Getting Past Bread: A Holy Week Reflection

I have an Iranian office mate.  My contact with the Iranians has been educational in my understanding of the Scriptures.  One thing he’s really big on is bread.  One time we went to a bakery where he brought a loaf of sourdough bread, which he consumed in its entirety–in one sitting.  I bring bread from all kinds of sources, one or two sittings is all it takes for it to be consumed.

Bread is a big deal in the Middle East.  It’s not an accident that, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them to pray for their sustenance in this way: “Give us to-day the bread that we shall need…” (Matthew 6:11 TCNT)  (When you eat a loaf at one sitting, the following verse applies: “And forgive us our wrong-doings…”)  And the disciples (along with many around them) did not disappoint Our Lord in their fixation on bread:

Now the disciples had crossed to the opposite shore, and had forgotten to take any bread. Presently Jesus said to them: “Take care and be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” But the disciples began talking among themselves about their having brought no bread. (Matthew 16:5-7 TCNT)

But Jesus answered: “It is for you to give them something to eat.” “Are we to go and buy twenty pounds’ worth of bread,” they asked, “to give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37 TCNT)

No, when you entertain, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; And then you will be happy indeed, since they cannot recompense you; for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the good.” One of the guests heard what he said and exclaimed: “Happy will he be who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:13-15 TCNT)

One of our Lord’s main objectives was to wean his disciples from (and confront Satan with) their focus on bread and other sustenance.  That’s something that’s very relevant in this careerist age of ours:

And the Tempter came to him, and said: “If you are God’s Son, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus answered: “Scripture says–‘It is not on bread alone that man is to live, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:3-4 TCNT)

On noticing this, Jesus said: “Why are you talking among yourselves about your being short of bread, O men of little faith? Do not you yet see, nor remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you took away? Nor yet the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you took away? How is it that you do not see that I was not speaking about bread? Be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he had told them to be on their guard, not against the leaven of bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:8-12 TCNT)

Who among you, when his son asks him for a loaf, will give him a stone, Or when he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, wicked though you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give what is good to those that ask him!  (Matthew 7:9-11 TCNT)

I am the Life-giving Bread. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, and yet died. The Bread that comes down from Heaven is such that whoever eats of it will never die. (John 6:48-50 TCNT)

The last quote brings us to the second thing Our Lord was trying to do: get his followers past consuming mere bread and to eat the “Life-Giving Bread,” namely himself:

I am the Living Bread that has come down from Heaven. If any one eats of this Bread, he will live for ever; and the Bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the Life of the world.” Upon this the Jews began disputing with one another: “How is it possible for this man to give us his flesh to eat?” “In truth I tell you,” answered Jesus, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have not Life within you. He who takes my flesh for his food, and drinks my blood, has Immortal Life; and I will raise him up at the Last Day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood true drink. He who takes my flesh for his food, and drinks my blood, remains united to me, and I to him. As the Living Father sent me as his Messenger, and as I live because the Father lives, so he who takes me for his food shall live because I live. That is the Bread which has come down from Heaven–not such as your ancestors ate, and yet died; he who takes this Bread for his food shall live for ever.”  (John 6:51-58 TCNT)

The Jews weren’t the only ones to take exception to this: I’ve discussed the aversion of the Baptists and others to this idea in Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology.  Our Lord underlined what he was talking about on the night he was betrayed:

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and, after saying the blessing, broke it and, as he gave it to his disciples, said: “Take it and eat it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and, after saying the thanksgiving, gave it to them, with the words: “Drink from it, all of you; For this is my Covenant blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  (Matthew 26:26-28 TCNT)

Bossuet, as always, takes this from that night to our present reality:

And whence will come this flesh; whence will come this blood?  They will come from this bread and from this wine: an all-powerful word will be uttered, which will change this bread into the flesh of the Saviour, and this wine into his blood.  All of this will take place at the very moment that this word is uttered; it is the same word that created heaven and earth.  This word, spoken by the Son of God at the Last Supper, had made of this bread, His body, and of this wine, His blood.  But Jesus said to His apostles: Do this, and His apostles have taught us that it would be done until he came, until the last day of judgement. (Meditations on the Gospel, The Last Week of the Saviour, First Part, Day 26)

And so, as we commemorate Holy Week, our task must be, both in our lives and at what Bossuet called the “sacred pledge of the Eucharist” once and for all to get past bread.

 

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One thought on “Getting Past Bread: A Holy Week Reflection

  1. Pingback: Getting Past Bread: A Holy Week Reflection — The Bossuet Project – Positive Infinity

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