Maria Kozakiewicz

WORD MADE FLESH

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 2, 2015
Exodus 16.2-4, 12-15,31 | Psalm 78 | Ephesians 4.17, 20-24 | John 6.24-35
July 27, 2015

This Sunday's readings are all about bread.

In our day, bread is maligned as a dangerous source of deadly carbs. But for at least 10,000 years, bread, as opposed to meat, was the food of civilized humans.

Bread was the staple food of humanity and thus became a powerful symbol of goodness, plenty and also of home.

In Poland, a new loaf of bread was always blessed with the sign of the cross before it was shared. As a little girl, I was taught to kiss a slice of bread if I dropped it to the ground. I still hear the voice of my Granny, "Maria, pick it up and kiss it."

It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. – John 6.32

'It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.'

John 6.32

There are three kinds of bread mentioned in today's readings: the heavenly bread in the form of manna received by the Hebrews escaping from Egypt, loaves of bread multiplied by Jesus to feed his hungry followers, and finally, the bread of eternal life, Jesus himself.

The very idea of God becoming bread, the staple food of sinful humanity, is breathtaking. Frankly, I am not able to wrap my head around it. All I can do is adore this profound mystery in silence and hope Jesus will open my eyes and mind after I die.

All these breads are united by the fact they are, regardless of their purpose, God's gifts, created for us humans.

The Jewish wanderers set off from Egypt joyously, in obedience to God's call. They were leaving the green shores of the life-giving Nile and its lush fields of the delta, pots filled with cooked meats, and warm loaves of bread on their homes' tables.

At the time of departure, their enthusiasm, fortified with miracles they had witnessed, carried them forth, and the wealth of Egypt was like straw to them. Their hearts danced before the Ark.

When things became difficult – the food running out, water becoming scarce, legs weary from walking and eyes burning from the glaring sun, the people grumbled and rebelled.

God responded to their hunger with the gift of manna that fortified their bodies again. God's gift, however, usually comes with a lesson that pulls one a notch up towards him.

The hungry Jews were allowed to gather enough of the heavenly bread to last only one day. Whenever they disobeyed, collected more and stored this surplus in jars and pots, this illegal manna rotted.

They were being taught to trust God completely, without reservation. They were learning to rely on him alone, not on themselves. They had to stay focused on God. This was their school of prayer, too. They prayed for bread alone, true – but at least they prayed.

Do we? God craves our prayer. He has loved us for such a long time.