve over their death. I pray in advance for the grief that can happen on both sides. I can be more conscious of the food that I eat now and to pray throughout the meal for the children that are hungry right now. I can try to explain to my children and grandchildren what is happening around us and around the world and ask them to think of ways alleviate suffering.
Lately I been made aware that I have a resistance to accept the goodness of others: the food of Christ that people have offered me. My mind often becomes closed and I try to go forward alone and not accept people’s food that they are offering. To receive the full Eucharist I need to seek humility and accept the gifts that God, through others, is giving to me.
This constant struggle to be in full Communion with others is ongoing, continuous, and can never be complete. It is for us to continue to try.