Let us reflect on Jesus speaking of himself as “the bread of life”. People say bread doesn’t taste like it used to. I can remember walking in the evening past a local bakery and being almost carried away by the smell of the bread. Nowadays most people buy their bread at supermarkets. I don’t know whether it is true, but I have heard it said that they use some kind of spray to imitate that smell of freshly baked bread! Bread has been called “the staff of life”, because it is the basic food in virtually every culture to support bodily life, yet it really is a case – there’s nothing worse than stale bread that can break your teeth! People say how lovely French bread is, they’re quite right, it is, but you have to go to the baker’s two or three times a day to get fresh supplies, because it goes stale within hours of coming out of the oven. Here today, gone tomorrow!
When Jesus says he is the bread of life, what images does that conjure up? We do not think of lovely crusty, mouthwatering bread, or even the different kinds of bread used in Christian Communion Services? But the “staff” which is a spiritual guide (like a bishop’s crosier) is the angle that we need to ponder.
Today’s reading recalls the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the last Supper with the betrayal by Judas, the Betrayal, the Vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane, to this day a place of haunting beauty and is so pregnant with meaning. At that Supper, Jesus blesses the bread and the wine, and says “this is my body, this is my blood”. When we receive Communion in the blessed bread and wine, we are receiving again life of Jesus into our lives, and also, amazing thought, as one of the saints put it, – we become what we receive – in receiving Our Lord in communion, we are being called to become Christ ourselves.
What a challenge that is, and one that assumes particular significance as we reflect on the events of the first Holy Week. In our day to day living, we need fresh bread to be our “staff” of bodily life as part of a balanced diet, and it is so common place that we do not normally give it a second thought. But, the Jesus bread is actually even more important for the nourishing of our souls. We also need Jesus as the “staff” of our spiritual lives, we need to get close to him as our soul’s staple sustenance, to rely on him as much as we do with ordinary bread, we need to let him feed our souls, and nourish us in our Christian life. And how are we going to do that? It is a salutary truth how even for devoted Christians the daily routines of living can push Jesus to one side.
This week in particular we need to acknowledge our brokenness, we need to ask him to come again into our lives, we need to repent of all the things in our lives that we have done and which are displeasing to him, we need to take time regularly to be with him through prayer, and through the Scriptures. In other words, to use a common saying, Holy Week is the time for a spiritual Spring Clean! Jesus has promised that he will be forever with those who truly want him, and of course the choice is ours, but every time we receive Communion it should be the opportunity to re-commit our lives to him. Remember Jesus’ promise that He would be with those who love Him forever, and pray as you receive the bread of life in Communion that he will feed you spiritually all the time, so that you may be more worthy of the name, Christian.
Fr. Edward Bryant