“He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” -Luke 24:35
Year after year, as I watched the movement of the priests arms lifting the chalice to heaven like a conductor leading a symphony of Handel’s Messiah, the repetition of the priest’s words celebrating the sacrament of the Eucharist became a visual poem dwelling in my heart. Even though I was too young to understand the magnitude of this intense ritual, of the transubstantiation — not all children can bear such light — somehow, in my unknowing, seeds of meaning were being planted:
“The Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” – 1 Corinthians 11:24
For years, I didn’t get it. Jesus body on the cross was appalling. I didn’t understand even when my son, years later, just a pre-schooler, shocked me with his words when I mentioned something about Jesus on the cross (I don’t remember what brought about the conversation we weren’t even going to church back then). He said, ‘it’s beautiful‘. I’m not sure if he had seen a video or film about Jesus, but someone how he articulated the essence of the beauty of whole tragedy of Jesus nailed to the cross.
It took years before Jesus’ words ‘this is my body’ would take root, and sprout.
Always the parable speaking poet, Jesus chose bread to symbolize his body during the Last Supper, reminding us that we can’t live on bread alone but rather, “we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” — from God who provided manna from heaven for starving Israelites heading to the Promised Land.
Growing up with an Italian grandma, weekly feasts gathering around the table with family were part of the colorful threads in the tapestry of my life. Today I’m a secret foodie, I read recipes on my spare time. Nothing makes me happier than sharing meals with friends, sitting for hours around a table telling stories, sharing our lives, breaking bread.
But it wasn’t until this morning reading the Gospel of Mark, that I was struck by how eating and sharing food was central in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus words about food jumped into my lap, flooding me with a glowing reverence about the deeper meaning of food — and what bread in particular meant in Jesus’ life, and for his community of friends and followers.
In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. “If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance.”-Mark 8:1
Jesus, who taught us to lay our lives down for our friends, challenges the disciple’s apathy with divine love and concern for his beloved followers.
His disciples answered Him, “Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?”
Well, Jesus says, how many loaves do you have?
Seven, they tell him. And a few fish.
Jesus directs the people to sit, and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them. As his body was broken for us.
And the bread and fish multiply. And the crowds are fed.
And they were satisfied, with more left over.
The abundance of food, in Jesus’ ministry (remember the nets full of fish, and feeding the five thousand earlier in the Gospel of Mark) wasn’t only about filling bellies. It symbolizes the unlimited provisions available to us in our lives when we abide in God, and the immense love of Christ that fills our our aching spiritual hunger.
The night before his death he took the bread — gave thanks — broke it — for you.
Jesus also gave an urgent command — because soon he’d be gone, and now it’s up to the disciples.
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
After the crucifixion, the disciples, in remembrance, surely ate the morsels of bread, passing the sacred ritual to other followers who passed it to another, and another. This ripple effect continued through the centuries so Jesus today lands in our laps, on our tongues, in our bellies, in our hearts.
Another time, after walking through cities performing miracles, when the disciples are concerned Jesus hasn’t eaten (they learned well from him), Jesus tells the disciples, “I have food to eat that you do not know about…”My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”
With God as our spiritual food, we also ingest Christ’s divine compassion, love and forgiveness, becoming Christ-like for the good of others according to God’s will. In this union we spread waves of Christ’s love and hope before us. We join for meals with our friends, family and communities, enjoying more than just good food — we share in a beloved community spreading more love rising like yeast through the world.
“Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” 2Corinthians 13:5
“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”—Galatians 2:20
And we are satisfied, with more left over to share.
In this way, Christ dying on the cross, symbolized in the breaking of the bread, is beautiful. Such is the wisdom of children, so fresh from God.
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.“ Jeremiah 15:16
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