April 13, 2016
The following homily was originally delivered at a school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School (Indianapolis) on May 7, 2014:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger…” (John 6:35)
Think about the number of times bread is mentioned in scriptures. God dropped manna from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert. Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes in feeding the five thousand. At the Last Supper, Jesus offered the Apostles bread, saying, “This is my body.” The disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
Think about how important bread is. When you hear that a huge winter storm is on its way, what ‘s the first thing to fly off the shelves? Bread is a staple food for many. My wife has traveled many times to El Salvador. She tells me that the women of the village spend a majority of their day focused on bread – grinding the corn, kneading the dough, and baking it over the fire – making sure they have enough bread to feed their family. Bread is survival.
When I was a little kid, I used to go to the Wonder Bread Bakery on the south side of Indianapolis with my mom.
I loved going. It was an opportunity to be with my mom one-on-one. With six kids in the family, getting individual attention was tough. Another reason I enjoyed it had to do with the bakery employees. They were so happy. They all had smiles. They would give me a paper baker’s hat and sometimes allowed me go into the back room where the baking was done and push some of the buttons on the machines.
I remember asking my mom why everyone there was so happy. She responded, “They’re happy because they are making something everyone needs. How nice to be able to do that.”
Later in the Mass, we will pray the Our Father together. We will say the words, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When we pray these words, what are we really asking of God? Are we asking for actual physical bread? Are we asking God to make us a sandwich every day? No, we are asking Him to feed us. To fill us spiritually. To give us what we need to sustain our faith.
We must guard against this becoming one-sided. We shouldn’t be “receivers” only. We should not only be fed, but feed others as well. It is the difference between having an active or a passive faith. It’s not enough to sit back passively and say, “OK, Lord, do your thing – give me faith.”
We need to be sponges, soaking in all that God has to offer us. However, there is a second step. We then need to wring ourselves out and share our faith with others.
Our faith comes through in how we treat one another, how we talk to one another, how we lift up and affirm one another, how we hold one another accountable, and how we love one another.
When we do all of these things well, we are sharing our faith. We are feeding and sustaining others.
We become the bread of life – which is exactly what God had in mind.